For the last few weeks I have been struggling with depression. We have recently had some painful things happen in our family, which I won’t describe. I have experienced periodic depression over the years, but it has been a long time since I have felt really low. This took me by surprise. I know that abused women and those formerly abused often struggle with depression. Therefore, I will talk about dealing with depression today.
What is depression?
Wikipedia defines depression as: a state of low mood and aversion to activity that can have a negative effect on a person’s thoughts, behavior, feelings, world view, and physical well-being. Depressed people may feel sad, anxious, empty, hopeless, worried, helpless, worthless, guilty, irritable, hurt, or restless. They may lose interest in activities that once were pleasurable, experience loss of appetite or overeating, have problems concentrating, remembering details, or making decisions, and may contemplate or attempt suicide. Insomnia, excessive sleeping, fatigue, loss of energy, or aches, pains, or digestive problems that are resistant to treatment may also be present.
Depressed mood is not necessarily a psychiatric disorder. It is a normal reaction to certain life events, a symptom of some medical conditions, and a side effect of some medical treatments. Depressed mood is also a primary or associated feature of certain psychiatric syndromes such as clinical depression.
Since I write primarily to women who are in abusive relationships, I would like to first address the likelihood that you are depressed because the person who is supposed to love you is treating you with disrespect. He may call you names, treat you as if you are worthless, order you around like you are a servant, take your money, (or forbid you to have a job); keep you from friends or family, etc. In other words, you are being abused. If this describes your life, it is no wonder you feel depressed.
If you would like to change the circumstances of your life, I recommend you read my blog on safety planning. Please read on for some ideas for handling depression.
I am not a counselor, or a doctor. I advise anyone who is severely depressed to go to his or her doctor. But, for those of us who periodically suffer from mild depression, I thought I would share some of what I’ve learned as I’ve gone through this process myself.
Here are some ideas for relieving depression:
Counseling – seek a registered counselor. Your local women’s crisis center has lists of counselors who are trained in domestic violence, and many of them work on a sliding fee scale, (i.e. they charge what a client can afford). Another resource is Focus on the Family (1-800-AFAMILY), which has lists of Christian counselors all over the country.
Note: I STRONGLY recommend you DO NOT seek couples counseling with your abuser. This is not safe for you. Check out my blog describing My Experience with Couples Counseling.
Antidepressants – are prescription medications used to relieve the symptoms of depression. These can be a lifesaver for many people. There is no shame in taking antidepressants. Taking them does not mean you are “weak”, or “crazy” or a “bad Christian”. Many strong, wonderful people take them, including me :).
For those who need them, it is equivalent to taking medicine to relieve high blood pressure. Clinical depression is a chemical imbalance in your brain that medication can help relieve.
Visit your doctor to discern whether antidepressants would help you.
Raise Your Serotonin levels – My husband, who is a counselor wanted me to recommend natural, free ideas for increasing serotonin levels. Serotonin is a naturally occurring chemical in the brain (a neurotransmitter) that is responsible, in part, for regulating brain functions such as mood, appetite, sleep, and memory. It is often called the “happy transmitter”. When a person’s serotonin is low, they might feel depressed.
Here are some ways to naturally raise your serotonin levels:
Exercise: 30 minutes of high intensity exercise (like aerobics) 3 times a week or 30 minutes of moderate exercise (like walking) 5 times a week.
Chocolate: (in small doses) Not all types of chocolates work for depression. Only chocolate which is dark in color and bitter in taste can help relieve you from depression. Milk chocolate, candy bars, ice cream will have the opposite effect.
Sun Bath: Sitting in the sun daily for 15-20 minutes works very well and is highly recommended by doctors. It is a proven fact that people living in areas with little sunshine are more prone to depression than people living areas with plenty of sunshine. Sunlight is difficult to find in some areas is during the winter. I know there are lamps you can sit in front of, but taking a walk outside might just do the trick, (getting exercise and sunlight at the same time!) Or, try sitting in front of a sunny window, reading a good book.
Spend Time with Friends: When I am depressed, I usually want to isolate myself. This is the worst thing for me to do. If I push past this instinct and call a friend, I feel better. If you are feeling severely depressed, you may not have the energy to leave the house to meet a friend, but may be able to make a phone call. Let your friend support you. Be honest about your feelings, and what is going on in your life.
Laughter: When you are depressed, you may not find anything funny. Try watching a standup comedian, or a favorite funny movie.
Sex: if you are in a good, loving relationship, try having sex. Again, you may not feel like it, but the serotonin rush may be worth it. Also, the connection with the person you love will improve your mood.
All these ideas are good, and I have tried most of them. In my next blog, I will talk about what I did to pull myself out of my latest bout of depression.
Lord, I pray now for all those who are suffering from depression. Feeling depressed is so painful. People that have never experienced this cannot understand how debilitating it can be, and have a hard time empathizing with a depressed person. Nothing seems to help, Lord, and everything feels so hopeless. I pray that You will walk closely with those who are feeling depressed, and that they will be able to feel your presence. Give them courage and the will to try some of the suggestions I have made. In Your name, Amen.
May the Lord bless you all today,
 Blue, L. (2010, June, 19). Is Exercise the Best Drug for Depression? Time Health and Family. Retrieved February 27, 2013, from http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1998021-2,00.html