By Linda Cunning
So many people are in despair, even to the point of suicide. My heart aches for you who live with little or no hope. I have been in this dark place. I have walked the halls of sorrow that led deeper into a darkness that is hard to describe to those naturally joyful.
In my youth, the shadow of dysfunction created an environment where death seemed to be relief, the answer. Several attempts to leave this earth were intercepted, two by people and one by God. It was a time I would never want to repeat, but from which I have learned so much. I will spare the details, but the third attempt was a literal miracle that changed the trajectory of my heart and life.
I thought this giant was conquered until the tumultuous waves of this crazy life kept me gasping for air, unable keep up with the fast undercurrent that was pulling me down. Unfortunately, many around me had no idea, and those that did often gave obstructive advice. I survived and even better grew through this. My family, generations past and present, have dealt with debilitating depression. We get it.
Having been through it, from the darkest part to living in the light of God’s love, I want to share with these practical strategies, so you can live this incredible, beautiful life joyfully and on purpose.
- It is okay to seek help! Just make sure it is good help. After my 2nd suicide attempt, my mom sent me to one psychiatrist who should not have been practicing! It was terrible. Thank God for Dr. Everett, my childhood pastor, whose counsel I still use to this day.
- Do not let people have that much influence on you. In my adult years, when I was in deep despair and consequently made some bad choices, I was opened up to people and their opinions that led me further into crisis. I cannot believe how close I was to leaving my children without their mom! I shudder every time I think about this! People’s opinions of you should not influence you to make horrific decisions. Once I got free from people’s opinions of me and my situations, I became a better me.
- Find ways to serve others. Depression is implosive. It makes everything about you and your bubble. Once you are able, find a way to serve and help others. Expect nothing in return. Every day is an opportunity for service. You’ll experience an inward high when you realize you have helped someone.
- Aggressively fight for joy. Depression makes you a passive player in life. Some days it is difficult just to open your eyes in the morning. That is why I fight against anything keeping me from enjoying my day. Be conscious about how you are approaching each moment. Fight the tiredness, laziness, self-pity, and self-doubt. Look for joy in each moment and chase it down with passion.
- Seek God Daily. This is the #1 solution to pull you out of the mire. My relationship with Christ has literally saved my life over and over again. Breathe deeply and know that He is God. Find yourself through His Word. Realize that He gives you the choice. I choose life and joy. Some days are much harder than others, but I go back to Him for love, safety, and help.
- Take a risk and develop a positive relationship with someone. My best friend is the most positive person I know. She was an answer to a prayer for a good friend with whom I could be myself. She loves me and puts up with both the great and the ugly in me. We do not dwell on the negative, we feed the positive. We both push each other to be better people. It may take time, but find that person who is a positive influence on your life.
- Your treatment may be different than someone else’s treatment. That is okay! I remember having a friend who was ashamed that she was on medication for her depression. It was helping her. She had an exit plan. It was working. That was perfect for her and there should be no shame in that! I have also had friends who think that you cannot cope in this world without medications and would be angry when I told them that I did not want to medicate the pain because I was learning to cope and work through it. You need to find what works for you and makes you healthier.
- Please know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and it’s not a train! Know that no matter how awful things seem, there really is a better place to be. Even if you tend to be pessimistic, always look forward to the blooming of the colors of newness.
- Intentionally see the wonder in the world around you. As I kept an attitude of discovery, I felt the excitement of learning something new, or of finding a hidden jewel in reading a good book, feeling an overwhelming peace after praying, finding gratefulness in hearing someone else’s story, or discovering that I bring value to this earth even in a small way. The wonder of discovery brings hope. Hope motivates me to continue on. Hope lets me discover that even the small things in life can impact the whole. I have a place and purpose, as well as each and every person on this planet.
This world is wonderful! Intentionally embrace life with all your heart!