Nehemiah 2:2-3 - So the king asked me, "Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart." I was very much afraid, but I said to the king, "May the king live forever! Why should my face not look sad when the city where my ancestors are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?"
The alarm goes off in the morning. You sit up. You need to get moving. However, you just sit on the edge of your bed. It’s like as if you’ve just heard the worst news and a feeling of deep sadness washes over you.
You mentally check in with yourself trying to figure out where this feeling is coming from:
Home life: You live alone with your dog, but that’s not new. You’ve been living this way for over five years. You’re happy with your environment, and in fact are thankful that you not only live in a functional home, but one that is surrounded by rose gardens and fruitful, green trees.
Work life: You decide to push your feelings aside and start to get ready for work. You stop midway to the kitchen and try to think if there’s anything going on at work to be sad about. You like your job, and the people you work with. Oh, there are those stressful days when you’re almost reaching a deadline, and a few times you’ve gotten into a disagreement with a co-worker, but nothing that important.
Social life: So far you haven’t figured out what could be causing the sadness that has been following you all day. You think about your friends and smile. Yes, a couple of them are a bit quirky, but it makes for interesting conversations and there’s really no concern there. You also have arguments sometimes with friends, but that’s normal, isn’t it?
Family: You just saw your family for Christmas. It didn’t appear that any of them had a problem with you. There weren’t any big, blow out arguments either. You went home and found a bit of sadness, because you already miss your family, but that’s not unusual.
Health: You do have health issues that affect you every day. You live with a chronic pain condition that sometimes makes it so that you have to leave work early. But you’ve had the condition for almost twenty years, so that’s not something new. I guess you could be sad about having to live this way, but you have a support network and your boss understands when you have to take a day off once in a while.
Spiritual life: You attend a great church. You have lots of friends, and even attend several events a year. You take part in a Sunday School class where there are lively discussions and taking apart what the Bible verses you’re studying mean. You love listening to your pastor as he shares a message. You also have your own study at home where you dig into the Bible and find things that apply to your life. You don’t feel a separation from God, so this probably isn’t your source of depression.
Now that you’ve examined the main areas of your life, you aren’t anywhere closer to figuring out why you’re depressed. Truthfully, there might not be a reason that you can point to. Depression can come upon you even if there is no real reason for it. So what can we do to help us lift off the feeling of sadness? Psychologytoday.com posts the article, “Eight Ways to Actively Fight Depression.” In it they discuss strategies to fight depression. One of which is to recognize and conquer your critical self attacks. These disruptive thoughts can interfere with our lives. Another is to do things you once like to do even if you don’t feel like it.
Sometimes we can identify the reason for a deep sadness, but even if we can’t there are ways to combat that depression and allow light to enter our lives once again. Take a look at the Bible verses above. Nehemiah had the job of being the king’s cup bearer. He tasted everything first before the cup was handed to the king. One day, he entered the palace to do his job and he looked sad. He was sad because the city of Jerusalem lay in ruins. The king noticed Nehemiah’s sadness and allowed him to go Jerusalem and rebuild the gates and walls of the city. He was able to remedy the reason for his sadness. Many times we will be able to do so, also. But when we can’t, realize that God will still have compassion on us, and help us find ways to be freed from our depression.
Psalm 68:6 - God sets the lonely in families, he leads out the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.
Here we are with the Christmas season upon us. Everyone is rushing to the malls or outlet stores to find just the right gift to buy for a special someone. Then after you’ve finished shopping, you return home to wrap your presents and place them under your Christmas tree waiting for the day your family will gather.
Wait a minute.
You’re returning home with the presents
You’re returning home to wrap the presents
You’re returning home to a Christmas tree to put them under
You’re returning home to look for your favorite cookie recipe
You’re returning home to bake the cookies
You’re returning home to wait for the day the family all gathers
But what if you don’t have a place you can call home?
It certainly feels like you have no home for the holidays.
What you may be experiencing is grief over the kind of Christmas you used to have. The article, “64 Tips for Coping with Grief at the Holidays,” on whatsyourgrief.com provides us with some answers. Though the article is primarily talking about grieving over a lost loved one, I believe there are some suggestions that also work when grieving over not having a “home” at Christmas. Here are some of their ideas: Acknowledge the holidays will be tough this year; talk to your kids about how things will be different, and letting them know that it’s okay to be sad over what they’ve lost, and it’s okay to also feel happy because it’s Christmas.
And lastly one of my ideas: Though you may not feel like celebrating this Christmas, allow your family to step in and help you through the grieving process. If they live nearby let them pick you up and take you to their home. It may not be your home, but it may help you feel a piece of Christmas joy. After all, God placed us in families for a reason. They can be the ones who shower comfort on us when we need it the most.
Proverbs 4:25-26 - Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you. Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm.
They say that things come in three’s –
My washing machine spills out water from the hose connected to the hot water
My microwave oven suddenly stops working while cooking dinner
Then, wait for it, I go out to my car to drive to a repair shop but it won’t start
Yes, three’s. That’s if you believe in that superstition. Yet sometimes that’s what happens.
But some of us have found that our lives don’t just come in three’s, but four’s, five’s, and you get the picture. Everywhere I look it feels like my life is falling apart.
Things break down like the washing machine, microwave and car. But our bodies break down because of multiple chronic health issues, also. And, the worst of all, those we love fall asleep and never wake up.
When life is crumbling around you, do you ever feel like maybe you’d like to fall asleep and not wake up? Do you just want to stop the merry-go-round and jump off?
But what if your life suddenly takes a turn around? Good things start happening in three’s.
You get the job you wanted
You make a new friend who likes the things you do
You finally get that vacation you’ve waited for so long
But are you excited, or are you waiting for the other foot to fall and for everything to start falling apart again? It’s a difficult place to be. You’ve been so used to things going wrong that you’ve lost the art of finding the good and basking in all its sunlight and peace.
Depression doesn’t only take away your joy; it can increase the likelihood that bad things are always on the horizon, because that’s all you’re looking for.
Yet you say to me, “You just don’t know my life. There can’t possibly be anything good. Can’t you see that my life is falling apart all around me?” Though I haven’t lived your life, I’ve lived long enough to know that even if there isn’t anything you can find that’s good right now, keep pushing forward with your eyes looking up. You can’t find the good if you keep your head down all the time.
Marcandangel.com, in their article, “8 Things to Remember When Everything Goes Wrong,” list some good suggestions for helping you see things differently. They include everything in life is temporary and don’t be ashamed of the scars life has left you because they are symbols of your strength.
Finally, just as the Bible verse above says, always keep your eyes looking straight and directly before you. If you constantly look at all of the negative circumstances all around, your path may stray off course and you may find yourself sinking in sand. Let’s keep our feet on the bedrock and know you’re gonna make it through feeling like your life is falling apart.
Psalm 142: 5, 6 – I cry to you, O LORD; I say, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.” Listen to my cry, for I am in desperate need; rescue me from those who pursue me, for they are too strong for me.
When you have an invisible mental health issue such as depression, it’s easy to fall prey of judgmental attitudes.
It seems like everywhere I go I sense that others are watching me. Some know that I battle depression. And yes, it is a battle. One fought on the battlefield of our minds. And the enemy stands in front of us laughing.
Laughing because they think we’re doped up.
Laughing because they think we’re taking the easy way out.
But there is nothing easy about depression. And even though we may be seeing a doctor for the condition, we’re judged by others when we choose to accept the help antidepressant medications can give us.
So how do we cope with the judgmental attitudes others feel towards us when we choose to treat depression with medications? Thetempest.com in their article, “Here’s How to Battle the Stigma Surrounding Antidepressants,” discusses how too many people believe depression and anxiety are the individuals choice; and lists some of the unhelpful statements and questions that someone struggling with mental illness deals with when considering medication.
Removing the stigma around taking antidepressants can help people who fight depression to get medical help when treating depression. We have to stop judging others and ourselves so that healing can begin.
God knows that those of us who fight depression are in desperate need of being rescued from those who pursue us by placing labels on us. Our world would be a gentler and more compassionate place if we would support those who choose to get help.
Nehemiah 9:19 - Because of your great compassion you did not abandon them in the wilderness. By day the pillar of cloud did not fail to guide them on their path, nor the pillar of fire by night to shine on the way they were to take.
It starts to leak out around the edges. Dark colors swirl and cover it. And loud, hard music begins to play and you know it won’t take long for others to see just how messed up you are inside.
That’s what emotional pain does. It leaks out. It swirls and covers up normalcy. It pounds loudly at the door waiting for you to open it. Sometimes you can ignore the door. But most of the time, you’re just too tired to not let it in.
Emotional pain can stem from a variety of reasons – Disappointing someone, someone disappointing you, being ignored, being talked about behind your back, failing yet again and so the pain takes over.
There’s a person inside you waiting to come out. It seals the wounds you bear. It brings bright colors and covers up the ugly inside. It knocks softly at the door, so you’re not afraid to open it. When you open the door a breath of fresh air fills your mind and your entire being.
You have some choices – Let the shame of emotional pain take over, or have compassion on yourself and let comfort take over. Comfort then creates a pathway of faith and understanding.
And it dares to allow you to be who you are pain and all. Emotional pain doesn’t have to be a bad thing. I know, it feels like a bad thing, but doesn’t always do so. You have the opportunity to be you and let the world see that there’s some ugly inside, because everyone has emotional pain some time in their lives. And that time may be right now.
Look deeply into the heart of the broken. Offer compassion and hold their hands. Tell them the story of why you are broken, and just maybe, they will let you know their story.
So you see, what looks like a weakness to you is really a strength. But it becomes a weakness if we let emotional pain take over. How do we keep emotional pain from taking over and instead recover from it? Articles.mercola.com post the article, “5 Tips for Recovering from Emotional Pain,” with suggestions such as how to avoid ruminating and going over and over a past hurt; and, make sure guilt remains a useful emotion.
Take a look at the Bible verse above. The Israelites had disobeyed God and now they were wandering in the desert. But even in their trials, God showed them compassion. He provided a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire at night. It may have felt to the Israelites that they were lost and alone, just as we can feel alone when we are in the middle of emotional pain. But if we can keep our mind on God, he can wash away our pain and enable us to help someone else.
Psalm 55:1-2 - For the director of music. With stringed instruments. A maskil of David. Listen to my prayer, O God, do not ignore my plea; hear me and answer me. My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught.
Having fun with friends or loved ones enriches our lives. While being with them you may be enjoying yourself so much that time seems to speed up, and before you know it, it’s time to head home.
There’s another way to lose track of time. This can happen at work. You get so involved with a task that when you look at the clock, you’re day is almost over. This can be a difficult if you haven’t finished your work for the day, but it can be good when your job is boring or takes a lot of energy to do.
A less important way to lose time is when you become so involved with the TV show you’re watching that, you look at the clock and are amazed it’s almost time to go to bed.
These three examples are positive ways of losing track of time. But there’s another way to lose track of time.
Living with a mental illness such as depression or anxiety disorder can be so overwhelming that you forget parts of your day, and no matter how hard you try, you can’t remember what happened.
Being forgetful of chunks of your day is common with diseases of dementia. But this isn’t dementia. This is your brain being in so much pain from what’s happening in your life that you automatically hit the overload button and a section of your day is simply not there anymore.
Losing track of time can be a scary thing; especially when you already have things that are causing you to be mentally worn out. Healthyplace.com, in their article, “Depression and Memory Loss: Causes, Effects, Treatment,” tells us how some parts of the brain associated with memory are physically impaired in depression. This can be rather scary to the person losing track of time. The article also provides some of the effects such as forgetting a certain word he or she wants to use, or forgetting the content of a conversation you had the day before. But it also provides hope by describing some of the treatments for the memory loss.
Another way to find hope is to look at what the Bible verses above. David, who was the king of Israel, called upon God because he was distraught and his thoughts troubled him. God did answer David’s plea and he will hear you and answer yours as well. God is concerned about all areas of your life including when you lose track of time.
Job 6:11-13 - What strength do I have, that I should still hope? What prospects, that I should be patient? Do I have the strength of stone? Is my flesh bronze? Do I have any power to help myself, now that success has been driven from me?
It’s time to wake up. Another day is calling your name, but you can’t bring yourself to rise out of bed. What if today is another bad day like yesterday? Lately it seems like only bad things happen to you –
All of these things and more can come crashing down on you. And when the tidal wave hits, there’s just isn’t anything left inside of you to have hope for.
Loss of hope is a common companion to many of us. We’ve had a rough time lately, but not just a onetime occasion –
It happened yesterday
It’s happening today
Will it happen again tomorrow?
All just out of reach.
So how do we find hope to hang onto?
Stunnedbygrief.com has the article, “What Hope is and How You Hang Onto It,” in which it discusses what hope is, hope’s power, and what you can do to nurture your hope such as don’t deny your emotions, but don’t let them consume you 24/7.
Sometimes it also pays to take a step back. Try to imagine yourself as an observer of your life. See the ways that you can stop sabotaging your hope, and begin again by trying some of the suggestions in the article above.
Take a look at the Bible verses above. These verses are about a man in the Bible named Job. He had lost his home, livelihood, children, and his health. Job voiced his hopelessness, but God didn’t kick him aside. In the end, Job’s hope was restored and so was all he had lost. God can do the same for us. Your life may look bleak now, but as hard as it may be, hang onto hope.
Isaiah 9:6 - For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
As we walk into the holiday season, for some instead of being jolly, they find themselves drenched in depression.
Bright lights don’t cause you to walk into the light of joy. Popcorn and bringing out Hallmark movies may not cause you to feel nostalgic, especially if you don’t have many happy memories. And evenings by the fireplace don’t warm you inside, but leaving you out in the cold.
Perhaps you empty-nested this year and don’t have your kids around to enjoy all of the preparations for Christmas, so you put aside the ornaments and tinsel and don’t even bother to put up a tree.
Perhaps you’re single and have no one to attend get-togethers with and so you stay home rather than face all the smiling faces of couples.
And perhaps you already suffer from chronic depression and the holidays just plunge you deeper into a darkening world.
What can we do to help us enjoy Christmas instead of being depressed about it? Find some tips, such as plan your holiday schedule ahead of time, forget about making everything perfect, and how to avoid family conflict in the article, “11 Tips for Avoiding Holiday Depression Triggers,” on health.com.
Now that you’ve discovered some ways to help exchange depression for the gift of Christmas, we can find the wonder all over again and receive joy to light up our hearts and lives.
Psalm 34:18 - The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
This world we live in, this country we live in, this place we live in can all come to an emotional halt after incidents like what happened recently in Las Vegas.
No one could’ve fathomed such a thing happening while attending a country music concert or any event. So many people were left broken, both the victims and their families.
We know there is evil in our world and people who would push their agenda on others. But how can any difference be made? Was the violent action of one man to draw attention to a cause? We don’t seem to have the answers.
I don’t think there are any that would make sense and bring healing to those affected. We just know we’re broken.
However, there are things we can do to help bring healing. Here are some steps you can take that may lead toward healing; such as taking a break from watching the news on TV, in the article, “Managing Your Distress in the Aftermath of a Shooting,” from the American Psychological Association.
And remember: God is close to the broken and he will be close to you, so turn to him and find healing from the affects of the trauma you experienced.
Psalm 62:3 - How long will you assault a man? Would all of you throw him down--this leaning wall, this tottering fence?
You’re taking a drive in the country when a green meadow comes up beside you. Rolling hills run north and south along the outer edges of the field. You stop your car and get out taking a closer view of the beauty that is laid out before you.
And as your gaze skims across the area you find yourself stopping, when you see a fence line bordering the meadow. Some sections of the fence stand tall in the breeze, as it passes over them.
But then your eyes fall upon a section of the fence that looks older. This part doesn’t stand straight and tall, but leans almost all the way over. The wood is aged with time and bends with the breeze.
You swallow hard. That’s what you feel like – an old leaning fence ready to topple over. Yet, your collection of years has only recently passed by fifty. Somehow you feel so much older.
How does a person feel like they’re older than they are? One reason can be if you’ve lived a hard life. And it is a hard life if you’ve been battling emotional pain for any length of time.
When doing hard physical work, it can tire you, but in a good way.
But if your labor is trying to make it one more day with anxiety and depression, it feels like physical work, but not in a good way.
So is there a way that you can feel younger both inside and out? Yes, there is! The article, “7 Steps to Defy Your Age Inside and Out, ” on health.com has suggestions such as mixing things up by taking a different route home from work or eating foods that revitalizes you.
Remember that old leaning fence? Prop it up with some of the suggestions from above and give it a fresh coat of paint when you start to feel young again. God will smile when you do!
Karen Dalske is a freelance writer, public speaker, is active in her church and writes her blogs out of her own experiences of pain, illness and loss.