How I Overcame Depression This Year (and how you can too!)

On and off depressive episodes have been a part of my life since I was ten years old.  Sometimes, I cry for what seems like forever and a day, and sometimes I just become numb to everything around me, while hiding the turmoil inside. Though, when you meet me, I may seem happy and bubbly, for years it was only an unconscious façade to prevent myself from dealing with all the feeling of inferiority, self-hatred, and unfulfilled desires I had inside.

Then, some major changes in both my life situations and perspectives happened last year that fueled my motivation to beat depression once and for all this year. I still do struggle sometimes, but the depressive episodes are getting fewer and fewer. In my life situations, these four events fueled some major changes:

  1. My brother moved away.
  2. I got a new job.
  3. I went to a different church home after being at my previous one for over ten years!
  4. I started blogging more.

Here is what I learned from these events that have helped me overcome depression and enjoy some of the most joyful moments of my life. :

  1. I forgave those who hurt me.—There have been many people that have hurt me in the past. After several people hurt me emotionally a few months ago, I talked to one of the pastors at my church and he told me to “kill them with kindness” and directed me to the passages in the Bible where it said to “Love your enemies,” and “heap burning coals upon [my enemies’] head[s],” by loving and serving them anyway. It was in that moment that I realized what I wanted out of the people who hurt me and why it wasn’t working.—I wanted those that hurt me to stop hurting me! I had thought that by refusing to forgive them, I was, in essence, “punishing” them and giving them a taste of their own medicine that they deserved. However, in reality, what was happening was that I was hurting myself, and the people who hurt me not only continued to unconsciously hurt me because I was harboring so much anger and bitterness towards them, but also probably didn’t care or even know that they were still hurting me!  So, I believe God told me to “let go of the anger” because it really wasn’t accomplishing anything I wanted anyway, and I followed my pastor’s advice of intentionally doing good to them to help me heal from my anger and bitterness towards them.  Not only was I able to forgive these people, but our relationship was rekindled as well!
  2. I cultivated my dream of being a writer by blogging.—After starting and stopping blogging for about five years (I had accounts in other social media forms that are deactivated and I no longer use), I finally created this one in December 2015, but really made a commitment to regularly blog after getting my new job last year.  In addition to that, I joined a blogging group on Facebook, which has been a huge blessing and has helped me in many ways.  I am planning to monetize my blog sometime late this year or sometime next year, and/or do some affiliate work with this blog.  Writing has not only soothed me but has enabled me to communicate to others in ways I never thought possible.
  3. I woke up my motivation to learn about many different things in this world to increase my knowledge and so I could help and teach others.—This motivation and love of learning were really what woke up in me in two ways. First of all, my pastors’ sermons are always relevant to what I am going through and about the world around me. To apply what I learned, I felt that I could take what he taught and learn more about the topic. For instance, once he preached on creation, and that made me want to learn about how the world was created and about the different creatures that inhabit this planet.  Secondly, in the blogging group, I am a part, I have to read others’ blogs in order to get people to respond to mine and stay a good standing member of the group. This rule has helped me to learn about many different topics from fashion and travel to tips on how to better my blog! What are some things you can learn about the world around you?  What are some things that you can learn that your family and/or friends are interested in? I would try to learn about these things so you can better the world, make a difference in others’ lives, and also for your own enrichment.
  4. I embraced my spirituality more deeply.—As you may be able to tell from the title of the blog, “God’s Whisperings,” I take my Christianity quite seriously. However, before this past year, my devotions with God were lacking in quality and depth and I just didn’t feel as close to Him or to the people around me.  That changed when one of the pastors at my church did a bible study on doing devotions with God. Following his teachings, I was able to have a more effective and enjoyable time with God. Also, I tried to apply what I learned spiritually to other parts of my life too, such as my job and the friendships that I had with others, both in and out of work.
  5. I learned to enjoy and value my time more.—Before I got my current job, I felt that I was bored and had too much time on my hands. Now, with my free time being much more limited, I value my time more. I try to find something to enjoy in the moment I’m in now.  I no longer fear being bored or unfulfilled, because I now realize something always can be done, even if it is something as simple as prayer.  I learned that even if I have to spend some time with difficult people that something good still can be learned from them.  My pastor has repeatedly said, “Time is life.” I want to enjoy all the time that I have left because I can see all around me how precious life is and how limited time really is and how we should never waste it.
  6. I learned to love others more unconditionally.—As time goes on, I see all the pain and hurt that many people I know have to go through, often times on a daily basis. I also, unfortunately, see a lot of hate and indifference in this world, and I think that is tragic. So, because of this, I have resolved to strive to be different and counter all this hatred and anger with love and compassion.  I have tried (but still struggle with) being more patient with others, and putting others ahead of myself. I learned not only to forgive those that hurt me but to love people no matter what.
  7. I strived for excellence in everything I do.—It does me no good to just do something “to get by.” Nothing is more rewarding than to know that your hard work was all worth it. I strive for excellence in everything I do because it motivates me to constantly better myself and to learn new things.  Also, I have seen that when I do something with all my heart, that it is more rewarding than if I do something half-heartedly.
  8. I never gave up even though at times I wanted to, even though at times I failed in life, or even when obstacles had stood in my way.—There were a few times when I just wanted to give up. However, God didn’t allow me, and that has made all the difference. When I failed either morally or in other ways, yes I got upset, but then I picked myself up and tried again.  When obstacles stood in my way, there was always a way around it. When I wanted to give up, I thought of the negative consequences of actually giving up like not being able to accomplish my goals in life and not being able to be a positive influence in this world.  These things and often deliverance from a bad situation or situations gave me the motivation I needed to go on.

These are just some of the things I learned to do this year (and last) that helped me overcome my depression. How have you coped with or overcome depression, if you have struggled with it?  How has your life circumstances helped you to more effectively cope with life’s stresses? Please feel free to discuss in the comments.

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Ten Common Myths about Mental Illness and its truths

Everyone has struggles whether it be a physical ailment or disability, a mental illness, financial issues, or other life issues.  I know many people that have struggled with some form of mental illness, some for many, many years.  What I find that all of us who struggle with mental illness have in common is that many people around us believe at least one (if not several) of these commonly held notions about mental illness. Here’s some of them, and the facts that counter these myths:

  1. MYTH: People who struggle with mental illness are “crazy.”  FACT: This is a hurtful and often, untrue characterization of people who struggle.  The fact is that many of us may be depressed and trying to overcome past traumas.  If you were in our shoes, you’d probably react similarly.  Also, we should try to refrain from using the term “crazy” to describe anyone, because it is similar to using the word “retarded” to describe something or someone who you deem “stupid.”
  2. MYTH: People who are suffering from depression, should just learn to “get over it” or “deal with things better.”  FACT:  This is also a very hurtful myth that a lot of people believe. When I am stressed at work, some people (I won’t name names) think I should “just get over it.” The fact is that people suffering from depression or other mental illnesses are often doing the best they can to do better to avoid the stigma that comes from their illness, but they can’t do it alone.  It’s not like we have an on and off switch that makes the illness go away in only one or two days. It often takes years to overcome. Otherwise, we wouldn’t struggle!  What we need is validation. What we need is understanding, someone to come along side and help us.
  3. MYTH: Taking psychiatric medication is sinful (i.e morally wrong). FACT: I don’t understand why certain people in certain religious circles believe this!  They certainly don’t typically believe this about heart medication, or medication to treat ulcers! If something is wrong with the wiring in your brain, you need to treat it somehow. Therapy doesn’t always work for this, nor is it always effective.  If you take medication for heart problems, for instance, then taking psychiatric medication should also be morally permissible, no questions asked.
  4. MYTH: People who hurt themselves (i.e self-injure) are often doing it for attention. FACT: First of all, many people I know who hurt themselves don’t want the attention. They just want to be loved and understood.  This is why in my own research, I have found that people who self-injure often hide their scars underneath clothing or other things. If they really wanted attention,  they would probably not even bother to hide anything! A lot of my friends I know who struggle with self-injury have a low sense of self-worth and may be self-injuring to relieve unbearable pain and anguish. Again, validation, love and genuine support are the keys to help them be able to stop self-harming.
  5. MYTH: When someone is considering self-harm or suicide, you should always call an ambulance so they can get the help they need. FACT: This is only true if they are actively suicidal or planning to do major self-harm.  Some (but certainly not all) people use this method as a cop-out so that they don’t have to actively support and encourage them themselves. Many people don’t know how or simply don’t really care.  Yes, it can be emotionally difficult to care for a person struggling with these deep issues, and you shouldn’t do it all alone. However, unless the person is actively considering major self-harm or being actively suicidal, calling an ambulance or sending them to the hospital, may create more problems for them in the end than good.  First of all, the mentally ill are often not treated well in hospitals, because people are afraid they will become violent or self-destructive.  However, if we took the time to try to understand and love them better, sending them to the hospital would not be needed. Also, a lot of mentally ill people are in therapy, so if you don’t have the emotional energy needed to support them, actively encourage them to talk to their therapist or doctor before they do anything harmful to themselves.
  6. MYTH: People struggling with depression or anxiety should just “get out more.” FACT: If we could, we would. The truth is these illnesses are often debilitating and disabling. This is often why it is a struggle to “get out and enjoy life.” What we need is guidance and a gradual introduction to the “real world” when we are better and are able.  What we need is encouragement and understanding from loved ones, who will be there when we want to talk about what’s going on inside our minds.
  7. MYTH: (A lot of people may believe this in one form or another, or unconsciously) People with mental illnesses are emotionally “weak” or “lazy.” FACT: This couldn’t be further from the truth! I’ve heard a lot of people imply or even say to me that because I get stressed about certain things or cry sometimes, that I am a “weak” person emotionally. The truth is that people who suffer from mental illnesses are often the ones that have had to deal with the most emotional baggage in their lives. Many have experienced abuse or bullying, or both, during some period in their lives.  Some of them have experienced deep, personal losses.  The fact that we are able to cry and “open” up shows that we are not weak, and in fact, strong and not afraid to be vulnerable to others.  Often, being able to let the feelings come out and talk about things with people, is the first step towards healing and dealing with underlying issues.
  8. MYTH: People suffering from mental illness just need therapy. FACT: Therapy can be very useful and helpful, but it is not a “one-size fits all measure” for everyone suffering from mental illness. Some people have struggled with getting the right therapist because of continuing stigma against their illness. For instance, someone who has a borderline personality might not be understood by a lot of therapists because of the commonly held notion in the medical community that they are very difficult to deal with and understand.  Also, therapy alone is often not the answer. We need not only therapy but often times medication and a strong support system to help us through the tough days.
  9. MYTH: People who suffer from mental illness are more likely to be violent, so we need to put protective measures in place. FACT: This myth irritates me more than some of the other myths out there! Yes, there may be a few mentally ill people who can get violent, but most of them are not violent at all.  To treat everyone who is mentally ill like wild animals needing to be caged is not only perpetuating this myth, but I believe it is inhumane as well.  I have heard of people being chained to their beds even though they wouldn’t hurt even a fly!  Or that they can’t enjoy music because the medical facilitators are afraid they may hurt themselves with earbuds! If one is that afraid, then watch them. Don’t suck the enjoyment out of an already bad and stressful experience for them!
  10. MYTH: Referring to people who struggle with mental illness: “It’s all in their heads.” FACT: Mental illness does not only affect people mentally but physically as well. For instance, in addition to feeling bad mentally,  people with clinical depression often don’t eat or sleep well, can have headaches, cramps, or an upset stomach, or feel much more physically exhausted than usual. (source: http://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/depression-symptoms-causes#1).  Also, people with anxiety disorders often experience physical ailments as well, such as sweaty palms, palpitations, nausea, dry mouth, shortness of breath, and sleeping problems. (source: http://www.webmd.com/anxiety-panic/guide/anxiety-disorders#1-3 )

These are just some of the commonly-held myths about people suffering from mental illness. I think we need to remove stigma about these illnesses and treat everyone, including people afflicted with mental illness, with more love and compassion.  What are other myths you have noticed people believing about mental illness? What can we do to dispel them? Please feel free to discuss in comments. Absolutely NO disparaging comments or your comment will be deleted! Thank you.

What I Learned From the Movie, Miracles From Heaven

DISCLAIMER: Contains movie spoilers!, sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miracles_from_Heaven_(film)

Last Sunday night, my mom offered to watch a movie with me that she thought I’d like. It was called “Miracles From Heaven.” Wanting to spend a little quality time with her, I agreed. It turned out to be one of the best movie decisions I’ve ever made in my life! I learned so much from this movie about how to live life, and here are some of the main lessons I learned from that movie:

  1. Sometimes you have to go through the storms (i.e: pain) in order to see the sunshine (i.e the miracle or blessing). –10 year old Annabel (Anna) Beam started experiencing vomiting, intense stomach pains, and almost died, before being miraculously cured of her illness after falling into a hollow tree hole.  In the movie, Anna is depicted at one point as wanting to die because her pain is so intense. She no longer cared about life and became very depressed. However, after she was saved, life had a new purpose. However, if Anna had never gotten sick, she wouldn’t have seen God’s grace intervening in her desperate situation.
  2. Live life as if everything is a miracle.–Near the end of the movie, Christy Beam (played by Jennifer Garner), Anna’s mother, begins before telling about Anna’s miraculous recovery by saying, “Albert Einstein is quoted as saying, ‘You have two choices as to how to live your life. Live as if nothing is a miracle, OR live as if everything is a miracle.’ ” Because Christy’s daughter’s life was saved, Christy began to see everything as a miracle and as precious, because she almost lost her beloved daughter and almost lost her faith in the process!  I can relate to this too, as I almost lost my life three years ago when the doctors found out that I had an enlarged gallbladder (She said it was twice the normal size! ) and that I had gallstones. If that gallbladder had burst, and I had waited longer to go to the ER, I would have most likely not be here writing in this blog today! More on this story, go here.  God suddenly reminded me of this event after I watched this movie and remembered the quote about living as if everything were a miracle.  Today, I remembered that quote as I was going about my work at my job and felt really joyful because I had remembered and realized just how blessed I am to be here and to be able to meet all the wonderful people at my job. Truly, everyone I have met, especially those that I have known for less than three years or had helped me through my illness is a testament to my miraculous life!
  3. Be grateful for all those people in your life that helped you succeed or get you through life .—In the movie, Christy pays tribute to all those who helped her and her daughter Anna through her (Anna’s) illness. She thanks Angela, the waitress who befriends Christy and Anna and walks them through the ordeal so they would not have to suffer alone. She thanks Dr. Nurko who treats Anna, and the receptionist who barters for a last-minute opening for her (Anna) despite her mother not having an appointment for her.  She thanks a guy friend at Anna’s school who temporarily abandons his other friends to befriend Anna so she does not feel alone in her illness.  She thanks the guy at the ticket counter who lets Anna’s father and her siblings go on the plane free, so they can see her at the hospital.  Christy does this not to gain attention, and not because she is some holy-roller, but because she realizes that she and Anna couldn’t have made it alone.  I can certainly relate too. For instance, if it had not been for the many doctors, nurses, and the surgeon who operated on me in 2014, I would not be here today. Also, I want to give a shout out to my parents, sibling, and my friend K who came to see me a few days after surgery so I wouldn’t feel alone.  Without all these people and more in my life, I wouldn’t be where or who I am today. So, thank you everyone. And I especially want to thank God, who I firmly believe made this all possible!

This is just some of what I learned in the movie, “Miracles From Heaven.” It’s a great movie; I highly recommend it.  (If you would like to purchase this movie, please go to the links in my “recommendations” section. ) It may be slow in parts, and it may not be for everyone, but if you want to live your life with more passion or purpose, this movie is a great supplement to get you thinking about life more deeply.

How to Help Someone Who Feels Depressed or Anxious

This has been one of the toughest two days of my life. I was about to give up on almost everything I believed in. I felt no one cared about me, except maybe God and my family.  However, just reading through other people’s blogs, gave me a renewed sense of purpose and passion that I hadn’t felt during that time.  So, a special thank you to my blogging community to give me the strength and the drive to keep on keeping on!

Since there is much stigma and misconceptions in the general society today on what to do (and what not to do) when someone you love or care about feels depressed or anxious, here are some tips that have helped me and many people I care about who get depressed and/or anxious. (Also includes what not to do and/or say to someone who is depressed and/or anxious):

1) Validate what they are going through.– This does not mean always agreeing with them about the lifestyle choices they made or sounding like a parrot to them. That does not help them either! This does mean to listen attentively and offer compassion and love to them. For instance, if the anxious person tells you about what they really fear, instead of ridiculing them or telling them to “toughen up. It’s only_______ (fill in the blank with what they fear),” thank them for having the courage to tell you about their deepest feelings and being vulnerable, because, as I (and many others) can attest, it takes a LOT of courage to be vulnerable like that. Don’t ruin their trust in you!  If they are depressed, a good thing to say to him or her is, ” Your feelings are valid. I am sorry that you are feeling that way. Know that you are not alone though. I care, and is there anything I can do to help you?” This statement does several things: a.) Shows that you care about how the person feels, not just caring about your own feelings. b.) The open-ended question lets the person know that they are allowed to make their own decision about what you can do to help them, and makes them feel less controlled and trapped in whatever situation or situations they may find themselves.

2) Make every effort to be there for them during this difficult time.—It is understandable to be busy with life’s responsibilities, and there is a certain point where it can be too much for one person to be responsible for another’s happiness and comfort. If that is the case, find several other people who can care for or talk to the depressed and/or anxious person during this time. Also, recommend and/or find a licensed counselor or therapist to help them. This way a.) The person knows that they don’t have to fight their illness alone and that several people actually care for them.  b.) The responsibility of being there and helping the person does not fall on only one person, which if it were, would cause compassion fatigue.  However, if that is not the case, make every effort to be there for the person suffering and to care for them, even if it is just offering a listening ear.

3) Do not tell the anxious or depressed person, to “get over it” or “toughen up”. –Many people (including myself) who struggle with depression or anxiety problems are already doing the best they can to cope with what they are dealing. Again, telling them to “toughen up” or “get over it” only invalidates what they are going through and implying that they are not trying hard enough to cope with their illness. A better thing to tell a depressed or anxious person is, “I will help you through whatever you are going through. You are not alone,” and then commit to being there for him or her.

4) If the depressed person is having suicidal thoughts, do not accuse them of being selfish or uncaring.–While that may have a grain of truth (or not), accusing the depressed person of being “selfish” or telling them to “think of others first,” does not help them at all! It actually makes the depression worse because a lot of people who are that upset or sad a.) already don’t feel good about themselves. b.) aren’t usually in the mindset where they can think about others right now.  Also, someone with those kinds of thoughts often does think about others, just not in a way that makes sense to us.

5) Help them find their purpose and passion in life again.—DISCLAIMER: This may not be a viable option for everyone, but it CAN work for some people. Use your own judgment. This applies to loved ones with people who suffer from anxiety and those who suffer from depression.  This can be a simple as having joy and purpose in your own life and/or caring enough to let the person who is suffering participate in the joys of your life. For instance, if you enjoy cooking for others, you can encourage the person who is suffering to participate in what you are doing. It can also be encouraging them in the positive qualities and abilities you see in them and helping them find the motivation to cultivate them again. For instance, if you see that he or she is a normally very generous person, you can encourage him or her to give away some things he/she no longer needs but that can be useful to others in need. If he or she likes to write, encourage them to cultivate that interest again. Remind them of the positive impact they already have on others, and encourage them not to give up.

6) If they are anxious, help them gradually overcome their fears.—For instance, if the anxious person is afraid of socializing because they fear what people may think of them,  encourage them to meet one trustworthy person. If they do well in that situation, bring several people to hang out with them. Then, take them to a restaurant or some other venue with more people.  However, don’t rush them into interacting. Do it slowly.–This may take a few months or even years to accomplish.  Be patient with them, and reassure them (with both your words and actions) that they can trust you.

7.) If you are religious or spiritual, pray for them.–I personally believe in the power of prayer.  If you do too, I would suggest fervently and regularly praying for the depressed or anxious people in your life. Pray that they will be surrounded by people who care about and love them genuinely. Pray that they will find joy and hope in their lives again, and not be riddled with anxiety, depression, anger, and/or hurt.  Pray that they will be delivered from their illness and find wholeness again.

What do you suggest in helping encourage an anxious or depressed person? What do you suggest we not do? Why? Please feel free to comment below.  Please no disparaging or disrespectful comments, or they will not be approved. Thank you.

 

 

What I Learned During My Past Illness

In 2014, one day when I was working at my previous job, I suddenly had intense sharp pains in my back and side. My family and I thought they were just muscle pains from lifting heavy things. (This job involved some heavy lifting, and if any of you have met me in person, you know that I am quite small physically!) . One Friday, I got home from work and started to have diarrhea, chills, and fever, accompanied with the side and back pain. I knew I was in trouble the next day when I started to vomit blood. At this point, I had already tried many over-the-counter medications and other relief agents, but none of them worked. I had to call off work that day and go to the emergency room (ER). Immediately!

Going to the ER

When I went to the ER, after many hours and many tests, and even an ultrasound,  the doctors/nurses/surgeons/technicians discover two main things: 1) My gall bladder was inflamed and twice the size it should have been! 2.) I had several gall stones! Surgery to remove my gall bladder was scheduled the next day. I couldn’t sleep at all the previous night because of the stomach pains and diarrhea that occurred about every two hours. However, by the time I had the surgery, I was exhausted. The surgery couldn’t come soon enough!

Just before surgery, they gave me medications to induce sleep, and I was out in about two minutes. I woke up a couple of hours later, my body shaking a little, but quickly it calmed down with medication.

Recovery

I had trouble walking at a normal pace for the first few days after surgery, and I had trouble keeping food down. However, afterwards I was basically fine. At work, under doctors’ orders, I was not allowed to lift more than 5-10 pounds (about a gallon of milk) for a month after surgery.  However, I did get a point (point=punishment, closer to getting fired) for calling off to go the ER the day I went.

During this ordeal, I learned several things about life and how to deal with things:

  1. If you experience unusual or sudden pain, take it seriously. Go get it checked out immediately! –I was relating this story to a friend of mine at my current job, and she said to me, ” You could have died, especially if your gall bladder had burst!” Luckily for me, it hadn’t, and I was able to get it treated just in time. So, if you experience any unusual or sudden symptoms of pain or other signs of illness, it’s best to get it fixed ASAP. Your life may depend on it!
  2. Your pain won’t last forever— Whether you are faced with a minor illness or a life-threatening one, know the pain you are feeling now probably won’t last forever. It often feels that way, and your feelings should be acknowledged, both by yourself and others. However, try not to despair like I had after surgery. During my recovery, I was mostly confined to my house for a week, and couldn’t enjoy many things I wanted to do. So, I became very depressed and despondent. However, this did not last long. A week later, I was able to return to work and the pain eventually subsided.  Even if your pain or recovery lasts longer, don’t lose hope of things getting better. Keep on persevering even if you feel like giving up. This shows your strength and endurance not only to people around you, but also yourself. It does get better.
  3. Your health is WAY more important than your job— I was working in pain for the two weeks before I called off to go the ER, and I had to call off that day, because if I hadn’t, I could very well have not made it out alive, and never been able to enjoy any of the blessings that I have today! It is true that I had to suffer the consequences of having called off that one day (They fortunately gave me authorized sick leave for the other week I was off). However, it was much less than if I had to physically die, never to enjoy or see life’s fruits again!
  4. You’re stronger than you think— I always thought I was not only weak emotionally, but physically as well. However, when I was sick, I realized the opposite. I was surprised and humbled that I was able to work 2 weeks with an enlarged gallbladder and gall stones in my body! Also, I believe God gave me the strength to survive this ordeal and make it out alive, and this is a testament to His grace and love for me.  When you go through trials, I believe many of you will find out similarly as well. You are stronger than you may think you are!

If you have the unfortunate experience of being sick or having a long-term illness, take it seriously. However, realize that this pain probably won’t last forever. Either you will go into eternity or you will get better.  Focus on the relationships you deem the most important. For me, it’s God, family, and friends, in that order, and remember if you are able to persevere, you will come out of this stronger!