Reminiscing

Many of us enjoy reminiscing on past events and certain periods of life.  Lately, I’ve found myself reminiscing a lot more.  Places I’ve been and people I’ve been with.  Wondering how differently things would have turned out if I had made better decisions or invested more in some friendships.

It’s crazy to think of where we’ve been and where we are now.  Reconnecting with old friends/classmates makes that contrast even more impressive.  Although I am not proud of every decision I’ve made in life, I do consider myself very blessed with the life I have today.  I am blessed with a beautiful wife and beautiful daughters, I am building a successful career, writing books that I hope to publish (sooner or later), enjoying the support of amazing family and friends, etc.

Can I say that this is all due to my decisions in life?  No way.  I’ve made decisions that drove me further from my goals.  What I am learning from all this is that no matter the nature or number of our mistakes/sins, God’s Goodness can never be outdone.

Any time you feel regret, shame, or guilt, simply admit it to yourself.  Then count your blessings.  Literally.  Look at all the great people you’ve been blessed with during those difficult times, all the great turns of events that helped you along.  See all the good that could not have come about otherwise.  It doesn’t justify our bad decisions, but it shows that we’re being looked after by someone or Someone.  Life isn’t as lonely as we may think it is.

Next time you see someone in a difficult situation, be there.  You may not be able to fix the situation, but you can be present to help that person pull through the current challenges.

Be a light to your world today!

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/58782227@N00/2250359151″>Day 39</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

Battling Depression

There are no easy ways to battle depression.  Sometimes it feels like trying to run a marathon with a ball-and-chain tied to your feet.  Depression depletes our motivation and our energy.  It literally sucks the fun out of everything.  Though there are no one-size-fits-all answers to deal with depression, I’ll share some tips taken from my own experience and from a book called “Mind Over Mood” by Greenberger and Padesky.

Essentially, depression feeds off of negativity.  Depression usually comes about as a result of difficult situations or even traumatic events.  Those times challenge us in ways we may feel are beyond our ability to handle, and so we get overwhelmed by the problems and difficulties.  Depression begins to set in when we lose sight of the positive in our life, and so we begin to see only the negative.  Logically, negativity must be battled with positivity.  Realistically, this is easier said than done because, as I’ve already mentioned, our energy and motivation are depleted.  The key here is to reverse the process that got us into the depression state.

While I battled with my depression some eight years ago or so, I found that this process was effective but very gradual.  At first, participating in activities that I would normally have enjoyed felt almost fake and little enjoyable, but at least I didn’t feel any worse off afterwards.  After a while, I began to enjoy more and more these positive activities, and so the depression was losing its hold on me.  True, the lousy circumstance that had started the depression cycle didn’t disappear over night, but I was able to battle through them.  Today, though I find myself in new circumstances that would have sent me through a new bout of depression in the past, I am able to work through it with a positive spirit because my experience has helped me to learn to keep my focus on the prize and to not forget about life with all the blessings that come with it.

Here are some positive things you can incorporate in your day-to-day life that may help: take the time to admire the goods things around you right now, in the same room; take note of things that didn’t go wrong; think about people who are there for you and services that are at your disposal; make time for activities that are normally entertaining and fun for you; go outside; tidy up your environment; vent in writing then burn or shred the evidence; etc.

If doing any of this demands a little too much, ask someone you trust (significant other, friend, family) to help you.  You may not have power over everything going on right now, but you do have the ability to change how you deal with your current situation.  Just be patient with yourself as this could be a long journey to peace of mind.

Be a light to those around you today!

Supporting Someone Who’s Depressed

Recently, someone told me about her daughter’s battle with depression and the need she felt for support.  In the mental health field, we do focus more on those who battle the mental illnesses.  I do think that it’s easy to overlook the loved ones of the patients.  Not only do they suffer alongside the person battling depression or another mental health issue, but they are also an important part of the recovery since they are part of the support network.

I find myself wanting to say something uplifting when I see someone struggling with depression, but it seems that words always fall short of making any difference.  As someone who’s battled depression myself, I can give a few pointers on what helped me.

I am very grateful for people’s patience while listening to me talk through my feelings.  It’s not easy to listen to someone who feels like he’s living in the dark and with little hope.  Words of reassurance are always appreciated, but what I appreciated even more was knowing that I had someone to talk to.  Understandably, there’s a limit to how much negativity we can listen to, so we also need to be considerate of our limits and take care of ourselves.

Depression impacts our intimate relationship.  Speaking for myself, I’ve been blessed with a spouse who’s been ever so patient and understanding through my low moods, which has helped me recover quickly.  Getting angry and guilt-tripping make patient feel worse and generally don’t help.  A good dose of TLC can go a long way to lighten the weight of the depression.

In my case, as in many, professional help was necessary to help me find my way out of the rut I was in.  A friend went out of his way to get me the professional help I needed.  Depression cripples our energy and motivation, and so having someone who gets and who’s able to help where you need it is an excellent way to be supported.

Self-Care and Depression

As a mental health counselor, there is one topic that I find often comes up in one way or another: self-care.  You’d think that we would naturally identify and respond to all of our needs.  After all, who knows us better than us?  Unfortunately, self-care is an art that we have to learn.  Even though our nature and our conscience send us warnings when something is amiss, we don’t always have the awareness to notice or the tools to act accordingly.  As a person who suffers from depression, I’ve had to learn the axiom of self-care: balance.

Balancing our physiological needs, our social needs, our mental needs, and our spiritual needs is not as easy as it sounds.  It takes a tremendous amount of discipline to manage it.  As I’ve learned to balance and meet all of my needs, I’ve learned to manage my depression without medication because I’ve been able to root out unnecessary stress.  I am not saying that I am against medication per se.  I do think, however, that we can be mistaken to believe that they fix our problems.  They’re a Band-Aid solution.  At the root of depression is often unhealthy stress or needs that are being ignored.  In cases where there’s significant chemical imbalance causing the depression (either due to genes or to external circumstances), I advocate for medication.

What have you found to be most helpful in your own battles with depression?  We all have our own battle stories we can share.