Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness (c)2014 Nancy Virden
Yeah, so what? Everyone gets sad from time to time.
A woman grieves. A child’s friend moves away. A mother’s heart breaks. A husband struggles watching his wife get sicker.
I know, everyone feels sad once in a while. There are bad days, bad moods, “down days”, and grief. Burn-out exhausts us.
Then there is Major Depression.
The depression and sad times of most people cannot be fairly compared to the feelings of one with Major Depression. It’s a matter of intensity and duration.
In order for someone to be diagnosed with Major (Clinical) Depression, they have to meet certain criteria over a minimum period of weeks. Functioning has to be significantly impaired.
Major Depression for me has shown up most often in an extreme lethargy mixed with hopeless feelings. Not only do I lose sight of what it is I really want, but I no longer believe those aspirations exist or matter.
Major Depression is a disease – a brain disease. Close-minded people, many of whom mean well, seem to get stuck on that point. I think this is because they believe there is a disconnect between spirit, body, and mind. There is no separation of the three. We are complex creatures.
My Major Depression has physical, mental, and spiritual components. No amount of coaxing is going to affect change if the spiritual and physical issues are not addressed. No amount of spiritual guidance will fix me when my mental and physical needs have not been met. No number of medications can make me happy because the spirit and mind are not touched by the best of medical care alone.
Simplifying Major Depression into only one of the three categories may sound like, “Just pray for God to heal you.” “Snap out of it!” “Get more sleep.” While the suffering person wants to follow these orders because being free of pain sounds wonderful, they cannot. I cannot.
I know certain thoughts, behaviors, and negative beliefs trigger my disease; I’m not claiming helpless victimization. What I am saying is that sometimes I’m sad- and I don’t get over it like other people do.
First, I have to double-check my medications and talk to my psychiatrist about how they may be affecting me. Once in a while I have to go through a medication change which can really mess with my head before my body adjusts.
Second, I have to consciously review strategies that help my thinking to remain undistorted. This may be going over a list of values or goals and writing steps to take to reach them. Perhaps I need to journal or call my therapist. I may need to activate a safety plan. Third, I can lay my troubles at God’s feet in prayer. All three of these actions are vital.
So sometimes I’m sad and have to kick into action to prevent a downward slide that becomes too overwhelming in a relatively short time. This is the disease of Major Depression. If you have it, do not let anyone tell you it isn’t real.
NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.
If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help can be yours.
*picture from qualitystockphotos