For as long as I can remember, I have experienced bouts of low mood and depression. The moods would come on like a slow moving cloud, rolling in and resting on top of me. I felt like I was wearing 20 layers of emotional clothing. My outlook was dark and my senses muffled. I felt little joy and I over focused on my negative traits and my hopelessness. The moods seemed to lift no matter how I responded to them, which made the experience worse. I felt powerless against the Monster of my Moods.
In High School, out of concern, my mother suggested that I see our family Doctor. He performed a general check up and then asked how I was. She must have told him about my mood, because he asked me if I was depressed. I lied. I told him I was fine. He was an older doctor and I wondered if he really understood. And I went to church a lot. It didn’t make sense to me how I could attend church and yet feel so hopeless? Church is supposed to be a place that talks a lot about hope. I thought I would be a bad Christian if I was depressed and on medication. And I have learned that talk is cheap.
The clouds followed me to College and they assaulted me at work. They steam rolled the joy out of me. Eventually, I learned to detect slight changes and I would launch into a pre-cloud positive assault. I would anxiously read positive books, rehearse positive statements, refuse to think negative thoughts, review my goals and keep busy. It was exhausting.
The moods seemed to lose some of their power as I grew older. I thought that my positive obsessive thinking helped me to feel better. It probably contributed to my moods because my crazy activity helped me avoid what was going on inside. I realized much later that my moods lifted when I began to be honest with some friends and because I saw a counsellor.
As middle-aged man, I still have dark moods. They seem to pass through quicker now. I am very thankful for that because I know that for some people, their depression and anxiety do not pass. Moods can hover, they can crush and obliterate. Moods have a particular kind of power and they inflict a particular kind of scars.
What I have learned from my WMD: the Weapons of My Depression
I am not giving any advice because I think that each person experiences their own emotional life for their own reasons. It is sobering, but I believe that without some moods, even the dark ones, I would be less human. Suffering has taught me so much: humility, thankfulness, respect for quiet, celebrating small changes, the importance of people who care, the vital role of risk and honesty.
I hope that no one has to worry alone. Talking eases our isolation and aloneness, which can create Death Star moods, at least for me. I know that being busy and obsessive-positive-thinking does not help. Taking stock and reviewing what is going well does help. Exercise can help to prevent and can give a positive outlet. But it can be hard to start when the moods hit. Exercise is better as part of our self-care routine rather than a reaction to our moods.
It is hard, but slowing down and listening to what my mood changes are saying is important. The moods have something to say to me. So I listen to them. And I am learning to breathe… it’s only taken me 48 years. I have gotten better at talking with the people around me so I can help them to help me. I shift and remind myself to be gentle in how I treat myself. I try to do small projects to feel a little more gratification, and spend time using my hands. (See the excellent book by Dr. Kelly Lambert in the Reference section).
I have found that mindfulness, breathing and reflection are deep and true friends. I also have to be mindful about how much time I am spending in isolation. As an introvert I love my alone time, but when the moods hit, being alone can become a WMD: Weapon of My Depression. (Sorry I could not resist that one).
I have a family, a good job, I go to church, and I work in the Mental Health field. And sometimes I feel depressed and anxious. I can be negative and moody. I occasionally become so anxious that it can feel like a panic attack. Moods are no respecter of persons, of success or achievement. We only have to search the internet for list after list of “Famous people who experience mental illness.”
Last fall, I shared this article by Dani Lewis, “What good is Mental Health?” In the article, she offers a number of positive strategies that support mental wellness. Her recommendations are similar to what has helped me, but she provides some research and the strategies are listed more concisely than my meandering post:
- Mindfulness – learning to be in the moment rather than under our moods.
- Gratitude – intentionally listing what we are thankful for.
- Optimism – reality based but positive.
- Realistic expectations – Optimism can sometimes be avoidance. Realistic optimism is vital.
- Social Engagement – including adequate sleep, a healthy diet, exercise and meaningful relationships.
So don’t worry alone. There is a listening ear. Talk. And listen. You and I can make a difference for each other.
Leave a comment below about what helps you in your journey. Send me a confidential email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Keep it real
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