Of all the curses bestowed on mankind despair is the most lethal. To be depressed is to be sad but have hope. Despair is an utter loss of hope.
Before I entered recovery from child sexual abuse, despair sat on my shoulders like a vulture waiting to claim its victim. Since the end of my recovery it knows better than to come anywhere near me for now I have the tools to battle depression before it becomes despair.
If I find myself depressed the first thing I do is check Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired (HALT). As we all know, when we have trouble sleeping it can usually be traced to worry – about relationships, finances, health concerns, an unexpected loss, memories from our past that we thought we had locked in an attic in our mind and various other things that would seem trivial compared to what people in third world countries go though. But they are monstrous to us. There is something about the dark that increases our fears. What to do, what to do? Some solutions are simpler than others. Sleeping pills? Not a good idea. Get out of bed and do something to get your mind off of it. Unload your dishwasher or some other chore. Then go back to bed. By changing your scenario you have removed whatever is bothering you. Make sure your days contain at least 30 minutes of exercise. Use salt sparingly.
But what if it isn’t lack of sleep? Angry? This is such a futile emotion unless it is used with wisdom. Getting angry at a burglar is different than getting angry at the car in front of you on the freeway that is going too slow. Hunger? Easy to fix. Tired? Ha! yes, we’re tired. We’re tired because we haven’t been getting enough sleep. This may feel as if I am trivializing depression. I am not.
Accepting that we will have days with depression no matter how perfect our life is a part of the human frailty. Remember the old axiom. Never trouble trouble till trouble troubles you. We can wallow in self pity, paint ourselves as a victim, or become defensive about something we may have done that caused all of this. Sound familiar?? Or we can sit ourselves down and repeat over and over the Serenity Prayer: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Then take action.
Be not defensive but offensive. You can go on the attack or be on the defensive. The one is an active posture, the other is a passive posture. You, and only you are in charge of your life and its outcomes.
Depression is a serious medical illness and an important public health issue. Depression is characterized by persistent sadness and sometimes irritability (particularly in children) and is one of the leading causes of disease or injury worldwide for both men and women. Depression can cause suffering for depressed individuals and can also have negative effects on their families and the communities in which they live. The economic burden of depression, including workplace costs, direct costs and suicide- related costs, was estimated to be $210.5 billion in 2010. To see the CDC’s latest several pages on stats available on depression go to:
The following is one of my favorite quotes.
“Life is filled with unanswered questions, but it is the courage to seek those answers that continues to give meaning to life. You can spend your life wallowing in despair, wondering why you were the one who was led towards the road strewn with pain, or you can be grateful that you are strong enough to survive it.”
― J.D. Stroube, Caged by Damnation
Most of my poetry is wisdom coming from my inner voices. Here is one that has helped me a great deal over the years.
When life is full of trials and hope seems hard to find,
When bewilderment sets in and you’ve lost your peace of mind,
Now is not the time to give in to despair,
Why commit yourself to loss, that really isn’t there?
For all of life can change in the flicker of an eye,
What you see as pain today may soon be passing by,
And leave within its wake a stronger, wiser you,
And won’t you be delighted this is what you chose to do.