Illness and depression go together like peanut and butter but is not nearly as tasty. In fact, learning to deal with depression during illness can be a bitter pill to swallow. During my severe bouts of depression during breast cancer and its treatment I had a choice; take pharmaceuticals to alleviate it, or face my depression and figure out what my body and psych were trying to tell me. I always believed my depression was a symptom, not an illness.
Alleviating a symptom seldom cures the dis-ease.
My depression was something I believed would diminish once it was understood by me, faced and the cause was cured. But, this is easier said than done.
Suicide seemed an easier means of escape than facing my “ghosts.”
However, deciding to see what lessons could be learned from my depression was a first step toward the re-integration of my emotions because nothing in this world is more depressing than depression.
Looking back on those difficult times I can now answer questions I avoided such as, “Why was I depressed? How did depression serve me and most importantly, what did it teach me about myself?”
Our mind is incredibly powerful and will create (manifest) situations to serve and save us.
I came to the conclusion that depression and illness was a way of forcing me to slow down and “look within” at memories (old baggage), events (past and present cycles), people (relationships), and lifestyles (habits) that were not to my benefit. Without depression, I may have continued to accept whatever life threw at me—like other people’s challenges, and settling for less than I needed and/or deserved.
Depression is an incredible teacher. You do not graduate until you learn your lessons.
Depression taught me that just because something is thrown at me does not mean I have to catch it, hold, and keep it, including insults or negative relationships. I can choose to duck or move out of the way. And, if I do catch it, I can choose to drop it. Depression made me stop and reassess my life-choices.
I came to the conclusion that how people treat me is their Karma, how I respond is mine.
Not all relationships or situations should be avoided or dropped. And, that is when I learned my most valuable lesson—the quickest way to change someone’s behavior is to change mine first. They must respond differently to the new behavior.
Illness and depression made me take time out for me. It taught me how to respect, honor, and put myself first, and to choose to change or walk away from bad habits, relationships, and situations. I drew new boundaries.
These were new boundary decisions and choices with which I could live…and die.
Crisis can bring perfect strangers together. That is exactly what happened in my Radiation Therapy group of women. We had deep emotional discussions about health, healing, life, and death while we awaited our turn for treatment. During one group discussion, a new found friend asked, “How can I just quit my job or simply walk away from my relationship if that is what is depressing or killing me?”
My answer to her question was another question. “Are you worried about letting down your job and relationship or yourself? Will “they” survive tomorrow if you are not around? Will you thrive if they are gone? You cannot hold the gift of life in your hands if your hands are full of crap you do not even want but cannot part with because they are habit or insecurities. It is time for choices. Choose to put something down.”
That was 20 years ago. Now, whenever I feel overwhelmed, I take a step back and reassess my life.
One of the first things I do is “check my inner-baggage,” which again, is usually useless accumulations. What is surprising is how I am often bogged down with baggage that is not even mine. Now, I simply drop it and walk away. I don’t care who gets upset that I am not upset for them. This is because in the past I took on other people’s emotional baggage rather than respecting their right to carry it. But, old habits are hard to break. I am still working on that one.
It is acceptable to offer people in need my shoulder but not my back. Let me explain.
There is a big difference between being supportive and being a mule. A supportive person lends a helping hand or a shoulder to cry on. A mule carries the weight of the world on their back while refusing to focus on their own life. This is avoidance. It only takes another small challenge to be the straw that breaks their back which can send them spiraling into depression.
Our mind is a beautiful thing. Experience has taught me that we manifest not only what we want but also what we need. Sometimes we need to slow down and reassess our lives. Depression served me in this capacity. I didn’t enjoy it and would not choose to go through it again. However, by facing depression rather than suppressing it, I learned from it, used it to change my life, and ultimately survived adversity and illness. The message from my inner-self was loud and clear- Be kind to yourself and treat yourself as you would have others treat you.
About the Author: Kathleen (Kat) O’Keefe-Kanavos is a three-time Breast Cancer Survivor, as seen on Dr. Oz, DOCTORS, NBC, and CBS, whose Divine Dreams diagnose her illness, and was a Dream Research Participant for Duke University’s Dr. Larry Burk‘s Breast Cancer Dream Research Program. They co-wrote, Dreams That Can Save Your Life. She is a Syndicated Columnist, TV Producer/Host and award-winning Author/Lecturer who promotes patient advocacy and connecting with Divine Spiritual-guidance through Dreams for success in health, wealth, and relationships. “Don’t tell God how big your problems are. Tell your problems how big your God is.” Learn more @ http://kathleenokeefekanavos.com/
Dealing With Chronic Illnesses and Depression https://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/chronic-illnesses-depression#1
Complementary and alternative medicine in the treatment of anxiety and depression https://journals.lww.com/co-psychiatry/Abstract/2008/01000/Complementary_and_alternative_medicine_in_the.8.aspx
Caregivers are More Likely to be Women- https://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-life/11043452/Caregivers-are-more-likely-to-be-women-says-American-study-as-daughters-take-responsibility-over-sons.html
Natural Medicine Journal; Natural Depression Remedies, Natural protocol for depression treatment that includes omega-3s, magnesium, B vitamins, vitamin D, St John’s wort, ginkgo, SAMe, 5-HTP, and ginseng, By Rena Freedenberg, ND https://www.naturalmedicinejournal.com/journal/2009-12/treatment-protocol-naturopathicholistic-treatment-mild-moderate-depression
Dreams That Can Save Your Life: Early Warning Signs of Cancer and Other Diseases, https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=Dreams+That+Can+Save+Your+Life
Surviving Cancerland: Intuitive Aspects of Healing; https://www.amazon.com/Surviving-Cancerland-Intuitive-Aspects-Healing/dp/1879384965