Luke 2:16 – So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby who was lying in a manger.
Luke 2:16 – So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby who was lying in a manger.
As the holidays are upon us, what do you do if your family is gathering 3 hours away? It takes so much to just function and take care of the needs of your chronic pain or an extended illness.
You might be okay with having to be alone, unless your family can’t understand how you don’t muster up enough strength despite of your chronic pain.
There’s also emotional pain and loss involved. You feel yourself falling deeper into the valley of depression.
The holidays can be difficult even if you don’t have a chronic condition:
Yes, it hurts to lug the box out of your closet which holds your Christmas treasures. But you don’t feel like decorating. All you can think about is how unfair it is that you can’t gather with your family those 3 hours away.
And your chronic pain kicks up a notch as you reminisce about days gone by. You think of the Christmas’ with your little ones hanging ornaments on the lower branches of the tree. With a manger scene and the effort that it took to get everything out, you loved the memories you were making.
But what about this Christmas? What kind of memories would you make? You’d probably visit your bathroom more often caused by the extreme pain you’re in. Is it possible to feel in the Christmas mood?
First, Christmas isn’t about the decorations. It’s about focusing on Christ’s birth. He should be the center of our thoughts. This should at least make you feel grateful for the baby who would become a man and eventually die for our sins.
That’s why we lug that manger scene box out so that you can look upon it, even if no one in your family will see it. It’s about you and remembering. Is it so bad that you can’t travel? Maybe they’d give you a phone call and all say, “Merry Christmas,” to you. That would make your heart beat with love.
And don’t forget to mail your adult children money for them to put towards a Christmas gift.
Here are some more ideas on how to make Christmas a time of joy even if you battle chronic pain, on buzzfeed.com, in their article, “A Guide to spending Christmas Alone.” Some of their suggestions include: Many people are alone at Christmas but it’s okay to be alone. You can choose to do some of the traditional things you would do if you were with your family and create some new ones. Being alone may make you feel sad but create your own new Christmas traditions. Here’s some ideas: work on your hobby, eat yummy food, or binge-watch a show or movie series. Whatever you choose to do, try to not let chronic pain ruin your Christmas.
And just like the Bible verse above says. The shepherds hurried to see the baby that the angels had told them. You, too, can hurry off to see the baby. Turn on some Christmas music and if you find a song you like, turn the volume up on your CD player and sing loudly as you find yourself not so lonely anymore.
Ecclesiastes 3:1 – There is a time for everything, and an activity under the heavens.
We know that we experience different seasons: fall, winter, spring and summer. But did you know there are also different seasons in our emotional pain journey?
If we can just hang on until the next season, we can find we’ve discovered hope thus depression no longer has a hold on us. Thecut.com in their article, “How to Help Someone with Depression,” provides us examples of how we should start conversations with someone we care about that we suspect are depressed, such as using open ended conversations. “How are doing lately?” “Are you struggling with anything?” “Can I help you?” Find more ways to help someone who is depressed in the article.
If you’re the one who is suffering from depression, know that this season can pass if you keep our eyes on God and how he has been faithful to you in the past. Hang onto hope. And if your depression is a heavy load on you, seek help. Whether it be a friend who will listen to you or receiving a counseling from a therapist. This too shall pass.
Psalm 31:12 – I am forgotten as though I were dead; I have become like broken pottery.
We’re broken, hurting people. Some of us have lost a loved one and it still may hurt. Another may have suffered an injury, but it hasn’t healed yet. Some of us have broken relationships with no clear way of putting the pieces back together. However, there are things we can do to help bring healing:
The first thing is to pray. Whether you’re involved in a tragedy or know of someone who is, praying is your first line of defense. Next, it may be difficult to do but talking about what happened with a friend or perhaps with a therapist. Talking can allow the pain you feel inside to come out of your heart and into a place where you can get help. Third, if it’s a tragedy that was on the news, it may be important to stop watching the news over and over on TV. Yes, we need to keep up with what’s happening around us, but we can also become overly obsessed with it.
Take a look at what huffpost.com, in their article, “8 Things to do to Help Heal Your Broken Heart.” Some of their suggestions include: Go for a long run, take a road trip, learn something new, move to a new city and make someone’s day.
Also, remember that God was right there when your tragedy happened. He was there wrapping us in his arms of comfort. God can also be your comfort as you go through the process of healing so that you don’t feel like the Bible verse above says forgotten and like you’re dead and like broken pottery.
2 Samuel 22:29 – You, Lord, are my lamp; the Lord turns my darkness into light.
Depression is like a dark bag placed over your head. It causes darkness to encircle your world. You know the light is out there, but you can only see things in shadows.
The bag is scratchy and irritates your forehead and eyes. It weighs heavily upon your head and causes your face to bow down toward the ground. You try to take off the sack before you start your day, but there’s no way to grab the ends or slide it off your face.
What’s worse is stepping out your door and going to work. As you drive along, the glow from the sun is stunted. Each traffic light you come upon is always red making you have to stop.
You stumble around in your day, because you can’t fully get into your work. It’s hard to do such a thing with a bag over your head making your computer display a hard thing to see clearly.
Your boss walks by your desk, takes a quick glance at you, and then asks you why you haven’t finished the report that was supposed to be on his desk hours ago? You try to give reasons why it’s not done, but your boss doesn’t care. He leaves and once again you try with all your might to pull that bag off your head.
Somehow you make it through your day and stumble home. You throw the files you’re supposed to work on at home tonight on the couch and head towards your bedroom. All you want to do is sleep.
But then you think about your family who are waiting patiently for you to join them for dinner. You don’t want to. So you head for your bedroom. They must understand; it would take so much energy to eat. And the bag over your head would make it impossible to eat and you wouldn’t want your family to see what a failure you are. It’s easier to climb back into bed.
The darkness of depression is hard to shake. It doesn’t just exist on the outside but pushes its way into every chamber of your heart. Tonyrobbins.com, in their article, “How to Deal With Depression,” has some ideas on how to get out from under depression’s hold on your life. One idea is to, “Change your physiology. Being mindful of your body and making adjustments to how you carry yourself can be key to getting out of depression. It can be as simple as lifting your chest.” Another is to, “Change your words. Your words matter – both the words you say out loud and the way you speak to yourself internally.”
When darkness encircles your world, remember that you can lay your burdens down at Christ’s feet. Trust that God sees depression’s bag over your head. He will lift it off and give you back your strength when yours is gone. God can be your lamp and turn your darkness into light.
1 Kings 19:3, 4 – Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, LORD,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.”
You sit alone in your living room.The blinds are shut as if you could shut out life. And rolling around in your head is the last conversation you had with your son.
It hadn’t gone well, and he had hung up on you.
You start to cry. Then your cry turns even deeper and from your lips escapes, “Woe is me!”
The more you think about your life, the stronger the cry from your heart. But if you’re really honest with yourself, you are simply feeling sorry for yourself. You’ve had disagreements with your son before. You just need to give him some time.
Yet still you feel it’s not fair he treated you this way. On and on you rationize that you hadn’t done anything wrong. And from somewhere down the line the train of self-pity is coming to pick you up.
But does it help you to feel sorry for yourself? Is it going to make you feel better? In most cases no.
Self-pity is a choice to simply feel sorry for yourself and to wallow in it. The more you wallow in the mud, the harder it is to come out of it. You must grab a hose and wash the mud off of you. As you do, you’ll feel the weight of self-pity lift off.
Let’s find some ways to stop thinking, “Woe is me.” Psychologytoday.com in their article, “9 Ways to Get Past Self-Pity,” gives us some clues to help us wash off self-pity. One way to do so is to “reserve your resources for productive activities.” “Every minute you dwell on self-pity is 60 seconds you delay working on a solution to your problems.” Another one is, “They refuse to complain.” “Venting to other people about the magnitude of your problems fuels feelings of self-pity.”
Take a look at the Bible verse above. Elijah was a great prophet in Bible times. He had just watched God win a victory and perform a miracle, yet when someone threatened to kill him, he ran. He was in the middle of self-pity and said in affect that he was done. But God didn’t take Elijah’s life for feeling this way. He fed and cared for him and helped him wash that pity away. God will lift you out of self-pity too. You just need to turn towards him and believe things will get better.
Proverbs 19:21 – Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.
Disappointment. There it is. Things aren’t turning out the way you wanted them to.
Do you believe if you don’t expect something good to happen then you won’t be disappointed? That’s a hard question to ask.
With each one of these situations, it shows that you’ve already predicted the outcome. All you see ahead of you is disappointment. And you wonder, “What’s the point of trying when I’ll never see the approval I long for? Nothing will ever turn out the way I want it to be.”
Could there be a reason that you’re disappointed most of the time? Could it be that you don’t have any hope left? You’ve been hurt so many times that you don’t think you can handle one more let down.
How do we move past disappointment? Chopra.com, in their article, “9 Ways to Overcome Disappointment,” makes some suggestions. Here’s one – Adopt the perspective of an observer rather than a participant. Detaching like this allows you to see with increased clarity. Also, celebrate that you know what you want. By having the feeling of disappointment, it shows that you know what your goal is.
Attitude plays a big part in this. I’m opening my journal and writing in it, “Today will be the kind of day that I make it out to be.” That’s right. I said that I make it out to be. In addition, I make it a point to pray that God would open my eyes to see things the way he does. His plan will ultimately be fulfilled. Then I will discover that though one thing may have caused me disappointment, there are many more reasons that brought me joy. Reach for the joy, and let go of the disappointments.
Matthew 9:28 - When he had gone indoors, the blind men came to him, and he asked them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” “Yes, Lord,” they replied.
In the ocean, far away from shore, sits a small desert island.
The sand dunes shift and change position with each passing breeze. Only a couple of palm trees stand as sentries guarding the island. Not far from the trees, something moves. And then drops to their knees.
It’s a person, and there’s no one with them. That’s because they’re stranded on this little desert island, because they can no longer come and go as they please. That’s how a person with chronic pain or an illness feels.
But that’s not the way it has to be.
If you stand up and turn around you’ll see an oasis in the distance. That oasis is made up of people who serve as those two, sentry palm trees, always on duty being your friend in spite of your pain.
But you have to take the first step toward them.
Let go of your fears.
If you want things to be different, you must believe they can be.
Cnbc.com in their article, “18 Ways Successful People Think Differently,” gives us some ways that we can do things differently and change our present, such as worry, fear, action, and gratitude are all choices you get to make. No one gets to decide anything for you. Every decision is completely yours to make. In addition, today is that second chance you have been asking for. Use it.
Take a look at the Bible verse above. There were some men who were blind. They went to Jesus hoping he would heal them. But even though they’d gone to Jesus, they still needed to believe he could do it. It’s the same with us. If we want things to be different we have to believe that God is able to change things. No, he may not change everything, and he might not even change the worst things you’re going through. But he does touch our lives by bring others to stand with us through our trials. God will also bring healing to our hearts and encouragement to strengthen us.
Ecclesiastes 4:12 - Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
Have you or someone you know been diagnosed with an incurable pain or illness? Finding this out can be devastating to your life. It can cause you to question everything.
Something good has to come from all of this, right?
If you are a friend of someone who is trying to figure out why they have to suffer, and want to truly help, here are some things to keep in mind:
Trying to help a friend quench the fires of depression can be difficult if you don’t know where to start. Helpguide.org posts the article, “Helping Someone With Depression – Supporting a Depressed Person While Taking Care of Yourself,” which provides a guide through the symptoms of depression and how a friend or family member can help. It’s especially important to be sensitive to the pain the sufferer is going through, and this article provides ways to start a conversation, and examples of questions you can ask.
The fires of depression can quickly spred from one area of your life to every part. You may quickly begin to lose the battle against it, but just as the Bible verse says above, when you have someone else with you, they can give you their strength and you will be bound together in a cord that’s not easily broken or burnt up by those depression fires.
Psalm 4:1 – Answer me when I call to you, O my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress, be merciful to me and hear my prayer.
There are different reasons why we put a smile on our face:
There’s one more reason, though, maybe that smile means you’re trying to hold onto control because you’re afraid of what others would think of you if you didn’t smile.
What’s the true story?
Life gets tiring and sometimes the reason we’re so tired is that giving a false smile takes a lot of energy. Sometimes we walk into a conversation where everyone else is laughing and we don’t feel like laughing because our emotional pain is off the charts. Do you laugh when you’re crying inside? Do you make an excuse to walk about from your friends?
I’m one of the lucky ones. I’m glad that I have people in my life who help me find a balance, and who believe in me enough to allow me the freedom to show my real emotions. That balance I’m talking about is learning to live a life that is real.
There’s something else that can explain what we’re going through and give us some hope. It’s a condition called, Smiling Depression. Nami.org posts the article, “What You Need to Know About ‘Smiling Depression.’ ” In the article they explain that smiling depression involves appearing happy to others and smiling through the pain, keeping the inner turmoil hidden. It’s a major depressive disorder. One thing that you can do is to find things that are meaningful to you and help you feel productive and accomplished.
God wants us to be able to smile when it’s for the right reason. He will also answer us when we call to him for help in living a real life. He will bring us relief from all of the distress we feel in our heart when we’re trying to decide if it’s an okay time for us to smile. As long as our motives are to live a life that is real in our actions and emotions, he will help us do it.
Watch out: Smiling Depression can be dangerous because it can have a connection to suicide. One of the ways to help yourself and others who are depressed is to seek help. If you or a loved one are having thoughts about suicide seek help immediately. It is a matter of life and death. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255 or simply dial 911.
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.
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.