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QUICK SUMMARY: Just recently I had a pretty bad depressive episode. I remember one morning sitting in bed struggling to get up. I decided to call my dad and talk through it with him. (Like we mentioned last week, community is necessary!) I was sitting in my bed crying to my dad because I just could not work up the energy or desire to get up and start my day. I felt worthless and lazy and trapped. My dad said a lot of things to me that morning, but I want to tell you two of them. These two things really spoke to me and gave me a different perspective.
In this week’s article, in support of the message series on depression, I will make just three suggestions for those times when just getting out of bed is a huge step forward.
- Let yourself rest – Listening to your body
- Celebrate the little wins – production does not equal value!
- Relax – or at least give it a valiant effort!
Looking for more? Keep reading below!
Written by: Kendra Hamby
GO DEEPER: (Be sure to read the summary first)
1. Let Yourself Rest
The first thing my dad said to me was that sometimes it is okay to stay in bed. Sometimes that is what your body needs. Now, that requires a quick disclaimer: this is not an excuse to let your depression take hold. That is why this advice is a bit tricky and can be a little dangerous. I would not just go with this without outside help or opinions. With that being said, if you are at all like me, you may tend to ride whatever motivation you can muster. Once I get started, I do not stop because I know half my battle is getting going and starting the task. This means that I often run myself ragged. Sometimes our depression is our body telling us to slow down and take a breather. If that is you, then you need to know that there is nothing wrong with giving yourself the space to recover. Maybe your depression is the result of loss or a season of overload. In that case, what you need is to mourn or recuperate.
Sometimes our depression is our body telling us to slow down and take a breather.
If your depression is due to loss it is important to note that mourning is a necessary part of healing and moving on. There are several places where the Bible documents people mourning the loss of someone for days and weeks at a time (Matthew 2:18; Numbers 20:29; 1 Samuel 30:4 and many others). Allowing yourself to mourn is vital. If you do not, you are going to reap the negative effects down the road. If you do not know how to mourn, our coaches at The Two Rivers Counseling Center can help you walk through that process. By the same token, resting your body after a big project or hectic time in life is just as important. We have to listen when our bodies and emotions are talking, and sometimes that is what our depression is; a warning light.
A note on how long is long enough to mourn. The simple answer is, as long as it takes. It is very unwise, insensitive, and often cruel to say to someone, “Alright, snap out of it, you have been mourning long enough, you should be getting past this”. That shows a lack of understanding about how the human heart and psyche works. Comments like that, even when they are well-meaning, are usually words that come from the mouth of someone who still has issues in their life. Issues that they have never completely grieved through to a place of health. If the one mourning is still doing life but it is just that the emotions are clinging and lingering, never tell them to stop the process prematurely.
2. Celebrate the Little Wins
The second thing he said was to celebrate the wins no matter how small they seem. Often, we think that because we have not produced much of anything tangible or done little or nothing to visibly change or improve our surroundings, that we are therefore not of value. This may be a little indelicate, but that needs to be called what it is… “bull**it”. You are not defined by what you accomplish during the day, or what your house looks like, or if you and the kids got dressed today. Sometimes, it is all we can do to just get out of bed in the morning, let alone put clothes on, and that is okay!
You are not defined by what you accomplish during the day, or what your house looks like, or if you and the kids got dressed this morning.
That morning, as I told my dad all the things I had not accomplished the day before and how I was struggling to even get out of bed, he was able to see the small victories in my day. That helped change my perspective. I could not see the little wins due to what I deemed “big failures” that seemed to be in the way. My dad started asking things like, “well did you keep the baby fed? Did you change her diapers? Did you stay alive?” The answer to all of those (and a few more that I have since forgotten) was of course, yes. Yes, I kept myself and my daughter alive. Yes, I got out of my bed. Yes, I eventually fed myself lunch. You could add to that, Yes, I fed my dog/cat/fish. I got the mail. I answered an email, returned a phone call, paid a bill. I put clothes on my body.
Notice I did not say I answered ALL my emails, or made ALL the phone calls, or paid ALL the bills. Sometimes, we only have enough energy to do one of those things, and that’s okay.
What I do not want you to hear in this is that slacking off or being lazy, are cures for depression. I want you to hear that just because you fight depression, it does not make you a lazy slacker. I want you to hear that being positive about the things you have accomplished is far more encouraging and motivating than ticking down through the list of things you failed to do. It is a matter of perspective, or narrative (if you missed last week’s blog where we spoke about the negative narrative of depression and how to help combat that with truth, click here). What are you telling yourself about your to do list? By focusing on all the things we have yet to accomplish we are simply adding stress, guilt, and pressure to our already overloaded emotions. If we focus on things that have been done, we start to have hope that maybe we can accomplish more.
In the Bible, Job goes down through a long list of “woe is me” items until one of his friends pipes up and says wait a minute, look at all you have done.
“In the past you have encouraged many people; you have strengthened those who were weak. Your words have supported those who were falling; you encouraged those with shaky knees.” Job 4:3-4
I am certain that if you spoke to friends and family, they would tell you the same. “Remember that time you…” They would encourage and lift you up by reminding you of the things you have done. They can help you think through your day and find the little victories to celebrate, even if they are past victories. See, if you have been there for others, you may find a little strength to let yourself be the one who needs help this time around.
The overarching tenor of my dad’s encouragement was simple, take a chill pill. There was not condemnation behind it, there was needed compassion. He was saying, “Baby girl, you are being so hard on yourself. Rest if you need to, and celebrate the little wins, and breathe.” The voice in my head was not that gracious, it was dripping with rebuke and self-chastisement. Now, sometimes, depending on who the words come from and how they are spoken, “just relax” makes me want to scream. But in the context of the conversation, it was just what I needed to hear. And if we speak these words to ourselves, it is not quite so frustrating. Further, just relax is not the same thing as “just get over it.” It does not mean to stop feeling all your depression and its supporting emotions and mental script. Again, little wins. Get out of bed, celebrate the little win, stop all the destructive self-talk, and breathe. We need to let ourselves off the hook occasionally. We are far harder on ourselves than other people. You would never tell a friend half the negative self deprecating things you tell yourself. Allow yourself the grace you show others and just work on the next little win.
If you feel you would like to talk to someone about questions or struggles this article may have surfaced for you, go to the Two Rivers Counseling Center’s website and look around at what we do, or go directly to the “Get Counseling” request form HERE.