Depression is an energy-sucking, miserable disease.
And the stigma makes it even harder to deal with.
Like being trapped in a well, if you fall into a depression, you (probably) can’t get out alone. With the stigmas surrounding mental health, it can be hard to take that step, to call out for help. The world seems to push back with a harshly hissed,
“Shhhh! It’s not polite to yell! You got yourself stuck in that well. Leave me alone.”
By the way, if you’re stuck in that well, go ahead and scream your head off. Don’t give up. Your life line is out there. Keep clawing. Keep climbing. Keep moving toward the light.
I’ve talked a lot about the importance of reaching out and seeking hope, but I want to talk about something else today, about what happens once you’ve been hoisted out of the well, when it’s time to rejoin humanity.
How long does it take to readjust to freedom, sunlight and joy?
How long does it take to regain health and proper nutrition?
How long does it take to form relationships?
I honestly don’t know.
After being depressed for so long, I can tell you that happiness sometimes seems too glittering, too bright. I have difficulty trusting my joy. “It can’t last,” my mind whispers. “Happiness cannot be trusted.”
Fear follows me everywhere I go.
Fear of fumbling, offending, failing and hurting.
But like the great Nelson Mandela said,
“Courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.”
The people in my life, my friends, co-workers and family members, they are the ones who help me triumph over fear. My relationships have given me the perspective and strength I need to face the world with courage, and as my perspective broadens, the greater my gratitude grows.
My pursuit of happiness has been a mixed bag. I’ve tried medication, read books, talked to therapists, watched documentaries — but the single-most life-changing epiphany?
Learning to cultivate gratitude.
Gratitude has set off a chain reaction in my life. Focusing on gratitude on a daily basis inspires me to reciprocate good feelings. Dwelling on the great people in my life has inspired me to find new ways to show appreciation and love.
Dwelling on fortune, rather than misfortune, has created a stabilizing shift in my perspective and mental health. Finding joy in life inspires me to help others, to positively influence as many people as possible. I’ve found that something as simple as gratitude can be transformational. Shifting focus to appreciate and support others actively counters my mental illness, which tells me I’m worthless and inept.
A Couple of Notes
- Living in the shadow of depression can make it difficult to identify the goodness in life. You may not be there yet. That’s OK! Recovering from depression is far more complicated than saying, “Focus on the good in life.” Medication, therapy and support from family and friends have helped me find joy again. I have faith that you can find happiness too.
- Push yourself, but don’t overdo it. There’s no need to heap large amounts of pressure on yourself to stop global warming or save the whales. Offer small, immediate donations of your time and talent when it makes sense for you.
For example, I love bringing people together. Parties, dinners, outdoor adventures, group trips, this blog…any opportunity to get people feeling closer and more empowered is my how I hope to make the world a better place.
Why? You never know when someone might need a friend, and the closer we are to one another, the more openly we can share our lives. Sharing our lives makes us a stronger community, and it opens us up to the larger problems of the world.
Join the Conversation
What’s your favorite way to show gratitude?
What do you feel most grateful for in your daily life?