Do you ever feel that you’ve given all you can to life and gotten everything from it that it could possibly give? That every day feels so painfully the same that there’s no real reason to keep facing them? It’s washed through me sometimes. It seeps in unexpectedly, pours through, and sucks out all my proper perspective with it, until I’m empty.
The flood is called depression. I’m luckier than most. I have the tendency. I get the symptoms occasionally. But then, like the time I wheezed and coughed my way through an asthma attack on the floor of a full-gospel, holly-roller, evangelical church where the people laid hands on me and I could breathe again, the flood slows and pauses and seeps back out the way it came, my perspective bruised but intact.
Sometimes I attribute the recovery to my mom. She had the tendency, too, and she learned some ways to stand against the flood. She taught me these from the year I turned eleven, when growing up felt like the end of the world, and the end of the world seemed terrifying. But I know enough about depression to understand that tips and tricks aren’t usually enough. Every time I get a glimpse, I wonder, What if that feeling that just came in, never went away? After chemo, I continued for several months with the depressive feeling that I just was not myself. Dr. Lockwood gave me a prescription to fill if the feeling would not go away. It did. But two years later, I still carried the prescription in my purse, just in case. In case one day the flood won’t stop at all.
In my book, I write,
There is only so much we humans can do to ease the suffering of another. But we try, and in trying can often succeed.
So many times when I come to my blog, I’m thinking of you, wondering if you ever feel the flood and if there is anything I can write that could stop it. I promise to keep trying. And just in case it can help, here are some of the things Mom taught me, and that I’ve learned since, about what to do when you are threatened with rain.
- Don’t take yourself too seriously. It’s not so much about laughing at yourself. It’s the decision to not give an audience to the negative self-talk. None of these are ever, EVER true: Life will never feel better than this, I don’t matter, No one loves me, I can’t change, There is no point. Don’t believe them, do not take them seriously.
- Count your blessings. Literally count them. Make a list if you have to. Name them out loud. Start with breath and a heartbeat and the ability to walk. It can get endless from there.
- Do something. Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, change it. Go outside and breathe deep. Find a person to talk to.
- Pick a favorite thing. Along the lines of not taking yourself too seriously, it’s okay to not sit around and try to analyze what’s wrong. Especially since a feeling this overwhelming is often beyond logic. It might be better to read the book that always makes you smile or watch a movie that always makes you cry (but only in the good way). Go to the theater, get ice cream, pet the cat. We all have favorite things, and this is the moment to find them.
- Pray. Center. Meditate. Breathe.
- And for goodness sake, don’t be embarrassed to medicate. Tell someone who knows more about this than me. Maybe talking to them will be the medication you need. Maybe that won’t be enough on its own. The wonderful news is the options only begin there.
Whatever your flood looks like, however big or small it seems, get help. Reach for it every single time. And win.