Doing what you love. A walk in the park, reading a book, or just relaxing in the silence while the kids are at school. For me, it’s taking photographs and painting or drawing. I love to read too but that sometimes can require some effort on the days when my mind just needs quiet.
About a year or so ago, I attended a mental health workshop as part of my counselling. It was a group workshop which, at first, terrified me. The very thought of having to walk into a room full of people that wanted to know why I was there or what my story was, was worse than anything I could imagine. But thankfully it wasn't like that at all. I didn't have to speak or introduce myself, all I had to do was sit and listen.
I had never been to anything like that before so I didn't know what to expect, but having spent many years living with and learning about depression, I was surprised to learn that this workshop offered nothing new to me. It was all the basic stuff like get enough sleep, talk about your problems with a friend, try to exercise. Etc etc.
But today I read a diary entry I had written some time ago, and it was so bleak, bare and honest about how I was feeling that I thought I might use it for the blog. I thought maybe it would help somebody to not feel alone, or maybe someone could relate and reach out.
Then, as I sat trying to decide what to write, I felt an urge to get out. The sun was shining so I pulled on my wellies and headed for the beach. Well, when I got there it was beautiful, very windy, but it blew the cobwebs away and made me feel so much better. I took some photographs on my phone, and had a quick, very windswept stroll along the shoreline.
As I was walking back, I was reminded of the course I had gone to and how they had said how important it is to find and do something you really enjoy doing. At the time I remember thinking “easy for you to say, it's not that easy when you feel like doing nothing”. But actually, they were right.
Doing something you love reminds you who you are, and what happiness can feel like. I spent a lot of time last year, in one of the darkest places I had ever been mentally. And reading back on that today, contrasted by having a quick walk on the beach and talking some photos, really made me feel like I needed to tell you all how much of a difference it can actually make.
When you're in the thick of depression it is easy to forget what it feels like to be happy. I felt like I was losing who I was inside it all. My lack of enthusiasm took away, or buried who I am.
If you can force yourself, I know it's not easy, but if you can get out there...even if it's just a walk to the shop or picking up a book and trying to remember what it feels like to be the person you were before the avalanche of depression. Then that's amazing. And it could help you to remember, that underneath all the sadness, and anxiety...there you are still.
Lately I have really been aware of the things that I'm thinking and how that relates to my mood. And the split second I felt like leaving the house today, I did it without letting my mind talk me out of it. Without allowing the niggling doubt to change my mind. Because sometimes the negativity of depression overrides my thoughts until I believe the worst. So consciously thinking about what I'm thinking about really helps..especially when I'm able to push out the negative...as hard as that is.
The book of Ephesians has a great verse about the renewal of the mind. Throwing off the old mindset and having a new mind daily. By listening to what God says about me as a believer, I can take those first positive thoughts or promptings and run with them, instead of letting the negatives saturate my thoughts and rule my day. I'm never disappointed by the result and something good always comes from it...even if it's just a shift in my mood.
I know there are days when no amount of ‘get out there’ will help. And believe me, I’m the first to hold my hands up to that one, so if you couldn't today...then try again tomorrow. At least you tried. Somedays can be about getting up, feeling ok and facing the world with a great big smile in the sunshine...and some days are just about dragging yourself through until bedtime.
Whatever today is for you, I’m praying for you. And remember that depression is an illness...it’s something you have, it’s not who you are. Keep going..you’re doing great!.
Ephesians 4:22-24 (NIV)
"You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness."