Depression is very much like a roller-coaster ride. There are lots of ups and downs and all-around. It’s no fun.
Table of Contents
- What this book doesn’t address.
- The prison of depression
- Why a sixty-day journal?
- People respond differently
- No quick fixes for depression
- Can I guarantee success?
Depression is like a roller-coaster ride that is so terrifying and has so many twists, turns, and upside downs that you can’t wait to get off. And you certainly don’t ever want to take that particular ride again. (As mentioned in the last post, I am posting from my book for a few weeks. This is the beginning of the introduction.)
This book was written for anyone who’s been on this ride or knows someone who has. It is for those who have suffered or are suffering from mild to moderate depression, with or without anxiety. But it can also be used for low moods in general—those weeks where you aren’t depressed, but you’re not exactly feeling good either.
It will help anyone who is currently being treated by a medical professional for mood disorders. Do not change any treatment plans without consulting with your doctor, and please feel free to share this book with him or her.
What this book doesn’t address.
While this book does not address severe cases of depression or other severe forms of mental illness, it can be used to improve mild to moderate depression, anxiety, and low moods in general. It will contribute to overall good mental health. Most of us can afford to see some improvement in that area of our lives.
Depression has been likened to a prison. In her classic book Depression, Dorothy Rowe uses that word and imagery liberally. She makes the point, and I wholeheartedly agree, that it doesn’t matter how we ended up in our prison; the first matter of business is getting out.
The prison of depression
I imagine it like this. You are in a prison cell. It’s dark, dank, and frightening. Every once in a while, you see the narrowest sliver of light peek under the door. “That’s not fair,” you mumble. That sliver of light seems cruel because it offers hope when you’re feeling the most hopeless. But you stay huddled in the corner.
But just what if, as you sat in that prison cell, you had the keys to open the door the whole time? That’s what this devotional is all about, showing you where to find the keys to leave your prison. The keys are free. They are simple. They are in your pocket right now.
Depression responds well to simple strategies
Surprisingly, depression responds well to fairly simple therapeutic strategies. Most people, no matter the cause of their depression, demonstrate very similar symptoms. That’s why there is a universally approved list of symptoms that mental health professionals use to make a diagnosis of clinical depression.
Anxiety often accompanies depression as well. They can exist without each other or make each other worse. Anxiety almost always has a component of fear and is often accompanied by physical symptoms, such as rapid or shallow breathing, stomach issues, headaches, and other conditions. In most cases, when I use the word depression, you can substitute anxiety. They are intricately intertwined.
My own journey with depression
My journey with depression/anxiety began in childhood. The details aren’t important. Depression became my hiding place when the fear was overwhelming. Later in the book, I will explain this dynamic, and it will make sense.
Everyone has a story. Mine is worse than some but not nearly as bad as others.
You can read this book in whatever order you choose, but it was written in a purposefully progressive manner. There is a reason it evolves the way it does, and the majority of people will find it most useful to start at the beginning.
Why a sixty-day journal?
You may wonder why I chose sixty days as opposed to, say, thirty or ninety. Is there a certain amount of time it takes to get better? Does depression or anxiety respond better to shorter or longer therapies?
Goldilocks and the three bears
Think of the story of Goldilocks and the three bears. As you recall, Goldilocks was lost in the woods. She was getting tired and hungry when she spied a cottage. She cautiously checked it out, and after she’d determined it was empty, she decided to break in. I never thought about it before, but I guess we could say Ms. Goldilocks was guilty of breaking and entering.
She checked the bowls of porridge still sitting on the table. She spooned up a bit of one, too hot. Then, she dipped her spoon into the second bowl and tasted it, too cold. She spooned up some from the third bowl, and it was just right. So, she ate it. (Wouldn’t you think when she tasted the hot porridge, she would have known the occupants were nearby? Anyway …
After she ate, she needed a nap. She checked out the three beds. One was too soft, one was too hard, and one was just right.
Sixty days seemed just right.
That’s how I came up with sixty days. Ninety days, when you’re feeling miserable, is just way too long. Thirty days is way too short because while depression can ease up in thirty days, it won’t be completely cured or managed in such a short time. Again, no quick fixes. Sixty days seemed just right. It’s not so long that you give up and it’s not so short that you get discouraged because you’re not completely better already. If you are faithfully using the tools, you will feel some improvement in those sixty days.
People respond differently
You will probably find that a particular suggestion strikes an immediate responsive chord; others, not so much. This will depend on where you are on your journey, how much you know about depression, and, most importantly, how hard you are willing to work.
Some of what I suggest may seem contradictory. That’s because managing depression is often about timing. For example, sometimes it’s good to rest; sometimes it’s good to be active. Sometimes it’s good to examine things; sometimes it’s not. I will address this seeming conflict.
If one day’s devotion doesn’t seem to apply to you, the day will probably come when it does. While depression is experienced differently by different people, there is a commonality in the symptoms. We don’t experience the symptoms all in the same order, but we will probably experience many of the major symptoms to some degree during our illness.
Grief is an exception
I want to add here that depression caused by grief is another category altogether. While there will come a time during grief when these tools can help, the time for that will greatly depend on the person and how they are experiencing their grief. Grief and its timetable are truly unique. But don’t let your grief turn into a clinical depression. Seek the help you need.
I worked very hard to get out of prison and have been depression-free for many years. That doesn’t mean, however, that there haven’t been some extended down periods—just nothing that comes close to a diagnosis of clinical depression.
This book is a culmination of much research, Bible study, my postgraduate studies in clinical pastoral education, my role as a hospital chaplain, Bible teacher, research analyst, feedback from various workshops I have conducted, anecdotal evidence from family and friends, those who follow my blog, and my personal struggles while in that prison. I am also currently enrolled in postgraduate classes seeking to become an ordained Life Coach.
No quick fixes for depression
All the coping tools I suggest I’ve used myself. Everything I’ve written is about following a best-practices approach, and while my tools are my own creation, the basis for all the tools is supported through well-documented and authoritative resources.
Speaking of research, just as I was finishing this book, I took some time for a pumpkin-spiced latte at my local Barnes and Noble. I decided to browse the self-help section. I picked up about a dozen or so small books. When I had finished glancing through them, I knew I had to add a couple of paragraphs I had not originally planned for this introduction.
Can’t be cured overnight.
Many of the books I looked at that addressed depression and anxiety used words such as quick, instant, fast, twenty-one days to…., one week to…., and so on. While these books have a place for addressing transitory low moods and can temporarily boost our spirits, there is no such thing as a quick fix. Depression doesn’t swallow up a person overnight (as much as it feels like it does), and it doesn’t get belched out overnight either.
If we could, and these quick-fix authors were correct, we would have the answers to all mental health issues, and they would be quick and easy! But these books do contain nuggets of truth, and they have a place in helping us adjust to the normal ebb and flow of life. If these books help you get better right away, you probably were not suffering from clinical depression or general anxiety in the first place.
Can I guarantee success?
Of course not, because success depends largely on the amount of effort one puts forth. But I can’t imagine that anyone who truly wants better mental health won’t see improvement with these tools. Depression is way too much like a roller-coaster ride not to work hard to get better.
For the information in this book to work, it must be carefully read, thoughtfully pondered, and consistently practiced. One approach will work one day but seem less effective the next. But don’t quit just because you run into roadblocks.
As a rule depression and anxiety don’t just show up for no reason. There are usually some causes. But you don’t have to stay on the roller coaster ride forever.
God bless and have a good day.
ps. The headings in these posts do not appear in the book. They are for google algorithms. Next week I hope to finish the introduction.