In a previous series of blog posts, I tried writing weekly on healthy eating and living. I want to pivot and return to this project, however looking at it through the spiritual practice of you.
Two quotes come to mind for me, “Do all the good you can, in all the ways you can, as long as you ever can”. This is by John Wesley, the father of Methodism. The other quote is “Live in such a way as to reduce the suffering of all sentient beings”. This is the call of life for all Buddhists. Both quotes call on us to live in such a way as to benefit others, including ourselves.
“I don’t know what to say, except it’s Christmas, and we’re all in misery.”- Ellen Griswold
There is a lot going on over the next few months, meals, gifts, more meals, cookies, and of course, people. There are two themes I want to address in this post, nostalgia, and happiness.
Nostalgia is related to autobiographical memory. Autobiographical memory is not just one thing, rather it is a broad category of memories related to one’s life. The information found in these memories can range from basic details of the past to intricate and vivid impressions of individual experiences.
These memories create a person’s internal life story. Nostalgia is a sentimentality for the past. This can be places or periods of time, or the past in general. Nostalgia sells during this time of the year. The problem though, as some would argue, is that nostalgia can distort the truth, that it is a form of self-deception.
Happiness is related to joy and is an emotion of pleasure. Happiness is an emotion ranging from contentment to intense joy. Moments of happiness may be triggered by positive life experiences or thoughts, but sometimes it may arise from no obvious cause. Happiness as a concept sells books, stumps philosophers, and motivates economists. The television ads over the next few weeks will lull you into the belief that if you buy this thing, hang out with those people, and engage in that experience, you will experience happiness.
But what if you do not? What if this season is not for you? Or is it just another day on the calendar? This certainly marks my feelings around this time of year. I have never been a Thanksgiving or Christmas kind of guy. As a kid with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, holidays were miserable. Too many people, too many expectations and in return, always getting yelled at. As an adult then, when I became a pastor, I was slightly more excited for the holidays, only because I got to preach and teach about their true meaning.
It is Okay to Be Sad
Consider these statistics from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America:
- In 2020, an estimated 14.8 million U.S. adults aged 18 or older had at least one major depressive episode with severe impairment in the past year. NIMH: Major Depressive Disorder
- Rates of depression were higher among young adults between the ages of 18 and 29. CDC
- Around 39% of adults with major depressive episodes did not receive treatment. NIMH: Major Depressive Disorder
- 10.6% of physician office visits with depression indicated on the medical record. CDC
- 4.6% of adults aged 18 and over with regular feelings of depression. CDC
- An estimated 4.1 million adolescents aged 12 to 17 in the United States had at least one major depressive episode.
- The rates of depression have been rising among adolescents in the United States. Greater than 1 in 20 children aged 6 to 17 in the United States, in 2011-2012, were found to have current anxiety or depression by parent report. (Bitsko et al 2018)
- About 60% of adolescents with a major depressive episode did not get treatment. NIMH: Major Depressive Disorder
I am a mental health clinician who regularly sees around 100 clients a month. 95% of these clients are dealing with some sort of depression. The reality is that depression is real and not some challenge or obstacle that God put in your path to make you stronger. Depression is a debilitating disorder that once it gets into you, it sometimes takes a long time to get free from and on to the road to recovery. As a clinician, the best thing you can do for yourself and the theme of this post is self-care, talk to a therapist, your doctor or even a psychiatrist, a medical doctor who is extensively trained in the medical area of mental health and who will know what pharmaceutical therapies are appropriate for your depression presentation. With proper care, you can get better, become more resilient and reclaim your authentic self.
Depression is a debilitating disorder that once it gets into you, it sometimes takes a long time to get free from and on to the road to recovery. As a clinician, the best thing you can do for yourself and the theme of this post is self-care, talk to a therapist, your doctor or even a psychiatrist, a medical doctor who is extensively trained in the medical area of mental health and who will know what pharmaceutical therapies are appropriate for your depression presentation. With proper care, you can get better, become more resilient and reclaim your authentic self.
How Trauma Interrupts Nostalgia
One of the biggest challenges I face as a clinician is the persistent presence of trauma. In the way I practice as a clinician, I focus a lot on helping the client understand how the past has impacted their future, specifically with their family. If the holidays are not your thing there and you have been alive during the last 75 years, chances are you have family dynamic issues that make family gatherings less than ideal. From parenting practices that encouraged hitting and screaming at your child to sexist practices that endangered our children, there is a lot of room for trauma in how we navigate the next few months. Sometimes, the good old days were not so great. Grandpa drank too much and got into fights with the uncles. That uncle who propositioned you when you were 16 is going to be at the dinner, he is in his 80’s now, and he would not hurt anyone now, the past is the past, your family says.
Trauma is a real condition and one that you cannot control. When you have been exposed to something bad or even something tremendously terrible, especially if it was chronic, your brain is programed for high alert. When you are triggered, say by the mention of the uncle or the smell of alcohol, your brain goes into fight or flight mode and you may experience feelings of fear, sadness. These then look like shutting down, crying, or even becoming argumentative. If any of these symptoms are familiar to you, talking to a therapist can help you process these painful memories or emotions.
The Spiritual Practice of You – Self Care
The spiritual practice of you enhances your authenticity. Each of us is a work of progress, we are all on the road to becoming. Are we worthy of our finitude? Of what we are becoming? Are you more than your depression, you fears? I believe God thinks you are, and I certainly believe you are.
Consider this opening line of many Buddhist texts –
‘Oh nobly born, oh you who are the sons and daughters of the awakened ones, the Buddhas and the bodhisattvas. Do not forget who you really are, do not forget your true nature.
In Christianity, we can say, do not forget who you really are, you are all potential seats of the Christ, we all hold the true Christ-nature in us, we are seats of love.
The practice of you then in this context is to seek help, pace yourself this season and allow yourself to take a break if you need it.
Anxiety and Depression Association of America (n.d.). Depression Facts and Statistics. Depression Facts and Statistics. Retrieved November 12, 2023, from https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/depression/facts-statistics