How to Cope When Depression Is Your Normal

March 7, 2017

Depression (Main)

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Often there’s a temptation to believe everything in life will be ok once a certain set of circumstances are no longer present. Thinking that once we’re rid of money problems, relationship problems, or career problems, all will be well. Success and happiness will be ours at last!

But what if we never attain our desired standard of success in these areas? What does that then mean for us? 

In my own life, it sure would’ve been nice if I could say, I’ve been cured of depression. In the past, I’ve flirted with thoughts of what life would be like if I didn’t struggle with it. But the fact of the matter is, I do and have for 20 years.

For a decade, depression was something that completely consumed my life. I no longer knew what life was like without that dark grey cloud hovering over me  daily. I tried any and everything possible to escape it, if only for a few hours. No matter how fleeting these temporary moments of escape were, I continued to chase them because they were my only hope of relief.

Tackling my depression meant dissecting my triggers which ultimately meant plunging into my trauma. Giving this process all I had was a pivotal component of lifting my depression. I noticed though, while the permanence of it dissipated, I still experienced depressive cycles from time to time.

This wasn’t at all what I’d hoped for. I had all sorts of plans hinged on being perfectly happy and well. It was at that point, I bargained, I’d truly be able to pursue my goals and dreams.

Well, that day never came and I’m not sure it ever will. During a life transforming moment of reflection some years back, I realized there were so many aspects of my life I put on hold, was delaying, or was just flat out–unwilling to try. All because my hopes were casted upon the attainment of some desired future event happening first.

I had to finally sit with the reality of what it meant for my life if depression was my normal. Awful as this may sound, it was actually freeing. For the first time, I embraced depression as a part of me and chose to pursue my goals and dreams in spite of it.

No different than any other affliction, we have the ability to choose what we will make of it. Learning to cope is essential to thriving when depression is your normal. Here are a few of the things I have incorporated:

Proactive Steps To Prevent Onset of Depressive Cycle

  • Get plenty of rest – Functioning optimally requires the proper amount of rest. When I neglect this, I start to feel as if I’m running on fumes which is a ripe environment for depression to creep in.
  • Self-care – Ensure you are taking the time to be still, relax, reflect, process, and have tons of fun. Without these outlets you run the risk of being weighed down by stress. Stress easily and seamlessly turns into depression.
  • Engage in community – Isolating is a sign and a cause of depression. Authentic community is life giving. It reduces the sense of feeling alone and unloved. Community offers a sense of belonging and connectedness to something bigger than you.
  • Counseling  – There’s still a huge stigma around counseling (especially in the African American community). It is however, extremely helpful to process thoughts and feelings with a safe and objective party. Professionals in the mental health field are equipped to teach you the tools to help with healthy coping.
  • Avoid foolishness –  This is where willful oppression (as a friend of mine calls it) comes into play. Being able to identify and avoid situations that are unhealthy is critical to good mental health. What I’ve learned is, most times we know right away that a situation is not beneficial yet we feel we can influence a different outcome so we proceed. Yeah, just don’t do it!

Steps I Take In the Midst of Depressive Cycle

  • Name it – Acknowledging it is key. For me, depression loses power once I identify it and start working through what may have triggered it.
  • Surrender it in prayer – I offer up the circumstances and the symptoms of my depression to the Lord. My prayer may sound something like “Father, I realize I’m feeling a bit rejected. And this tends to bring to the surface thoughts of being unloved and not being good enough. Lord, I know I will never be rejected or unloved by You. Please fill the hurting and exposed places of my heart with your all encompassing Love. I surrender to you my sense of rejection and the sadness I feel. Father, I pray that you will release the holds I’m currently contending with, hopelessness, lethargy, irritability, and solemness. Give me instead, your burden which is light. It is in Jesus name, I pray. Amen!”
  • Get busy – Whether I feel like it or not, after I’ve named and surrendered it, I get busy doing something meaningful. This helps to get my mind off of the depression. It also symbolically lessens and eventually extinguishes the power of the depression.

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