photo of head bust print artwork
DEPRESSION

Depression is an emotion and more

Table of Contents

Depression is an emotion and it is also a physical condition.

Our behaviors, routines, words, and thoughts have become habits.

We view the world from our inner lens, which is murky at best. Some things in our life will have to change. Change takes time and is just plain hard work. Most of us don’t even know why we do or don’t do something because they have become habits. Even depression can become a habit if we continue to think negatively.

The research

The study of depression has come a long way, and the amount of research has accelerated in just the past few years. We know that serotonin is manufactured in the brain but that 90% of our serotonin supply is stored in the digestive system. We know now that gut health and mental health go hand in hand. Please consult with your doctor if you think you might have digestive issues that are influencing your depression.

Some research suggests that supplements such as fish oil and vitamin D can make a difference. Again, consult with your doctor first.

New study

I recently read a study that depressed people might have different amounts and types of lipids in their blood. They have higher levels of triglycerides but lower levels of omega-3 fatty acids than those with anxiety. The study concluded that anxiety and depression should perhaps be treated differently pharmaceutically. The next stage of research will determine whether depression might respond to anti-inflammatory drugs. This is a very new study and will have to be validated through further research. I find it exciting though.

No one needs to suffer years and years of depression. No one needs to suffer years of anxiety. While some depression is treatment-resistant, most depression and anxiety flare-ups can be managed and possibly cured. But, it isn’t easy.

Becoming depression/anxiety free requires looking at your life and examining what you might be doing or not doing that is making your depression worse. There are many ways we contribute to our own mental health or lack thereof. At the very least, we often get in the way of our recovery. Those ways will be discussed throughout this book.

Medication and depression

This book will not address the various types of medication. Whether you should take them or not is between you and your doctor. Just remember there is no shame in taking medication for a while, just like there is no shame if you must always take something. And don’t pride yourself if you never have to take medication at all. It’s not a contest. Each of us has a unique history and personality, and all of that makes a difference in how we heal but there is hope.

There is a way to break free from your prison. Your fluctuating moods don’t have to be in control.

‘Trust me, I am no stronger, braver, or smarter than anyone else. I was daily reading my Bible and praying. I was an active member of a church and had a loving and understanding husband, great children, and good friends. And yet depression had me in its prison for more years than I would like to admit.

But I am free now. I take a step back now and then, but I use these tools, and soon I’m right back on track.

It is impossible to cover every facet of depression/anxiety and low moods in one small devotional. And make no mistake, depression is your enemy.

Differences and sameness of depression’s symptoms

I am acutely aware that we all live very different lives. Our income and educational levels are varied. Some people are employed full-time at meaningful jobs live alone or are married. Are young or old. Some people have a strong support system. People have different faiths but know this: depression is an equal opportunity employer. Depression can strike anyone from any walk of life—rich or poor, educated or not, Christian or not, from any ethnic background.

And yet depression feels pretty much the same to its victims, and the way out is pretty much the same as well.

So, when you read this book, remember the advice must be adapted and used within the parameters of your unique circumstances. When I suggest, for example, to get out of bed in the morning and make your bed, but you work a second or third shift, you would modify that to read, get out of bed, and make up your bed no matter what time of day.

Simple steps work for depression

These simple steps have been proven to work. Any book you pick up, any mental health professional you talk to, all suggest the same basic techniques because they have worked for millions of people. Again, depression, though complex, responds to simple, commonsense approaches.

Imagine going to the doctor, for example, and complaining of a backache every time you pick up anything more than twenty pounds. Their advice? “Quit picking up anything that weighs more than twenty pounds.” In other words, if it hurts, don’t do it. Commonsense, practical advice.

With depression, it might be, “I feel anxious when I do so-and-so.” Advice? “Limit the so-and-sos.”

As you read this book and think, “These ideas sound too simple for how bad I feel”, try them anyway. Every constructive step you take paves the way for the next one. After a while, those steps become a clear path to your journey’s end.

Causes of depression

This book will suggest the causes of your depression so that you can know what they are. This is true most of the time. But there are those times when depression seems to strike without warning.

Some researchers and doctors believe there is always a cause, and if you carefully examine your recent thoughts, actions, and circumstances, you will find it. Other mental health professionals say otherwise. They will suggest, although no one knows for sure, that depression can strike like any other illness, without warning. These are the professionals who generally take the view that depression is always caused by a chemical imbalance. You don’t have a cold one day, but you do the next. Kind of like a sudden case of the flu.

So, where does the answer lie?

As stated earlier, no one knows all there is to know about depression/anxiety and its causes. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. Studies have been done that do indeed show a chemical imbalance in the brains of those who are depressed, but there is no research that states which came first, the chemical imbalance or the depression. It could very well be that depression causes the imbalance. Obviously, that imbalance still needs to be addressed through medication, counseling, behavior modification, or a combination of all three.

Mind-body connections

photo of head bust print /depression is an emotion and more

Again, the mind-body connection is a relatively new science, and there is much to learn, but most professionals agree there is a significant link between our minds and our bodies.

I believe that most of the time, there are logical and knowable reasons why we get depressed. If we look back at the way we’ve been thinking, how we’re behaving, our world view, and our spoken words, we’ll likely be able to trace the cause.

I also know that there have been rare occasions when I didn’t have a clue about the cause, no matter how much I tried to figure it out. Sometimes we can drive ourselves to the edge, looking for answers. On those rare occasions, I simply pick up my tools anyway, knowing they will help, and put one foot in front of the other until I am better.

Our bodies and chemistry are very unique.

Sometimes just the right combination can send us into a tailspin. My husband suddenly became ill a few years ago while we were taking a walk, and we ended up in the ER. All of his tests and lab work were perfectly normal. Our doctor told us that sometimes our bodies go haywire, and medical science has no answers.

Don’t panic if you can’t determine the cause. Maybe there isn’t one you can uncover right now. And though you can’t figure it out at the moment, you might look back a few months from now and clearly see the path you were heading down.

I tried to cover everything I could think of that would be helpful. But I imagine I missed a couple of things. If you have some techniques that work for you, I would love to know what they are. I hope you will share them with me at https://goodthoughsgoodlives.com. I chose a daily devotional format, as I know that would have been most helpful for me when I struggled.

But you can beat it.

I’ve experienced every single symptom in this book and used every single tool in this book. I’ve been on the depression roller-coaster ride and experienced the up and down and all-around of this not-so-amusing ride, complete with counseling and medication. And I’m here to tell you that you can beat depression. You can send it to a corner and keep it there. Give it an indefinite time-out.

If you are reading this book and comprehending it, you have the skills necessary to implement these tools.

A true story

When I was a little girl, my mother would stay in bed for days. When she got up, I would ask her what was the matter. She would always say, “I just don’t feel good.” I heard this repeated my entire life, right up until she died. It broke my heart more than once because I knew she could be helped, but she had almost become addicted to her depression. When she wasn’t depressed, it was almost as if she felt guilty.

Generational thinking

My mother should never have struggled the way she did. She was smart and funny. But she experienced depression all her life because no one, especially her, would admit to depression, even though she took antidepressants. (I know. Hard to understand.) It was unthinkable for her generation to admit to mental health issues. She missed out on so much. I missed out on so much. This book is in her memory.  

I wrote this book because I couldn’t not write this book. For years, God persisted, and I balked. I have a deep passion for helping anyone who deals with this mind-sucking, joy-robbing illness. I know what depression feels like, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

Happiness and depression

But maybe now is the time to briefly discuss happiness as I think many people think that happiness and depression are at opposite ends of a line of emotional and mental health. That’s because we have a skewed view of happiness in the first place.

I briefly address happiness and what it is and isn’t. But I think it bears addressing here as well. Very often, if we’re feeling even a little down, we assume we are not happy. That’s not true. I believe happiness is a state of being where we feel all is right between God and us. It doesn’t mean everything is going exactly as we want or that we have feelings of euphoria. Happiness is often highly over-rated.

Happiness is not a right

Many people, especially Christians, feel they have a right to happiness. And when we see others acting happy, we assume, wrongly so, that their lives are really, really good. And as long as we think that is what happiness is, we will never find it. Happiness can’t be found like it’s out there somewhere; happiness is inside of us. And it is not true that some people are born happy, and some aren’t although some personalities seem to embrace it easier than others. But anyone can increase their level of happiness.

So, is depression a lack of happiness?

It can feel that way, and while we suffer from depression, it may well seem happiness is just a faraway dream. But in large part, that’s probably because we have a false idea of what is happiness. If we assume that we will feel gloriously happy once our depression is gone, that isn’t necessarily true. The absence of depression/ anxiety or low moods doesn’t guarantee happiness, but it certainly guarantees a better life all-around from which happiness can grow.

That’s why this book is a hands-on active book, meaning there is no magic formula to eradicate your depression and it requires work, but so does happiness. A person who says they are always happy and cheerful is more than likely a person who doesn’t allow the suffering of others to impact them. When we truly understand the struggles of so many we know and the millions we don’t that face actual physical survival, we can’t possibly be unaffected and not have our happiness dampened. The plight of others diminishes our happiness for a bit if we adhere to the conventional understanding. But again, that’s a superficial understanding of happiness.

What is happiness?

Does being depressed and anxiety-free guarantee happiness? Nope. Not any more than a tooth removal guarantees no more dental issues. We have to take certain preventative procedures, like flossing, to make sure we don’t get any more cavities. Well, with happiness, there is a certain amount of preventive procedures that must also take place.

We have to eliminate those things that bring decay into our life. Depression is very much like decay when you think about it. So, while this book doesn’t guarantee happiness just because your depression gets better, the very tools used for depression if practiced from then on will bring a level of contentment into your life.

A definition

Happiness is more a contented state of being where you are comfortable with yourself and your circumstances. It is also that place where we are just uncomfortable enough that we seek more for ourselves and others.

We can experience occasional down moods and still feel contented. Those low moods are imperative to happiness for how can we define happiness if we can’t define unhappiness? To repeat, one could read this book solely as a book about happiness because the steps that free us from depression are also the steps that bring us some level of happiness. Happiness is the result of thinking, feelings, and moods, all of which are discussed in this book.

God bless each of you.