A 30 Day Plan for Conquering Depression.
It’s time for me to be honest with you. I am depressed. Again. It’s probably the fourth or fifth time this year. The previous depressive episodes were due to external circumstances over which I had no control. But, this depression is a doozy. Want to know why? So do I.
Being aware of the triggers of your personal depression is a vital tool for preventing a depressive episode and shortening a depressive episode. I knew this one would be coming because I have become familiar with the triggers in my own life. Some of these triggers of depression can produce depression in anyone mainly because they are common experiences we all share.
First, loss of a loved one. This kind of trigger is unavoidable. Everyone will experience some form of depression over the loss of a loved one. But, if it lingers it can become full blown depression. This is easy to understand. However, my depression over loss of a loved one came from an unexpected source. My wife’s mother was recently moved to a nursing home because she needs skilled nursing care. She suffers from dementia. Monday of this week, I went with my wife to check on her mother who is in the same nursing home where my father spent the last years of his life. My wife’s mother had been relocated to a private room. As I walked down a very familiar hallway I realized the room was right across the hall from the room my father lived in until he passed away 2 years ago. When I saw the room number by the door, the memory of his loss hit me like a ton of bricks. Over the past couple of days, I have relived all those moments good and bad of the last few years of my father’s life. It is stunning how words and actions you regret can bring back enormous guilt. Why can’t I just remember the good days? They far outnumber the bad days. Such is our nature as humans that we tend to dwell on the negative over the positive.
Second, my birthday is coming up. And, this will be a big one. I will turn 60! I didn’t think it would bother me. But, as the day draws nearer, I find myself looking back over my life. Have I made a difference in this world? Have I accomplished any of my life goals? What happened to the last 20 years of my life? What really amazes me in this examination of my life is how much of the past ten years of my life were absolutely dominated by parental care of both my father and my wife’s mother. And, it is no help that my father and I share the same birthday. It makes his absence even more painful. Birthdays can be powerful triggers of depression, so we need to prepare ourselves. They should be happy and celebratory. But, if you suffer from depression, you totally understand.
Third, I have had some critical comments made about me at work. Normally, I have a pretty thick skin. But, these comments hit right at a project I had worked on for the benefit of my business. We all take criticism. Sometimes it is constructive. At other times, it can be just lasing out. This is called ad hominem attack. You may not know the term, but I am sure you are fully aware of the tactic. If an idea is presented and someone objects to it, instead of attacking the merits of the idea, the attacker goes after the person. It is a personal attack. Discredit the person and you can by association discredit the idea. This kind of “attack” can be deeply personal and often hits a nerve. Most of the time, someone using this kind of attack goes for the jugular, using some innuendo or fact that is deeply private and painful to an individual. This was NOT the case in my personal encounter. But, I TOOK it personally. It is as important to be able to separate criticism of your idea from criticism of you as it is to recognize the actual method of attack as “ad hominem”. Sometimes, we just need to have thick skin and not take criticism personally. BUT, when you are depressed, EVERYTHING is personal!
I am pausing to analyze these three elements that have driven me into depression and to pull out some tools from my toolbox. It will not be easy but here is what I am going to do.
Instead of letting my memories of my lost loved ones upset me, I plan on celebrating the wonderful moments of their life. My birthday reminds me that once, 60 years ago, my mother and father held a brand new baby in their arms; a new life filled with promise for the future. They looked upon this new life with wonder and awe and they prayed for this baby to have a wonderful life. I want to recall that feeling they must have had for me on my birthday and to stop and look around me at all the wonderful and awesome evidences I see everywhere of a God who loves me and has a plan for my life.
For my birthday, I am going somewhere and having fun. Months ago, I planned a trip to Walt Disney World for the week of my birthday as my present. Going with me will be my sister, Gwen, who celebrates her 75th birthday five days before I do. We are going to have a blast! My wife and daughter are going along with my sister’s daughter. So, Mickey, here we come! Take the birthday and make it special. Don’t look back. Don’t worry. Just have a happy week!
Finally, as to that criticism at work I’m using a plan I developed years ago. Step back. Analyze and think about what you have done. Don’t react with anger and give yourself 72 hours to respond. I’ve found when I REACT immediately, it will be out of emotion and out of control! But, if I step back and pray and think and give myself time to get out of my emotional self, I will see the merits of my work and be able to defend myself with clarity and fervor. And, I might actually stop and find a flaw in my perfect “work”. There may be a grain of truth in the criticism and I need to be able to handle constructive advice in order that my work can improve.
Maybe this will help some of you facing similar problems. I’ve always felt that sharing our struggles, failures, and triumphs with those who also face depression may help in a similar situation. May my difficulty this week help you with upcoming or current difficulties you are facing. As Mark and I say over and over, you are not alone and we understand!