Depression and Spirituality Dwell in the House of Happiness
Depression and Spirituality
Is depression simply the symptoms of spiritual distress-our spiritual needs not being met?
Clinical depression is the result of a brain chemical imbalance. That being said, there is a strong relationship between depression and spirituality. Clinical, chronic depression isn't really the type of depression I'll be discussing here. However, keep in mind that even clinical depression probably had it's roots in some life event or events such as chronic anxiety and stress.
No matter how you look at it, there is a relationship between depression and spirituality.
When my only son joined the Army, I felt overwhelming sadness. Not only was my kiddo going to be gone, (enter in empty-nest syndrome) he was going to be gone in a way that I that wouldn't afford me the luxury of a phone call when I wanted to talk to him. Before I knew it, I was hugging him good-bye as he left for Iraq. He was 19 years old.
My husband and I moved to another state to be closer to family. The trade off-I left my friends and other support systems behind. So after nearly 2 years of life in a new place and having my son in danger daily, I felt a tremendous flow of sadness. I managed to do my job as a nurse practitioner, which meant a lot of giving, and I believe I did it well. My daily ritual was always the same, though. When I got home, I would look online to see how many died in Iraq that day, and where they were. I had a vague idea where my son was.
I sat and wondered if the Army would come knocking at my door. Was today the day?
I waited for his weekly phone call, which I cherished even if we got cut off after 5 minutes. I lived for the tiniest little glimmers of hope that he was okay. Was I depressed? Yes, of course. I tried to let go of the sadness, but the cloud hung over my head. I surrendered the outcome over to God, but yet I'm human and I missed my son. I watched nipits of funeral after funeral on TV for fallen soldiers. I looked into the eyes of the families, and I knew that one day that could be me.
Was I sad? Yes! So, I learned ways to cope and ways to stay strong. I didn't opt for medications, but I probably should have. I prescribe anti-depressants, so I'm certainly not against them. I'm sure that after two years of daily, high stress with limited support, my brain chemicals were taking a big hit. I believe the ways I discovered to help myself really did help. So, let me share what I learned!
Yes, the phone call came, and although my kiddo was hurt, he recovered and eventually came home. He is doing well now, but the effects linger for both of us. We choose happiness, though. It is a choice.
Key Point to remember about Depression and Spirituality: Happiness is a choice.
Have you ever thought about happiness or sadness as a choice? These are emotions that result from things happening. You might wonder then: why weren't you happy when your son was in Iraq then? Good question. In reality, overall I was sad. I felt like I was floating in water and the water was just about to cover my face. If something happened, I would've been taken under-only I wasn't. Things happened. I opened the door to sadness and went into the room of doom and gloom, but I didn't stay there. This was a choice. It is important to allow yourself the opporunity to feel whatever you need to feel, knowing that you will not move on in. Wallow in the darkness and then walk back out and leave it behind. This is a choice. Is it easy? No, but when you allow yourself the guilt-free pleasure of sadness, you can walk away easier than if you silently suppress it or beat yourself up about it.
I chose to be grateful that he was alive another day and that he wasn't injured. It was gratitude one-day-at-a-time. It was in this gratitude, that I found some peace. I prayed a lot. I felt like this was something I could do that I knew would help. What else could I do? Interestingly, so often when we're faced with a problem, we jump in to try and solve it. I couldn't do that. I learned that prayer should be the first course of action. I probably wouldn't have known that if I hadn't have found myself in such a helpless state, and I'm grateful for that.
Depression and Spirituality: Gratitude Journals
In 1996, there was a buzz about keeping gratitude journals. The author, Sarah Ban Breathnach, wrote the Simple Abundance Journal of Gratitude. See, it the 'Secret' really wasn't so secret. Anyway, this brought about a whole, huge wave of people realizing how much we really had to be grateful for. The idea was that if you actually wrote down what you were grateful for every day, you will be amazed at how many wonderful things are in your life-EVEN on the worst of days. Your whole life looks different.
In another book I read and love, Creating a Charmed Life by Victoria Moran, Woven throughout this little book of gems, is the encouragement to recognize just how much we already have and how much we have to offer. So often we're busy chasing something-we're even too busy to stop and enjoy that which we've created.
Learning about gratitude and learning to take care the really important relationships with my family, friends, myself and God, was really what helped me to find some happiness.
Depression and Spirituality: Surrender
What does surrender mean? Aren't we supposed to fight and keep working to figure things out-keep on figuring until we get it all right. I learned about surrender big time, and although I thought I had experienced surrender before, I had not. True surrender is not only easy, it is something that brings about tremendous peace.
In Christianity, the believer gives up his will and asks God for his guidance AND follows that guidance. Is this easy? No, because the guidance you might receive may go against your own will. Say, perhaps that you live in a nice home, have relatively good relationships with others, but still don't feel so good. You pray, and surrender to the will of God. During your prayer or meditation, you receive the message to change your line of work completely which probably means some real changes for your family. Would you pursue it? Surrender means that you give up your will and follow the will of God. We like to know the outcomes, don't we? We like to have a plan. Surrender means that the only plan is God's and that is enough for you.
True surrender takes real courage. It takes real faith-not just lip service.
Depression and Spirituality: Acceptance
Acceptance of what is can really help with the emotions of sadness and anger. Sadness and anger are both symptoms of depression, by the way. Is your life more of a reality TV show or a sitcom? Most of us feel like we're in a sitcom, but our issues aren't all resolved in half an hour. In fact, they make take years to be resolved, if at all. Some resist acceptance because it sounds like we're giving up. Acceptance really means to accept what is happening right now-experience it and stop fighting for awhile. If we put up a constant fight of our reality, we seek to see what is really in front of us. It's like a fighter in the ring. He is so focused on his opponent, that he doesn't even notice what the crowd is doing. This might be survival for him, but he can't keep it up for long.
Depression and Spirituality: Just Enjoy the Journey
If we are constantly longing for something, we can't stop and enjoy where we are. This isn't to say that you shouldn't work for what you believe in or what you deserve, but it does mean that you need to accept your place today on the running of track of life.
Depression and Spirituality: Love
You've got a choice: Love or fear or anger or (you fill in the blank). I found something to love about every situation-even when it was really hard.
Depression and Spirituality: Simply Connect the Dots
Your connections with nature, others and yourself is very important. Loneliness isn't the same as being alone. Loneliness is the feeling that you don't have anyone to share your life with at the time. Nurture relationships.
Spend some time outdoors, get some exercise, meditate, pray, enjoy your sacred space and nurture the relationships you have with others. There is spirituality in relationships. Relationships are a fact of life-why not make them wonderful?
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