A 30 Day Plan for Conquering Depression.
Since it is Memorial Day, I want to share a childhood memory.
Growing up in the wooded pastures and flat lands of Louisiana, as a child I dreamed of one day climbing a mountain. The highest point in Louisiana is less than 200 feet above sea level, Mount Driskill. And so it was when at the age of 10 my father loaded up the family to journey west, I realized I would see my dream fulfilled.
There were seven of us in a bucket seat, two door Impala. My father and mother sat in the front. My sister Gwen and her husband sat in the back. My place was either sitting with my legs on either side of the stick shift or lying flat in the back window of the car, looking up through the rear window at the sky. My two nephews, Keith and Kevin were younger and smaller and fit in the center seat between the two back passengers. We pulled a pop-up tent housed in a small trailer that slept four adults. The three of us kids were tucked into cubby holes or speed out on the floor whenever the tent was deployed.
We started out in Shreveport, Louisiana and journeyed across Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, northward through Utah, into Wyoming, southward through Colorado and back into Texas and then home. Ten days we traveled like sardines packed in a can on wheels. Somewhere in Arizona, I begged my father to stop so I could please climb a mountain. We pulled off on the side of the road in the middle of a desert landscape while I scrambled up a hill that was, in truth, not as high as Mount Driskill. But, in my childish mind it was a REAL mountain!
In mid July, our car broke down along a highway outside of Logan, Utah. In our naïveté, we had packed tee shirts and shorts. But, here in the mountains, it was cold and snowing. Yes, snowing in mid July! I was delighted even as my teeth chattered and my lips turned cold sitting in the snow covered car waiting for someone to give my father or my brother-in-law a ride into town. But, no one stopped and the hours passed. The air grew colder. My father had on a small sweater and he and my brother-in-law set out walking toward the nearest town.
An hour later, a van pulled up and my father hopped out. An elderly couple had picked them up. We loaded into the van and the couple took us to their home on the side of a mountain. It was an A-frame house unlike anything I had ever seen in Louisiana. To my mind, it was futuristic and awe inspiring. The living room was open all the way up to the peaked roof. A balcony in the back part of the house looked down on the living room. They had one of those James Bond type fireplaces that looked like an inverted funnel! And, just outside the back porch, was the mountain side! Keith and I gazed up in amazement at the sloping mountainside covered with rocks and trees. It was growing late in the evening and the couple had agreed to let us spend the night while our car was being repaired in Logan.
While they cooked a most fragrant dinner, Keith and I did what I had always wanted to do. We climbed a real mountain. I labored up the sharp slope, my chest aching with the thin air. But, I was in heaven! Far above us, the peak beckoned but we soon realized we could never make it before night fall. Best to stop now and maybe we could try again in the morning. It was then we found the boulder. I would say it was maybe four feet in diameter, lodged against a tall tree. Or, rather, the tree had grown from under it.
I instantly replayed scenes from my favorite science fiction shows. Huge aliens picking up boulders and tossing them like marshmallows. Or, boulders rolling down a hill to pick off the bad guy right before he pulled the trigger on his ray gun. Keith must have read my mind for we shoved against that boulder and dislodged it from the tree. It pivoted ever so slowly and then began to roll down the hill. I watched in utter amazement as it mowed down small bushes and bounced over smaller rocks and, yes, gained speed. Then, my heart was gripped with horror. It was headed right for the house! Faster and faster it rolled now a mighty engine of destruction. It ramped a small fallen tree, gained some air and crashed through the back porch railing. Undeterred, it exploded through the rear sliding doors and finally came to rest in the kitchen where our hosts stood open mouthed and shocked.
In the aftermath of that tragedy, I allowed my parents and our hosts to assume the rock had dislodged under its own power as the soil on the mountain side had absorbed quite a bit of water from melting snow in the past few days. I never told anyone we were the source of the dislodging!
That guilt festered for months. And, even now, almost fifty years later, it eats away at my insides. Confession is good for the soul, but my parents and, most assuredly that couple, have long since gone on to their eternal rewards and I never took the opportunity to confess. Those of us left behind live with that guilt. I share this because guilt is such a powerful motivator in our lives. But, guilt can also eat away at us like a cancer. Like that boulder slowly tumbling down the mountainside, guilt can gain momentum and gather to itself other bits of guilt debris left over by other unconfessed deeds. Guilt lives all around us just as the mountain side is covered in rocks. And, all it takes is for us to bump against one of those hoarded guilts to start the avalanche of depression.
My daughter struggles with depression even as I do. It seems there is a hereditary component to my depression. I got it from my father. She got it from me. And, I feel guilty about something I have no control over. But, I can share my journey through guilt and anger and depression with her and hope that my struggles and my triumphs may serve to help her avoid the huge boulders in her own life.
We completed the trip that summer. The couple that picked us up told us there had been a heinous murder the week before. A family had picked up a hitchhiker along that stretch of highway and he had murdered the entire family. He was never arrested. Because of this crime, car after car passed us by afraid for their very lives. And, I am sure that many of them felt guilty as they left us behind on the snowy road in the mountains.
You see, guilt begets guilt. It can become an endless cycle that builds and builds and affects so many more around us than just ourselves. But, every now and then, we recognize guilt for what it is and we stop and we do good and we do right in spite of the possible harm to ourselves. One elderly couple stopped and picked up two strangers on a snowy road and saved our lives. They didn’t let guilt stop them from doing good. Don’t let guilt paralyze you today. Move past it or it will barrel through the railings of your protection and crash into your life and leave you stranded on the road of depression! Get rid of the guilt of your past and make amends for those errors and wrongs you think you have done. Forgive and be forgiven. Get rid of the guilt and climb the mountain of depression where you can eventually step up into the sunshine and gaze out onto a marvelous world that God has made just for you!