Recently, I experienced a dip with my depression. It lasted about a week. For me, this experience feels like a very dark, impenetrable shade has been pulled down in front of me. I lack energy and vitality; I want to sleep a lot, I lose all the creativity, enthusiasm, and spark I usually have. Life feels bleak.
I feel fortunate that it’s not completely debilitating, and I have so much compassion for people who have that level of depression. I’m still able to do what I need to do. It’s just that it’s very difficult and it takes an extraordinary effort.
Every time this happens, I try to figure out why it happens, and that never turns out to be very helpful. Sometimes it occurs when things are going really well in my life, and sometimes it happens when things are not going so well.
The first time I felt this dark shade come down was in college, and I have done and continue to do many things to help myself including therapy, medication, exercise, eating well, getting enough sleep, managing my stress, and in more recent years-practicing meditation and mindfulness.
One of the things that has helped me the most is talking openly about it and connecting with others who deal with depression or are willing to understand it.
I’m done with the feeling that somehow, I’m “less than” or not a strong person because I deal with this, so I’m going to speak out about it. I can be one more person to normalize this experience. People who suffer from depression need to know that they are not alone and that they don’t have to suffer in silence.
Depression is treatable, but it’s also serious. It’s a major cause of suicide. And, suicide is on the rise in our country. A recent report shows that rates of suicide have risen in almost every state since 1999. Suicide Rates on the Rise Across America
Over the next few weekends, people will participate in Out of the Darkness walks across the country. These walks will raise funds to support awareness and prevention of suicide. Out of the Darkness Walks
And, perhaps most importantly, these walks will be a gathering of people bringing depression and suicide out of the darkness and into the light, where it has a chance of being transformed.
I want to share now how meditation and mindfulness have become a source of comfort for me as I cope with depression.
There’s a teaching in the meditation world, “Right now, it’s like this.” Our feelings, thoughts, experiences are changing moment to moment. We all tend to get attached to the pleasant feelings and experiences and want to grasp them tightly and hold onto them. Conversely, we want to push away those negative thoughts and hope they go away as fast as possible.
I used to get really terrified when I had dips with my depression. I would get seriously worried that it would last forever, that I was going to feel this way for the rest of my life. This was a powerful thought, and even though my bouts of depression have always lifted, I was always convinced that this time was the time it was never going to go away.
My meditation practice has not cured my depression, but it has allowed me to see it in a new way. It has helped me not go tumbling down the rabbit hole of thinking that I’m doomed. It has enabled me to say to myself, “Right now, it’s like this. But, it’s not always going to be like this.” And, my despair and hopelessness lessen. I’m able to withstand the pain, because I know it’s going to come to an end.
It’s important to note that this is just my experience of depression, and others have much more serious and debilitating states.
But, the saying, “Right now, it’s like this.” Can apply to many other issues in life as well and bring you some comfort and hope. For example:
Right now, my job is really stressful, but it can change.
Right now, my baby is keeping me up all night, and I’m not getting enough sleep, but it won’t last forever.
Right now, my teenager is having problems and seems to hate me, but that will transform.
Right now, I’m worried about x, y, and z, but the problem won’t last forever.
It was unbelievable that I was reflecting on this teaching the week I was depressed, and 2 newsletters that I subscribe to on mindfulness and meditation arrived in my in-box with this topic. Perfect timing.
The dark shade of depression gradually lifted, and one day last week I was driving to work, and I noticed that I felt like myself again.
My zest, spark, and energy had returned.
I felt it with real gratitude, but I also tried not to grasp it too rigidly.
Right now, it’s like this……