Saturday, June 2, 2007

How Do We Handle Depression & Anxiety

Rachel on her blog 'Just Another Day' has been posting on depression. I thought I would take this opportunity to discuss my own philosophy on how I deal with depression daily.


Dr Frankl well reknowned psychiatrist, who was imprisoned in Auschwitz came to this conclusion, he discovered a link between prisoners loss of faith in the future & a dangerous giving up. He came out believing that "Everything can be taken away from man but one thing: the last of all human freedoms-to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances". Now I am not into `catch phrases' at times they are too glib to what is essentially complex human suffering. To feel abandoned by God is excruciating, it is so painful it is beyond words, we can look to our Lord, " My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"(Matt 27:46).

When I first became ill(with CFS & depression), I was bed ridden for 2 years. I had lost all sense of balance, I also lost the ability to concentrate( I mean I could NOT understand a comic book). The catch phrase I was given, `oh Marie, think positive and you will get better', by the 100th time I heard that I was ready to smack heads!

As Dr Frankl said above and I follow this principle, we can all choose our attitudes to what life throws at us, and at times, we do feel crushed, abandoned and also paralysed by fear, and yes anger! And its ok at times too feel anger, even rage, but what to do with these at times `destructive feelings'? Harness them. Focus these feelings of anger not on yourself but on the illness itself.

Sometimes the greatest obstacles we face is NOT from another but is in fact from oneself, and that is a fact few can face, or recognise. We must NOT allow ourselves to become perpetual victims but instead to understand ourselves in a realistic manner. It is ok to feel vulnerable, it is ok to fail, it is ok NOT to be perfect...It is OK to realise we are broken vessels in need of God. We must accept our frailities and failures and then grow from them.

But in order to cope with depression and anxiety what tools do we use? I can only say what helped me and it was not anti-depressants. These particular medications only made me feel even more tired. One of the first things I did was to stop the FEAR of depression, the next step was to stop being run by my 'feelings'. I had to recognise that by allowing my 'feelings' to run riot I had created a tyrant. In order to overrule this tyrant I learnt mental discipline, and also to negate that negative 'inner voice' that kept taunting me with my own perceived failures. It is seeing things in perspective. So what if I failed at something? Or if a situation turned out badly, would the moon fade away and the sun not rise because of it? No!

Prayer is also essential even if you 'feel' your prayers are going up into thin air, still you persevere, you may NOT enjoy the experience but you persevere. Some days that is all one can do persevere through the joyless day, but not to dwell on the reasons WHY you feel joyless, because there is NO answer. One only has to read the writings of the Carmelite Saints to understand this 'joy' without the 'feeling'.

As I said to a friend, "Depression has now become an wanted friend who outstays their welcome, the type who visit and stay for hours and despite some heavy hints they dont know when to leave? That is what depression is for me now, the friend that doesnt know when to depression stays but that does NOT mean I stay depressed...NO! Depression is there when I watch a funny show on TV or when I laugh through funny movies..till oneday I notice that depression took the hint and moved away...if it be only a step away."

The only thing I do know is to take those steps one day at a time.....