Managing Depression, Part 1

Depression can be an insidious thing; often seeming to come out of nowhere.  For me, when I’m really far along on the path of a depressive episode, it’s a rough road on which turn around and head back.  I need to catch it before it gets that far.

Geologists are given clues and advanced notice that a volcano is due to erupt.  We are given notice when a hurricane is on its way and we have our emergency supplies and evacuation plan in place.  It’s very important to know the advanced warning signs that depression is lingering and to have a plan in place for how to handle it.  It requires being proactive rather than reactive.

Some of my warning signs are: increased irritability, tearing up at the slighest thing, exhaustion, wanting to be alone, and negative thinking.

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It’s often easy for me to blame circumstances, events, or things people say and do for my depression.  Jesus said that “the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”  What’s ultimately in my heart is what controls what I say and do.  Many Psychologist’s believe that feelings are not caused by what happens outside us, but by our own thinking.  Simply put, my core beliefs about myself effects my thinking, which in turns effects my reactions, emotions, and behavior.  When I’m faced with a difficult situation, my thoughts are usually something like, “I can’t handle this” or “There’s no way I can get through this.”  Then I begin feeling down and depressed.

When I begin having those depressive feelings, I have to ask myself, “what was I just thinking about?” It’s amazing how thoughts zoom through my head and I don’t realize the impact they have on me.  Sometimes it’s as simple as me spilling something in the kitchen and the first thought I have is “of course, that’s just how my day is going” or “how dumb is that?” And from then on I’m feeling irritable.  When these thoughts continue to happen over and over without me catching them, my emotions worsen.

Paul says in 2 Corinthians that we need to “take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ.” And that’s one of the main things I do to manage my depression each and every day.  It took me developing a habit of catching those quick, automatic thoughts and challenging those with the truths of scripture so that they didn’t take root and develop into depression.  One of the things that a psychotherapist does in counseling someone with depression is by helping them dig into their thoughts and ultimately back to the very beliefs about themselves.  By changing those deeply rooted core beliefs and replacing them with the truth, a person is then able to change their thinking which effects their responses to situations.  An excellent book on changing beliefs to the truth of how God sees us is Search for Significance by Robert McGee.

Upcoming:  Managing Depression Part 2: Having a Support System