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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How to be Genuine

This is a kind of a “Part 2” of a post I already did called, “Taking off our masks.”

Many people long to be known for who they truly are AND be loved and accepted for who they truly are. Some people are people-pleasers who strive to do or say anything (or almost anything) in order to be accepted or loved.  It is sad, when, despite everything they have done, people STILL won’t love or accept them, OR they accept a fake version of them, discarding the real, flesh-and-bone person in the process.  The good news is that we don’t have to strive to be accepted or loved if we know how to be genuine, even if not everyone on the planet even likes  or gives a care about us.

Barriers to being genuine:

1.) A society, institution, and/or individual who doesn’t allow for emodiversity, which is the abundance of emotions, both positive and negative being allowed to be expressed.

For instance, at work, associates are often not allowed or are strongly discouraged from crying, because it’s deemed “unprofessional” and “unbecoming.” But, according to the December 2016 edition of Reader’s Digest, a study done by researchers Oliver John of UC Berkeley and James Gross of Stanford University, found that bus drivers who suppressed their anger or sadness, had their anger or sadness intensify (i.e…worsen)! (Marsh, Readers Digest, 45) That is probably because they were unconsciously feeling guilty and uncomfortable because of not being able to be genuine enough to express the reality of how they were really feeling. An online friend of mine aptly described crying as “the peeing of the heart.”  Imagine, if at work or school, you weren’t allowed to use the bathroom because it was deemed “inappropriate” or “unprofessional.” It would be a mess!  Maybe if we allowed for more emodiversity, including crying or sadness at work and school, then I think we would solve half our interpersonal or personal emotional issues right there. I’m not saying, cry in such a way that it interrupts the teachers, students, clientele, and/or other associates. But maybe if we were to have a designated safe place where people could cry or get upset without fear of retaliation or hurting themselves or others, much like smokers now have a designated area where they can smoke, that would work MUCH better than not allowing people to cry at all!

To add to that, often we are forced by societal institutions, even religious  institutions, to “put a smile on our face” even if we don’t feel happy. I’ve heard numerous times (I don’t know how many) said to me things to the effect of “Put a smile on your face,” and “Don’t worry. Be happy,” when I was actually feeling depressed and/or angry.  Needless to say, that advice didn’t really help me at all! Research has shown that when we are forced to feel happy (or fake-happy), our actual moods actually became worse!  Many times in the sales or helping professions or even in religious institutions, we are told that smiling makes others happy, but if it is forced or fake, who does it really help when our actual moods deteriorate anyway?

Being able to be emodiverse , according to already-existing research gathered by Jason Marsh in Yes! Magazine published by Reader’s Digest in December 2016, is consistently linked to lower depression and had a healthier lifestyle than those who didn’t. (Marsh, Readers Digest, 48).

2.) Lying or being dishonest with who we are as a person.

That means exaggerating our accomplishments or just straight out telling people things that are not true about ourselves.  People may then have an inflated (or deflated-depending on the lie we may tell) sense of who we are, but they will never have the chance to accept and love the real you, and you will never have the chance to improve yourself, a lose-lose situation for both of you.

3.) Being arrogant

Along with lying, as sign of ingenuity, I have found, is being arrogant and/or displaying behaviors and words that make it seem that you think you are better than everyone (or almost everyone) else. I believe, with the exception of God, no one is perfect, and making it seem like you are, is a sign of being dis-genuine. For example, when someone confronts you about something you did wrong, rather than apologizing, admitting, and/or repenting of that error, you get upset and blame him or her instead. Also, when someone compliments you making it seem like somehow you “deserve” it more than everyone else.Connected to this, another way we are dis-genuine is feeling entitled to certain things that are really privileges. For instance, telling your boss that you deserve a raise and demanding it when you have done little to earn it, or even if you have done enough demanding it anyway, instead of telling him or her nicely that you want a raise.

4.)Trying to hide our flaws and/or perceived issues from others

When we try to compensate or hide things from people, we not only get a sense of inadequacy (from people being fooled into think we are better than we really are), but we are not being genuine either.  But when we are emodiverse and open about our mistakes and issues to others,  I have found often that it then frees others to open up and talk about their issues and flaws, because when we are open about our own shortcomings, we are in effect saying to them that it is safe for them to open up and that we will most likely (I hope.) that we will listen and empathize with them without judgement or retribution.

To summarize: How to be genuine

1.) Be emodiverse and allow others the same.  That is, allow yourself and others to express their emotions openly and without fear of reprisal or retribution.  That, however, does NOT mean that you allow yourself or others to get away with acting abusive in any way, whether it be emotional, verbal, physical, sexual or in any other way. But that does mean you allow people to cry if they need to or allow them to express anger or other so-called negative emotions, so as long as they are not hurting or trying to hurt themselves or others.

2.) Being honest with who we are a person.

3.) Being humble. That means never demanding more than we honestly think we deserve. That also means admitting our flaws and imperfections and accepting and loving others despite them.

4.) Being open about our issues and flaws with others. That does not mean you have to share everything with everyone; after all, that may not be wise. However, that does mean trusting at least a few people with our issues and flaws, and asking for help to change and solve these issues and flaws.  It also means that we are open to others telling us about their flaws and emphatically listening to them.

Being genuine may be difficult and costly, but at least I have found that it is well worth it because not only is genuineness a valued asset in our day, but it is also rare and beautiful.