We all heard the sad news this past weekend that Pastor Rick Warren’s (of Purpose-Driven Life fame) youngest son, Matthew (27) committed suicide after a lifelong struggle with mental illness.
Times like this can be very difficult for people with serious depression and those who love them. The depressed patient can begin to worry, “What if my mind runs away with me? What if I lose control?” Likewise the loved ones of a depressed patient can worry, “What if I’m missing some signs that the person I care about is suffering more than I know?”
IF YOU ARE DEPRESSED here are a few thing that can be very helpful.
1. Discuss your concerns about your feelings both with a professional and with the person/people you most love and trust.
Even if you aren’t thinking about hurting yourself, if news like the story of Matthew Warren’s suicide is unsettling to you, talk about it both with the people who care for you and are responsible for your care. Feelings are most dangerous when they are left in the dark. Get things out in the open where you can keep an eye on them. If you aren’t working with a professional, please consider contacting someone today. The vast majority of clients who suffer with depression are very responsive to psychological treatment if they get appropriate help. Even if you don’t think your depression is “that bad,” getting help when depression is still mild or moderate enables you to get things back on track before depression completely knocks you off your feet.
2. Avoid Alcohol or Drugs
It is never a good ideas for a person with depression to drink or use medications (or illicit drugs) that have a depressant effect (i.e., any medications that caution you against operating heavy machinery). Depression already impairs a person’s problem-solving abilities and makes a person higher-risk for engaging in impulsive, or destructive behaviors. Alcohol or depressant drugs can increase that potential exponentially. No one thinks they are at risk. If you are depressed, don’t drink and be sure to discuss your depression with any doctor prescribing meds with a depressant effect.
3. Maintain your Spiritual Practices
Depression makes us feel like we can’t go it alone and when you feel like you’re in over your head you need as much outside help as you can get. Staying connected with God’s grace in these challenging time can help you feel like he is multiplying your limited time and emotional resources just like he multiplied the loaves and the fish. If you can’t keep up your prayer life on your own, find a prayer partner–ideally your spouse or a close and spiritually mature friend–with whom you can pray every day and who can help keep you accountable.
Depression makes you want to neglect self-care. Maintain a schedule for self-care and stick to it whether you feel like it or not. Have a regular bed time. Wake up at the same time every day. Eat at least three square meals a day. Engage is some kind of physical activity. You don’t have to exhaust yourself but you have to move somehow. If you can’t do it alone, find someone to do it with.
5. Maintain your relationships.
Depression makes you want to isolate. You don’t really enjoy being around people–in fact its draining–so why bother? Regardless of how you feel about it, don’t stop being social. The more you withdraw the bigger a companion depression, itself, becomes. Depression is a very bad friend. On a day when you’re feeling a little stronger, tell your friends that you don’t ever want them to take “no” for an answer. You’ll hate them when they force you to go out with them, but when you’re recovered, you’ll be glad to have such caring people in your life.
6. Stay Connected to Help
I know I started this reflection with a recommendation to reach out for professional help, but it bears repeating. Treatment works. Don’t delay. The sooner you can get help the better. Contact your local resources or contact us through the Pastoral Solutions Institute to arrange to speak with a faithful Catholic counselor.
For Additional Help…
IF YOU ARE HARBORING THOUGHTS OF HARMING YOURSELF, CLICK HERE
DO YOU HAVE A LOVED ONE WHO IS SUFFERING WITH DEPRESSION? Click here to discover how you can help.