Friday, December 7, 2007

Coping with Depression (Wellness Activity 1)

This morning, as I waited for my medication to kick in (I use a stimulant and it takes about 45 minutes to begin having an impact),I thought back on all the years when I sought help for this illness and how extraordinarily bad the advice and treatment was.

The lack of insight about depression and bipolar mood disorder is stunning! The treatment is terrible. The pain it produces is legion. The devastation is inestimable.

Then, I stopped that thought process and began focusing on the positive. I said the words that no doctor has ever said to me. "Susan, you need to remember you can heal yourself. You can change your body chemistry by the strength of your personality. You feel good about yourself and have high self-esteem. You must use your strengths to heal yourself.

"Depressive episodes don't happen in a vacuum. They are triggered by life events. You understand your recent losses and you have felt overwhelmed by sadness. Relatives have deeply disappointed you but this is not new behavior. You cannot allow disappointment or their bad behavior to make you ill.

"You were there for your mother for so many years and she and your father are there for you now. They are in your heart as is everyone else you love. Relax and think about all the people you love and those who love you. You are the same person you were two weeks ago when you weren't depressed.

"You have the capacity for great joy. Most people have never known the happiness and well-being you feel for months at a time. You're lucky to be able to love so fully and completely. Think of what that feels like.

"Close your eyes and think about the people you love--living and dead, the radiance of the sun shinning on your face, the pleasure you get from singing and playing music, the strength you provide others when you're well,the joy that radiates from every pore during the good times.

"Say to yourself, 'I love and I have been loved. I love and I have been loved. I love and I have been loved.'

"Think of the people you love. Concentrate on their faces. Let that feeling of love you feel for them spread throughout your body. Feel it in your heart. Imagine your heart filling up with love. Envision the love moving through your veins and arteries to your lungs. Now take a deep breath...slowly fill your lungs with love and exhale. With each breath, think of someone you love and imagine that each breath is a lifeline from you to them."

Well, I think you get my drift. I continued the exercise until I felt the medication beginning to work. And then, for the first time in days, I decided to blog about it. I thought that perhaps what I do may help others.

What I have learned is how to use my mind to recreate positive emotions. Experts say that "ruminating" about the bad stuff makes you feel worse. Over time I have learned that recreating the good stuff makes me feel better.

I'm not over the hump yet but each day I utilize all the wellness activities and skills I have developed and refined to heal myself. It's not easy. It's requires a lot of self-discipline. But it does by day.


Syd said...

Another great post, Susan. I'm so glad that you're feeling better and I appreciate you sharing your strategy with us.

It is very difficult to focus on positive and loving thoughts when we're feeling like crap, but it's so important to do exactly that.

I'm so glad that you aren't beating yourself up for being depressed again after so many months of feeling great. As you know, I agree with you completely that our depressions are triggered by external events and no matter how long we feel great, unfortunately we cannot stop life from throwing lemons our way. But, I sure am glad that we've finally learned how to make lemonade!

Well done, my friend.


Merelyme said...

i am new to your blog....oh i am so glad i have found it! i was looking for others who write about mood disorders in a way that is helpful. anyways...i have added you to my blogroll and plan on visiting a lot.

slz said...

I hope all your bloggers know about Kay Jamison...a truly remarkable spokesperson for bipolar disorder.. She was on the documentary I had taped called "A Summer in the Cage", explaining, again about bi-polar, and since she suffers from it herself, is a true champion of its cause...If anyone has the opportunity to see this program, please's on the Sundance Channel. She leads the cause with so much knowledge and is persistent in speaking about this disease.

marja said...

Good for you, Susan. Your strategy is a good one and it speaks of a truth that we tend to forget when we're supercalifragelistic. We are loved and we have it within us to love. And love has the power to conquer the most ugly of monsters.