My first tangle with depression was in April of 2017. It lasted for months. I had never encountered such darkness. Such sadness. The cloud hung over me 24 hours a day and I couldn’t seem to shake it.
Depression is not something that everyone deals with. However, if you have, you’ve likely faced it more than once. I tell people I meet that depression sometimes acts like pneumonia…once you’ve had it, it’s easier to get it again.
What I learned in those months of depression have helped me tremendously in life. I know this for sure: I don’t want to have to deal with that level of darkness ever again. (And I know there are people out there that deal with depression far more than I ever have…even tending towards suicidal thoughts. I’m not minimizing those serious feelings. Just speaking from my own experience.)
I’m not an expert of defeating depression. But I know it’s voice. And I’m actively trying to silence it.
I’ve learned my “triggers” and how to recognize when I’m in an unhealthy place. When I’m in my “healthy space” my chances of depression are almost nonexistent. So I try to stay in the healthy spot- emotionally, physically and spiritually. So this begs the question: what makes me healthy?
In one of my unhealthy time periods when I felt depression hanging out at the door, I asked myself this question on a yellow sticky note. I kept adding to it as I noticed things in life that made me stable, grounded, full and happy. I posted the sticky note at my work desk where I could see it every day.
In the years that followed, I’ve typed snd printed it out and have it stuck there at my work desk. Often, women visiting my office have asked about it. It’s opened a lot of conversations about depression and staying emotionally, physically and spiritually healthy. Because of the talks I’ve had with people I wanted to share my list (exactly how it’s posted at my desk!) and how it’s helped me over the years recognize and spot depression before it gets a foothold.
What makes me healthy?
Bible time. And studying.
Prayer. Through the day.
Writing. Journaling, blogging, etc.
Exercise. Best in the morning.
Worship. Both thanks and in song.
Mentorship. Those pouring into me.
Friendship. Those who sharpen me.
Serving. Output! Me mentoring others.
Little people time. Kids help me tremendously.
Rest, water and decent diet.
Your list may look different. It may not have kids on it and have painting instead. It may have swimming as a huge part of your well-being. That’s not something you’d ever find on my list, but hey, we are all individually unique!
I posted this at my desk because when I feel depression trying to creep in, I can look at these things and figure out where I’m “off”. 99 times out of 100, one of these areas aren’t being kept up on. When I reposition myself for health, the darkness leaves.
Obviously, this is not a prescription against 100% of depression. There are a thousand other factors that can contribute to feelings of depression including childhood trauma, hormone imbalances, and other things. Sometimes you need professional help, and there’s nothing wrong with that! I’m grateful for people who do that kind of thing and the wisdom from God’s Word they have to deal with sensitive and deep issues or doctors who can tackle tricky things like hormones. I just know from where I sit, I can guard against most of my personal attacks by staying in a place of health in spirit, soul and body.
I believe we are each a spirit in a body with a soul. We are made in the image of God as spirit beings. Our souls are made up of our mind, will and emotions. When all of these things are well balanced and healthy, we are better equipped to handle the attacks of the enemy or sickness. For example, if you have a healthy body, when sickness comes your way, you will be more likely to fight it off without much ado. If you’re unhealthy, it may lead to infection, prolonged healing or further serious injury.
The same is true of our spirits and souls. If our spiritual person isn’t staying healthy and taking our “spiritual vitamins” and doing “spiritual exercise” to make our inner man strong, we are more susceptible to the enemy’s attack. Our souls can be made healthy too- what we feed our souls (mind, will and emotions) can help or cripple our souls. What are you watching? What people are you hanging around? What are you reading? What activities are you involved in?
“Guard your heart above all else, for it is the source of life.” Proverbs 4:23 HCSB Interestingly enough, the word for ‘your heart’ in Hebrew is translated to mean, “the heart, the feelings, the will, the intellect, center.” So the mind, will and emotions- the soul! We are to guard our souls because out of them, the center of our beings, flow life.
One thing that has really helped me to stay in a healthy place is gratitude. I look for the beauty in every day and breathe thanks for each thing. I have times of writing those moments down in my “gratitude journal”. Sometimes I voice them out loud in praise. Just the LOOKING for God in the ordinary things of life has helped me have a more positive attitude. Like this photo…taken early one morning when I got up to feed my baby. The sunrise was streaming through the dirty window. I snapped a picture. Ordinary grace is beautiful, isn’t it?
I’ve had times of sadness and heartache since my bout with depression in 2017. But by God’s Grace, it’s never hit anywhere near as severely since then. I’ve had days of sadness or times of significant loss and pain…but nothing compared to that depth of darkness several years ago. I’m learning to constantly lean on the Lord and the wisdom of others to counteract the wiles of the enemy. Keeping healthy is key…in spirit, body and soul.