By Patrick Hawthorne
Every year it looms over me, like an invisible hand, ensnaring my mind in its vise grip like clutch; mocking me, threatening me. For several years I did not know what was happening. Was I losing my mind? Why did the thought of death seem so appealing while the aspect of remaining on this earth for one more day seem so appalling? Although thoughts of suicide were far from me, the desire to be snatched from this earth by God was not.
What is this insidious “Thing” of which I write? What could take hold of a persons mind in such a way as to cause them to desire death over life? We all know of this beast, yet we rarely understand the maliciousness by which it attacks even though it lives amongst us. Its name is Depression.
Several years ago I was in a bad state of mind mentally. Although I covered it well from the outside world, my wife, Kathy, knew something was terribly wrong. I was in a dark state of mind and was not a pleasant person to be around. I even began to doubt the existence of God.
One day, in desperation, I cried out to the Lord. Well…to be honest, I angrily lit into the Lord. “Why is this happening to me?” I’m ashamed to admit this, but I was not very benevolent in my conversation with my Heavenly Father. Despite my harshness, the Lord responded back in kindness and in love.
In response to my temper-tantrum, the Lord took me on a journey of discovery. He took me back to the times when I became the most depressed. Surprisingly, they were the long winter months when the sun shined very little. Thinking back, it was as if my mind was trying to keep pace with the deep dark gloominess expressed by the environment around me.
Through research, I learned that this type “seasonal” depression is not uncommon and affects many people in varying degrees. The technical term is SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), but most people simply call it the winter blues. However, to me it was far more than a simple case of the blues.
Knowing is half the battle. I knew what it was; now I needed to know how to avoid falling into depression. For those who do not understand, depression is very sneaky. It does not sound an alarm announcing its arrival; it just happens.
In the beginning, I had to rely heavily on Kathy to let me know when I would begin to slip into a depressed state…and trust me, she let me know! From there, I would force myself to do things to bring me out of the slump. The following is my personal system for fighting the blues.
1) I have someone (Kathy) to warn me if I begin to fall into depression
2) I pray daily – Prayer is vital to keeping my attitude right. I don’t pray the problem; I pray the solution. “No weapon formed against me will prosper.”
3) I get outside as much as possible during daylight hours. Yep! Even if the sun is hiding behind dark clouds, I get outside. I don’t fully understand why the sun is essential to fighting depression, but I know I need it in great quantities.
4) If I start feeling depressed at night or I just can’t make it outside due to weather conditions, I find a nice bright light bulb and stare into it for several minutes. I know this sounds goofy, but it helps me greatly.
5) I live for a good laugh. The Bible tells us that laughter (a cheerful heart) is like a good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. (Proverbs 17:22). For those who know me personally, I don’t have to go far to look for a good laugh. I do enough stupid stuff to keep myself entertained for months.
6) I go to church. There are many days, during the winter months, that I force myself to attend church. Why? Because I know that being surrounded by fellow believers in worship and praise of God is the best solution for fighting depression.
So…there you have it. This is how I have learned to break free of the slump. God bless!