So the first session of our ‘Mental Health & Spiritual Wholeness’ series has come and gone. We discussed the heavyweight known as depression that at times can often keep us stationed in bed with the drapes drawn; hiding from the sunlight, which seems ever so blinding. Let’s not forget the overflowing dirty laundry and stacked up dishes from when we can be bothered to leave our nest and scrummage for something in the kitchen for sustenance. When the food is all gone, the takeaway man then knows our name.
Needless to say, depression keeps us to ourselves. Isolated from anything or anyone that can somewhat draw us out of this funk. I wish I could say that depression get’s us isolated by doing this one thing and if we stop doing that then we’ll all be fine and dandy. However, that’s not how it works. Depression isn’t usually brought on by one specific thing. It a cocktail mixture of sorts that gets us drunk on a self-loathing streak that can have some terrible consequences as we all know.
The Cocktail Depression
As I mentioned before, depression isn’t usually brought on just by one thing. It’s a cocktail mixture that usually has these 5 things (but not limited to these 5 only) as discussed by our speaker in the first session of the series.
Yep…that’s right. Selfishness. We all have lofty goals and expectations for ourselves and that’s not a terrible thing. However, the problem occurs when all we care about are those lofty goals and meeting those expectations. Our lives become results driven. We look at the KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) of our lives and constantly put ourselves up for review. Looking at what we could’ve done better, what we can improve. Before you know it, we start telling ourselves that we aren’t good enough to have much or if any success in our lives. Ultimately, life becomes work and being at work 24hrs a day, 365 days a year with no breaks or time off makes us feel so down and burnt out that we ask ourselves the damming of all questions. “Life…why bother?”
Everyone can relate to this one. Wherever we are (on or off the scale of depression) we often reach this point in our lives (that can occur more than once). A point where we ask ourselves “what’s the point of me doing the things I do?”. We dedicate so much time to work; trying to build a life for ourselves in this ever-increasing expensive world. After all, who doesn’t want their own house, a car, fun holidays; not to mention the basic necessities of food and clothing. In the midst of our pursuit; as the Americans say (inalienable rights), we tend to lose friends and family. After all, we end up having little to no time for anyone else, but the grind as we call it.
It’s surprising that being in a world that is so connected still hasn’t resolved the issue of loneliness. You would expect that the millennial generation; who being smart, engaged, digital savvy and successful would not live with a gnawing sense of isolation and loneliness. However, statistics show that 86% of millennials said that they felt lonely and depressed in 2011. Let’s not forget that 18-24-year olds are four times as likely to feel lonely all the time as someone who is aged 70+. Now that’s some depressing statistics (forgive the pun). Loneliness is a feeling that many of us don’t talk about because of the stigma attached to being lonely. It’s that awkward silence in a room full of people. However, it’s not silence that can be broken with a witty pun or a great joke. The awkwardness often comes because we have very few meaningful relationships and not many people we can share our lives with.
Our speaker didn’t have much to say about dryness (probably because it’s this straightforward thing that when you hear it, it just make sense). Being dry is being parched. Simply put, it’s when our passion; the thing that gets us up in the morning to put in the hard work has simply died. For whatever reason, the thing that makes our finite world makes sense and worth building has up and died on us. We then find ourselves in this precarious state of mind that we call depression.
Alright…so here is a typical work week for the most of us. I know what you’re thinking (well I’m guessing). This illustration is “pretty hilarious” and “that dog is expressing my weekly emotions down to the T”. Fun and jokes aside, let’s put this illustration into perspective. Let’s say you work 5 days a week. There are 52 weeks in the year. That’s 260 working days a year. Which means you spend around 71% of your year (excluding bank holidays/work holiday) loathing being at work. So, week in and week out you do the same thing. For many of us our work lives might not look like this. However, it doesn’t change the fact that we often do the same thing day in and day out. Sure practice makes one perfect, but repetition can at times be a depressing and sad thing. After all, who wants to be the same, look the same and do the same one thing their entire lives without no change or improvement?
A Hangover Cure of Sorts
Well, that’s what our speaker for the night said about some of the things that for him can bring about a spout of depression (thought I’d put that in there so you know his thoughts aren’t coming from a Mr. Know-It-All vacuum). However, on top of that, he did refer to a few things that have helped him to ease his way out of a depressive state. Bear in mind this is not a step by step method that will work for everyone or in every situation. Nevertheless, with every drunken person, there has always been an attempt by him to cure his hangover. So here are 5 things that could help with this drunken spout of depression.
That’s right, they’re the opposite ingredients to the typical cocktail of depression. As our speaker stated before, being wrapped up in ourselves could lead to depression when all we want is to achieve for ourselves and ourselves alone and we fail to meet our own standards. We definitely can see the whole “I’m not worth much because I always fail” creeping in when we don’t meet those standards.
By no means do I belittle the dreams and goals you have for yourself. However, life is not just about ourselves. A big part of it is about the people around you. Surely our lives have benefited or helped someone other than ourselves? I mean you probably can see it at work or in your attempt to be inclusive of the ones who are excluded and throughout the different parts of your life. As controversial as it might sound, a lot of life is about serving. It’s something we do every day, be it at work where you serve your colleagues with your time by being beneficial to the team. Even amongst our friends when we offer to help move, babysit or make a simple cup of coffee.
Look! We aren’t saying go around and ask everyone “how can I help?” All we’re saying is, if you make the focus less about yourself and look more on the lives you’ve impacted positively then even the failures will seem a little less daunting. After all, you’re focusing on the good and throwing the bad on the side-lines.
Alright guys, so I did mention earlier how fuzziness (that lack of clarity) could lead to depression, as mentioned by our speaker. A possible solution for fuzziness is a vision. A vision for your life, a vision for your family, your relationships etc. A thought or perspective of what life should look like to you. We’re not talking about a vision for the car you can afford or the holidays you can go on, but something more. The real things that life is about, the things that brings you more than a momentary spout of happiness. Things that will bring you contentment, joy and peace within yourself. Having a vision like that builds hope. Anyone who feels any form of depression needs that if you ask me. Now by no means am I a professional on these matters, nor did our speaker mention this in our last session, but if you need a little vision here’s one way to get it. Ask yourself, “what do you want for yourself and what do you want to see more of in the world?”. This might not be the perfect vision for you, but it’s a good start.
As mentioned before, we live in a very connected world, but the relationships we develop because of it are usually surface level; nothing more. That’s why a lot of us are so lonely, and we all know loneliness is one of those things that can bring us into depression with a sense of feeling unloved and not listened to. Our speaker for the night said he’s combated loneliness with meaningful relationships. As sappy as it sounds, it’s worked for him and it’s worked for me as well. Being lonely is a devastating thing. I remembered feeling that way myself at one point. However, those meaningful relationships; the ones I developed that were more than surface deep provided me with someone to talk. Someone to share life with, my pains, my worries and all the other fun and exciting things in life. One of the hardest thing about being lonely is having success with no one to share it with.
Meaningful relationships make a difference, it has for me personally. I won’t say it’s easy to develop these types of relationships, as they require trust and vulnerability on our part. However, being vulnerable and trusting others is how we develop meaningful relationships.
This part of the “hangover cure of sorts” to depression might be surprising to some, but hey; we’re Christians at Sanctuary and God plays an integral part of our lives. Don’t worry if you’re not a Christian though. You can still read along; the words won’t bite. Now that’s out of the way let’s get down to it. So, you’re probably thinking (I’m guessing) “how can God help with this dryness that I’m feeling?”. I’m glad you ask. As I mentioned before, our speaker said that dryness comes about when our passion simply dies.
Truth be told my passion(s) has up and died on me a few times. Once I loved writing poetry then I didn’t. Once I enjoyed playing football and then I didn’t. Now here I am writing you this blog. It was the same for the speaker. However, here’s where God comes in. In many ways, God is actually the ultimate answer to all of these issues. If you want to stop feeling selfish and get your focus on serving others, then God is brilliant at helping us do this. If you don’t have a clear vision then ask God what you should be doing with your life – He has a plan for it. If you’re lonely and want meaningful relationships then connecting with God will bring you the most meaningful relationship you could ever have in life – a relationship with Himself. And if you’re feeling dry, devoid of passion, then discovering his presence in life is the best thing you could do.
So whether you’re into religion or not, why not trying praying to Him? Or read the New Testament to find out more about what God looked like when he walked this earth in human form – that’s who Jesus is, by the way.
If you feel like every day, every week or (worse still) every year is the same, then what can you do to spur some growth into your life? Are there things you have always wanted to achieve? Could be learning a new language, losing some weight, writing a book, becoming an expert in something… Okay, now here’s a challenge. Can you put 15 minutes towards that, five days per week for the next three months? And then for the next 12 months? All of us can find 15 minutes per day. At worst it means sacrificing either 15 minutes of TV, of YouTube, or of sleep. And we can probably all find that. And those 15 minutes if they’re used well can help us grow immeasurably in moving towards achieving those things that we’ve been putting off for so long. Growth, that feeling of making progress, of no longer being stuck in the same place, is one of the greatest contributors towards warding off the dark spectre of depression in our lives.