Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Battle You CAN Fight: #YesIStruggle

It's a fact of humanity that you cannot change how you feel. We hate that fact and fight it at every turn. We don't want to feel the pang of heartbreak. We don't want to feel angry or irritated in the middle of a fun night with friends. We don't want the earlier sorrows of our day to intrude on our evening. But these feelings don't go away.

We don't have conscious control over our emotions; they are a result of our thoughts and experiences, not a chosen reaction. You can change your actions and let your thoughts dwell on different things, and sometimes that will change your mood. But some things are too penetrating to shove out of our thoughts so easily. They stick to us. Fighting them is impossible.

It makes no sense to try to fight depression. You can't change how you feel, and trying and failing will only make you more depressed. You'll feel more guilt and more out of control.

Besides emotions being nearly impossible to control, depression rarely has a cause. You can't turn your thoughts away from what's depressing you because everything is depressing. Yes, depression usually has a source sadness that first gets us down. But when it becomes depression is when that point of sadness becomes an entire outlook on life. One thing can knock us off balance, but once we're falling, we're falling away from everything.

You can't fight depression. But you can fight for your health. {Tweet this.}

You can fight for the health of your body. Knowing I'm in a depression has lit a fire under me to eat my vitamins daily (I usually forget 3 days out of 4) and to eat regular meals. I make myself eat breakfast even when I don't feel like it; it doesn't change how I feel but it is a way of fighting back.

I'm more consistent with my daily walks. Every evening I walk several miles through our beautiful, tree-lined neighborhood. It's good exercise and it clears my head. It helps me put aside my work and remember my life. It gives me time to process. My daily walk gives me mental rest.

That's another part of my fight for my health: getting rest. I go to bed early and I sleep in. I take naps. I don't deny myself. Stress exacerbates depression, and if getting 13 hours of sleep every day lowers my stress, I'll do it. Sleeping a lot may be a symptom of depression, but it also makes me feel better.

So does mental rest. Lying on the floor* dreaming up new stories. Ending my productive workday at noon to read Wise Man's Fear for the rest of the day. Taking walks. Playing with the guinea pig.

I've said it once (or twice) and I'll say it again: we need rest. We need to stop running. We need to let go and let God, to make the voices go quiet so we can hear ourselves and hear silence. Silence is terrifying to those who don't know or like themselves. We don't want to hear what will be left when we take away the phone and the internet and our books and our friends and our busy-nothings.**

But when we refuse to listen to what's out there, we never know ourselves. That lack of knowledge creates a void where dark voices can sneak in and take hold of us. Maybe that's where all depression comes from. We stop listening, lose track of who we are and where we are and what we're here for, and we start falling. It's not that we lose touch with God, even. It's that we lose touch with who we are. If we don't know that, nothing God or anyone else says to us will make any difference.

We need to look after our spiritual selves. We need to heed silence. We need rest.

Fighting depression isn't a matter of making sad thoughts go away. It's a matter of finding balance and good things to squeeze into your sad outlook. Slowly, the happy things and the balanced things can begin to fill up the space where the depression is.

Sometimes, at least. I never rule out the need for medication. But living a healthy life is something I'm going to work for regardless--if only because fighting for it makes me feel like I'm really doing something. I'll fight for that feeling alone.

Word count: 740.

* Lying on the floor is one of the most creative positions out there. The world looks bigger from down there, the possibilities endless. I highly recommend it.
** Thank you, Jane Austen, for this perfect term. Thank you for Mansfield Park, too.

Ps. There was a great Art Assignment and vlogbrothers follow-up on silence recently. Both short vids are worth a look.