In the year 2000, I was diagnosed with severe clinical depression. To think about this 19 years later still provides chills down my spine…and not in a good way. You see, depression changes a person forever. Although I don’t suffer daily, I can always reach out and touch it. IT is there. Now, in many ways, it is like a caged tiger. I have learned skills and thought processes that have kept it in a safe place…But it is still there, pacing back and forth…Every once and a while, letting loose a guttural growl as to say “never forget.”
For me, I have never been successful at describing what depression is like to a person who has not gone through it. IT is hell. It is an emotional roller coaster of uncertainty (when I could feel emotion). Imagine a world without color, without vibrancy, while every little stress put you in a place of despondent despair. There is no exit sign or escape while the dread in your bones has one constant theme: It is over, it is over, it is over.
So that was what it was like for me. Yet, here I am! I came back, and my aim every day is to live life on my terms and help others do the same.
This post is for Champion Dads, who are currently in the despair. The following three things helped me immensely. They provided me a foothold to start to gain back a little normalcy and control in my daily life. Even current day, I use these three things to make sure I keep that cage strong. (Remember, these are things that worked for me. I am not a doctor or a psychiatrist and am not providing advice…I am just sharing ideas).
1. Practice thinking in the present moment. A common occurrence was my head filled with future worries and past dwellings. My head would say things like:
Future- “I hope the rest of my life isn’t like this” or “How am I ever going to go on this way?”
Past- “I just want to go back to the way I was.”
Past and future thoughts have no place in reality. One is a reflection on what has long gone, while the other is an illusionary projection. Neither are real. When I caught myself dwelling back or worrying forward, I would replace the thought with “Mike, your only job right now is to experience all the sensations of the current moment.” An example of this playing out is as follows:
Imagine tying your shoes and worrying about all the crap you have to do today. “Stop, right now, focus on how perfect I can tie the shoes. What do the laces feel like? Let’s focus on how tight I need to tie them. How do the shoes feel on my feet?”
By repeatedly reminding ourselves to return to the present moment, we can ease the burden of overthinking.
2. Practice not judging everything you see. I owe my brother big for this line of thinking. It is hard, but good. On one of the worst days of my depression, we went for a walk, and I tried to explain how disconnected I was. Here is a snippet of that conversation:
Me: “Look at all these pink flowers. Before, I could feel how beautiful they were, and I would know how beautiful they were. Now I see them, but I feel no connection..it is like someone severed my cord to life.”
Brother: “Why does the flower need to be beautiful? Why can’t the flower be the flower?
BOOM!!! Things are not the judgments we place upon them. Allow things to be as they are. Things are neither good, bad, right, or wrong. When we can be in the present moment without incessant judgment, things can be just as they are. We don’t need to waste thought/energy on placing them in our made-up boxes of judgments. (Good practice with people too)
3. Be of service to others. On days where I could not effectively do #1 or #2, I would go out and help someone else. This way, I could stop the narcissistic behavior of ME ME ME thoughts. When we focus on helping others, we find ourselves naturally in a present moment state. Our focus shifts from ME to them. This step is magical to me, so I love my current career in adult learning.
So there they are…three ideas. I hope they help. They help me every day.
Let’s take small steps and build habits to bring forth a better tomorrow.
Photo by Melissa Mjoen via Unsplash