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I have posted before about living with depression. I have mostly been depression-free for several years because I’ve taken charge of my life, my medication, and my choices. But that doesn’t mean that all is rosy.
Right now – today, this week, this month – is a challenging time in my life. I feel as if I could easily slip back into depression – into the ‘hide under the covers all day and eat chocolate’ feelings – if I let myself relax my guard. So, today I’m being open and vulnerable about where I am. However, I’m also sharing a few coping strategies that I’ve learned over the years. Strategies that stop me from engaging in self-defeating behaviors that only feed my depression.
Depression is Not a Sin – But It Feels Like It
The guilt over living a less than perfect life. The guilt over not meeting my own expectations, let alone the expectations of others. The floor that needs to be swept and mopped. The laundry that needs to be done. The bills that need to be paid. These all add up to feelings of not-enough. I’m not good enough, not skinny enough, not making enough money. I’m not enough. And in this sin-twisted world, that feels like sin.
To not meet my expectations feels like sin. But it isn’t. To not keep a perfect house feels like sin. But it isn’t. To not meet what I perceive to be others’ expectations of me feels like sin. But it isn’t.
The only expectations I must worry about meeting are those from the Lord and the Word – to, as Micah puts it “do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with [my] God.” The expectation to meet Him in honesty, not in masks of my own making. To pour out my feelings, not hide them behind fig leaves. Those are the expectations I need to meet.
That does not excuse me from cleaning and laundry, but it does excuse my feelings of guilt about it all. Guilt – it has often been said – is from Satan; conviction of sin is from the Spirit. So, I let go of guilt and grab for the lifeline of the Lord. I grab for the lifeline of long-mastered, yet feeling strangely new again, strategies for overcoming.
5 Strategies for Coping When Depression Rears Its Ugly Head
- Do not, under any circumstances, give up meeting with the Lord in prayer and the Word when depression threatens. No ifs, ands, or buts. Never give it up. Give up sleep if necessary, but not the Lord. Give up TV for sure, but not the Word. Give up vacuuming when you can, but not prayer.
- Measure success in small steps. Small steps like brushing your teeth regularly, getting dressed every day, making the bed, doing the laundry. Life can feel overwhelming when depression is staring you down. Taking charge of little things – and having little victories – can make the difference between hanging on to your sanity and slipping down the black hole.
- Fake it till you make it. Smile even if you’d rather not. Laugh even if you must watch cat, dog, or baby videos on YouTube or The Big Bang Theory a dozen times. Act non-depressed and those actions will gradually impact your brain. You will become less depressed.
- Don’t procrastinate. Putting off unpleasant tasks – whether at home or work, whether dishes or disciplining the children – only multiplies the unpleasantness. You not only have to do the unpleasant task, you also force yourself to dread it for however long you procrastinate. In short, you get to suffer twice for one unpleasant task. However, not procrastinating also applies to pleasant tasks. If it’s a sunny day, work in the garden, blow bubbles with the children, or go on a picnic. The mopping and laundry will be there when you get back. But the sun will set, the weeds will overrun the garden, and the children will grow all too quickly. Don’t put off the unpleasant because you only suffer more. Don’t put off the pleasant because you rob yourself of good times and good memories.
- Reward yourself for each successful day. Even if that reward is something small – polishing your nails or buying a new bright pink pen – acknowledge that you’ve survived another day without succumbing to depression. Or that at the very least, it hasn’t completely overpowered you. Reward yourself with time with your husband, time with the kids or grandkids, picnics, bike rides, or grilling your favorite dinner. Enjoy what you can and do your best to let go of what you can’t control.
I’ve written a book of suggested strategies and habits that can help you – like they have helped me – to live with depression while working towards victory.
This Too Shall Pass
Finally, remind yourself that this, too, like all those good and bad times already gone by, shall pass. The circumstances you’re enduring won’t last forever. They may get worse before getting better. They may mean painful choices and changes. But they won’t last. And what comes next can be better – if you take charge and don’t hide from your own life.
One Last Word
As I write this I am struggling with my depression. However, it is also the Friday of a week in which two famous people have taken their own lives in suicide: Kate Spade and Anthony Boudain. It is heart-wrenching for their loved ones. It is difficult for their fans. And it could be deadly for dozens who decide if the rich and famous can’t cope, why should they try? If that’s you, I urge you to reach out to someone in honesty and transparency, crying for help. Because – as stated above – this will pass. Just hold on.
If you are having thoughts of hurting yourself, please reach out for help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours a day at 1-800-273-8255, or online at https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/.