What have I learned from my depression?
That my brain can’t be trusted to relay information accurately—when the dark lenses of depression color my thinking, I can’t trust my perceptions to be congruent with the actualities of the world around me. I need other people in my life to remind me that there is beauty in the day, no matter what my diseased brain tries to tell me.
I’ve learned not to plan ahead too far into the future as it relates to matters best left to God. He is the director of my steps, and I can make all the plans I want but if they aren’t in line with his path, they will be frustrated, and I will get depressed. I plan ahead financially and take responsibility for my financial decisions, but what I’m going to be doing in the next few months or years? I have to rely on God for directions for the next steps on the path. Right now I know it is his will that I finish my MFA, but what I’m to do with it is entirely up to him. I have an idea on what I think I would like to do, but I am leaving all my options open.
I’ve learned that positivity is a choice I have to make every day. It can be made into a habit, but only with dedication and reinforcement of the decision to think positively. Thinking positively does not come naturally to a depressed brain—you have to create habits that generate positive vibes in your life.
I’ve learned that people really do not understand the chemical effects that cause depression. I do not live a life that is sad on the outside. I have a wonderful husband and three wonderful children and a close extended family with no obvious problems that can be seen by the outside world. Yet I still get depressed over some things that only matter to me, and I mostly get depressed because my chemical makeup of my brain causes it. I often tell people that I have nothing to be depressed about—until I get depressed because of the chemical vagaries of my bipolar condition. No one who has not experienced this understands it.
Depression has also taught me to cherish everything good in my life. From quality hot chocolate to good music to uplifting books to lifelong friends—it all needs to be savored and enjoyed for as long as it is available to you. I’ve made a list that I go back to often of “solutions that work”—activities I can participate in to elevate my mood and my life from the ordinary to the sublime and are guaranteed to lift my spirits.
Depression is a harsh teacher handing out extraordinary lessons if you choose to learn them the first time. Cherish, understand, be positive, rely on God, and know that your emotional ups and downs are not the end-all-be-all for your life.
Julie Whitehead currently writes and blogs from Mississippi at her personal blog. She has been a university lecturer, a disability examiner, and a freelance writer. She carries a diagnosis of bipolar disorder and blogs to create awareness and help others understand the disease and its effects.