What I have found throughout my lifetime during bouts with depression is that I become focused on myself. Sometimes I have allowed that to happen. I have used some bouts of depression to do self- reflection and sort out where my life is headed. I have taken a close look to see the mistakes I have made and things I have been doing wrong, and then look at ways that I could be doing things better and how to correct some of my character flaws. I have found these to be times of real spiritual, emotional and personal growth.
Now there have been times I admit that I have allowed my depression to swallow me up. During those times, thoughts have been focused on how others are hurting me, how life is difficult, how I’m too tired to go on and in a nutshell “woe is me”. In all fairness, we all need to lick our wounds now and again. However, too much of this is destructive to our own well-being. I am not the center of the universe and the world does not revolve around me. Everyone has their trials and tribulations they have to face. If we focus on only our problems we can sink into a deep dark hole. Reality is rarely found in the kind of thinking that goes on when we give in to this kind of despair.
Now you may be saying it sounds like you think that depression is under our control. There are some depressions that are outside of an individual’s control. But, for many of us the depression we experience is fully within our control. Having struggled with depression throughout the years, I have learned the art of controlling my depression. The one major factor that I have learned is more effective than any other in controlling my depression has been a change of focus. I change the focus from myself to the wants and needs of others. We all share in the sadness of humanity. We and those around us are not perfect and at times we hurt each other. When we change our focus from looking solely at our own struggles to helping others with their struggles we not only help the other person we help ourselves. If I can help to improve someone else’s day, help to make a moment of their life just a little easier, or offer them a leg up in the struggle of life that makes me happy. The depression is gone.
For those of us who are Christians we also have another focus that can leave us in perfect peace. The Bible makes a promise that he will keep those in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on him. If we focus on God and his kingdom then the heartache and hardships of this world disappear. This promise has taken me through many a dark and difficult time. I changed my focus from those who were hurting me to the God above who was lifting me up each and every day. I changed my focus from those who didn’t care about me to the God above who cares enough about me to even know the number of hairs on my head. I changed my focus from a whole and dying world to an eternity of peace. I changed my focus from a world where you can’t count on anything to a God who can be counted on for everything.
So the next time sadness begins to overtake you, take control and decide how you’re going to handle it. Are you going to make it a time of self-growth or self-reflection? Are you going to do a little self-denial and help someone else through a difficult time? Hopefully you will always choose, even during good times, to grab onto God’s promise for perfect peace and keep your eyes on the goal.
Shelva Hess, MSW, LSW