I struggled with suicidal depression from 8th grade until about the age of twenty five and felt unworthy to be on the planet because I didn’t have the mental and emotional fortitude others seemed to exude naturally. Though I explored faith and psychological reasons, my breakthroughs came when I accepted that there were unknown medical issues at play and cut myself slack, allowed myself to feel negative emotions, and changed my expectations. It was a really long journey to find answers, but eventually I found my needles in the haystack of medical causes for depression. There are literally thousands of possible medical causes from medication side effects, undiagnosed autoimmune disease, to genetic mutations in the way the body processes enzymes and vitamins. And each of these categories can cause multiple problems in the same individual.
How did I cope?
- Cut myself slack. I stopped judging success as energetic or positive emotions.
- Allowed myself to sleep, stare into space, or cry when I needed to and allowed myself to experience the painful emotions. Tears are literally stress hormones exiting the body. The more I gave in to dark days, they became fewer and farther between.
- Stopped allowing myself to make major life decisions or confrontations with myself or others during these periods of despair. I tabled them until my body felt stronger and then tackled them:
- Used Dr. Phil’s famous question “How’s that working for you?” on everything in my life. Everything! I discovered that practices, beliefs and expectations that weren’t working acted like gravity to my emotions. Letting go lifted my overall emotional load.
- Evaluated treatment options as quantitative instead of “cure.” Sometimes it takes several life adjustments and medical options that each improve emotions incrementally, like moving up a ladder rung by rung. Some people may not be able to find a way to perfect emotional health, but partial improvements should be celebrated not tossed out as defective.
if you have a relative suffering from depression, don’t expect quick and easy improvement and don’t expect “getting over it” to be the finish line. Mourn with those who mourn and cry with those who cry even if it takes a lifetime. Christ said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of God.” I am very thankful that a series of genetic studies including the Human Genome Project led to my depression-free life, but my gratitude partially comes from being extremely conscientious that genetically similar individuals in past millenniums never had these options or research insight. Many died in asylums. I can’t condemn them for their lack of knowledge, faith or power of positivity and neither can I condemn present day individuals who haven’t found their own answers. We are not at the end of the research road. There are still many medical issues with depression that haven’t been explored. There are still many discoveries ahead of us, many nuances and layers, and we can’t lose sight of that when friends and family begin to admit they are struggling.