Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Recipe for Survival (Part II) Giving

I am writing this particular blog because it was requested from a friend of mine. After a little time and some careful thought, this is what I came up with. This blog deals with depression. After experiencing a little, I realized that many of you are going through the same thing. With the holidays here, I am sure it has not made it any better. So I thought "Since the Holidays don't make your problems go away, now is just as good a time as any to deal with the issue."

The last week of October was quite monumental for me. My grandfather died. I am fine and my family is fine. He'd been sick for a while, but it still hurt. It was the first time I had ever experienced the death of someone close to me as an adult. It really made me see how swiftly life passes. It made me realize how we wallow so hard in our own self pity that we forget about the world around us. There is so much going on and everything is moving so fast that we forget to slow down, take a moment, and help others in any way we can. We don't have a lot to give, but we should give what we have. Giving makes us open to receive gifts, and friends, and moments.

I realized every moment I spent with my grandfather was a special one. When he died I got a little down for a while. It made me understand some things:
  1. I knew it was a great time for a blog, it would help me deal with the emotions I was feeling.
  2. Others were feeling the same way, because it was during this time I got the text from my friend requesting I write a blog on depression.
  3. I could absolutely relate to how depressed people felt. The darkness was calling my name, I kid you not.

I knew I needed to deal with these feelings. I could have easily gone to a doctor and asked for a perscription, saying to myself and to him, "I need something to cope." However, that is not what I suggest you do. One suggestion is get involved. For me, I knew I had to volunteer later that week, I had people depending on me to help them. It also gave me something to look forward to. There is something in being needed that makes your endorphins flow. It literally makes you happier to be a part of something that is bigger than you. You learn a lot about yourself when you volunteer. It is knowing that you are there for something other than yourself. It is the changing of your perspective. It is giving. Medication just covers the symptoms, it does not deal with the problem. You must learn to deal with your problems. If you wouldn't pick up a liquor bottle everytime you felt you couldn't deal with the pains of life, why would you pop a pill?

I understand the need to take a mental break sometimes. I understand the fact that you cry and get upset; I do too. I want you to take this with you -you can't let these "issues" stop you in your tracks and cause you to sink. Have you ever seen an anchor hold down one of those cruise ships? You cannot let your problems become your anchor. Deal with your problems one at a time. You know the old addage, "Rome wasn't built in a day?" or "Don't bite off more than you can chew?" Prioritize and deal with the biggest issues first. Sometimes you may have to break those big problems up into bite-sized peices. Remember, people understand how you feel. Most people have been there and will help in any way they can. Once you start giving, people will give to you.

With the Holidays here, it is a perfect time to give. Give a waitress an extra good tip, or give a kid a basketball. Give free piano lessons, a shoulder to cry on, or clothes to good will. It dosen't matter what you give, and you don't need a reason and an excuse to give. It really warms my heart this time of year to see how wonderful people are and how freely they give. I just wish we would find an "excuse" all year long. That would be nice. You could start giving now and give a little something all year long and we could start the trend; a pay it forward type of thing. Get involved. Volunteer at a children's home, or homeless shelter. Life is not just about you. And I think the sooner we learn that as a country and as a human race, the better off we will be.

You have to get up. You can't stay there forever. Things will change when you change.

Keep Going,

Homework: Add 1 Cup of giving, by doing something nice for a stranger. (Pay it Forward)

Remember, there are places that offer assistance if you are in need of help.


LA said...

I agree that when we give to other, we almost always end up getting more in return. I try to live by the motto “Action is the antidote to despair.” This has served me well in the past and I’m confident it will in the future. I’m very proud of you for volunteering. I’ve been struggling with what to do on this, my first Christmas as a single adult. There are many of our elderly that don’t have anyone so I have decided to go visit at a nursing home in my neighborhood. I think it will be a good thing.

I must say though I’m a very surprised by some of the blog. Perhaps it is that you are simply speaking of “being depressed” not depression, which is medical condition caused by a chemical change that affects how the brain functions. While doing for others, faith, family and many other things will help you if you are feeling down, it is important to note that for someone with clinical depression this is not enough. The attitudes shared by many and expressed in your latest blog unfortunately lead to many people not getting treatment for this illness. Having suffered with depression myself, I can assure you that medication does not "cover the symptoms" and am more than a little hurt and offended by your assumptions. People with depression are often hear they are “lazy” or “not trying hard enough.” Would someone with another brain disorder, epilepsy for example, be told “You need to get up and try harder not to have a seizure”? I think not.

I encourage anyone who is down or blue to try the suggestions you've given here. If you suffer from depression, I urge you to see a doctor or other professional equipped to help you.

Erin said...

I have to agree with LA on this one. Being down and having depression are two totally different things. Depression is not something you can "walk off" it is an illness, and like any other illness it needs to be treated. It is like dealing with any other chronic illness like diabetes or epilepsy. There is not one treatment or a cure. It is something that must be managed. You wouldn't tell a diabetic not to take insulin or a person with epilepsy to not take their medicine. It is like the differences between baby blues and post-partum depression. Most women have baby blues that are a result of exhaustion, the overwhelming waves of guests that evaporate after everyone goes back to work, and the fear of doing something wrong. Post-partum is a result of massive hormone changes that lead to clinical depression. In order to balance those chemical changes medical treatment is required.

You mentioned that medication just treats the symptoms and doesn't deal with the root problem. Being "down" is not the only symptom of depression. It is characterized by insomnia or hypersomnia, headaches, loss of interest,appetite changes, inappropriate guilt or regret, and in very rare cases depression can cause hallucinations or psychosis. These are a result are issues with the neurotransmitters serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. It has also been associated with the way the hippocampus develops inutero. There is also evidence that major depression may be caused by an overactive hypothalamus. These physiological problems can be compounded by social issues and life disturbances. You can't just talk yourself out of depression.

I would encourage some clarification in your entry on the difference between being down and real depression.