“Hold on to this hope: You can get better from depression.” – Anonymous
A Growing Pandemic Within The Pandemic
Unaddressed discouragement and distress, which were the focus of the last two blog posts, lead to depression. Whereas the first two form cracks in our mental makeup, depression creates a crater. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, at this time last year, roughly one in twelve Americans reported anxiety. This year, the number is one in three. As we continue to see surges and spikes of the coronavirus on the surface of everyday life, underneath lies an iceberg called depression. It’s a pandemic within the pandemic.
Taking on Water
With divorce rates up, unemployment, loss of friends and family, and questions surrounding the education of children, many people have hit this iceberg. And like the Titanic, are sinking as gaping holes have formed and our lives are taking on the waters of fear, worry, anxiety, loneliness, hopelessness, and helplessness. Long after the coronavirus is gone, behavioral scientists believe that the mental toll will still be around for a long time to come.
Winning is Possible
Is it possible to overcome depression in our current coordinates? Can we look ahead into the future, as bleak as it may be, with hope? I believe so. Depression, as defined by psychologist Rollo May is “the inability to construct a future.” And similar to discouragement and distress, depression comes with a loss of enthusiasm and interest for life. It can keep you in bed all day, up all night, and leave you with no appetite for food or life. But there is light at the end of the tunnel. By no means are these steps exhaustive but intended to serve as a template to show that life after depression is possible. And it starts with how you see yourself.
The You That You See
I believe that as we think, so we are. When we embrace depression as an identity instead of a temporary state of mind, it causes extensive damage to our lives. You may have depression, but you should announce back that depression doesn’t have you! Associating our conditions to our personality or character makes it impossible to see a way out. We settle for the reality that we will always be depressed, worried, and anxious. This outlook invites more darkness to engulf us. As a follower of Christ, I have reminded myself multiple times throughout this year, “I am a child of God.” This simple sentence has helped me not to attach any current condition to my identity.
For some reason, a stigma still surrounds mental issues like depression, anxiety, and loneliness. The stigma makes such mental conditions difficult to admit. Afraid of the repercussions such as shame, many prefer to suffer and sadly die in the prison of depression. But the key out of this mental incarceration lies in the courage to seek help. A few years ago, I saw this courage when swimming legend Michael Phelps admitted to experiencing depression after the 2012 Olympics and “not wanting to live.” But in talking about it, he said life became easier. Courage is often seen when we risk shame by being vulnerable. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson said, “Took me a long time to realize it, but the key is to not be afraid to open up. Especially us “dudes” have a tendency to keep it in. You’re not alone.” None of us can successfully navigate these treacherous waters on our own. We need help!
One advice given by the CDC to cope with mental stress and depression during the pandemic is to “take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including those on social media.” If you repeatedly kick a door, it will eventually break. Binging on negative news is like kicking the door of your mind. At some point, the hinges will give way, and the bad news will infiltrate your mind and life. Curb this by filling your mind with what can sustain you instead of what will sink you. Take in the news, but don’t let it occupy most of your time or your mind. I have found great comfort in the Bible, which is never changing in an ever-changing world. Additionally, reading good books, listening to music, and going for walks and runs have been helpful.
Final Thought: No one is immune to depression. Like COVID-19, it does not pick and choose its victims. “Depression doesn’t discriminate,” tweeted The Rock. Change the narrative of depression in your life by seeing yourself differently, seeking help, and filling your mind with sustaining words and thoughts. I would like to leave you with these words from the Bible to fill your mind and encourage your heart with:
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace which passeth all understanding will keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, whatsoever things are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, commendable, if there is any moral excellence and if there is anything praiseworthy, think or dwell on these things.” (Philippians 4:6-8).
Keep on keeping on!