Ten Tips in Taming Your Depression

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1. Do not expect too much from yourself too soon, as this will only accentuate feelings of failure. Avoid setting difficult goals or taking on ambitious new responsibilities until you’ve solidly begun a structured treatment process.
2. Break large tasks into small ones, set some priorities, and do what can be done, as it can be done.
3. Recognize patterns in your mood. Like many people with depression, the worst part of the day for you may be the morning. Try to arrange your schedule accordingly so that the demands are the least in the morning. For example, you may want to shift your meetings to midday or the afternoon.
4. Participate in activities that may make you feel better. Try exercising, going to a movie or a ball game, or participating in church or social activities. At a minimum, such activities may distract you from the way you feel and allow the day to pass more quickly.
5. You may feel like spending all day in bed, but do not. While a change in the duration, quality and timing of sleep is a core feature of depression, a reversal in sleep cycle (such as sleeping during daytime hours and staying awake at night) can prolong recovery. Give others permission to wake you up in the morning. Schedule “appointments” that force you to get out of the house before 11 a.m. Do this scheduling the night before; waiting until the morning to decide what you will be doing ensures you will do nothing.
6. Don’t get upset if your mood is not greatly improved right away. Feeling better takes time. Do not feel crushed if after you start getting better, you find yourself backsliding. Sometimes the road to recovery is like a roller coaster ride.
7. People around you may notice improvement in you before you do. You may still feel just as depressed inside, but some of the outward manifestations of depression may be receding.
8. Try not to make major life decisions (such as changing jobs or getting married or divorced) without consulting others who know you well and who have a more objective view of your situation.
9. Do not expect to snap out of your depression on your own by an exercise of will power. This rarely happens. Many churches and communities have depression support groups. Connect with people who understand depression and the recovery process.
10. Remind yourself that your negative thinking is part of the depression and will disappear as the depression responds to treatment.

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article, by New Life Ministries

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A Failure to Understand [An Excerpt]

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Excerpt from “A Firm Place to Stand”

BY MARJA BERGEN

I’m disappointed when friends and family who know me well say things that reveal a gross misunderstanding of depression and how it affects those of us who suffer from it. One person close to me thought depression was something we bring on when we feel sorry for ourselves. Perhaps she thought we liked the attention.

Sufferers of depression would do anything to feel happy and vibrant again. When I’m depressed, many friends keep me at arm’s length. I don’t blame them. It’s not pleasant to be around me when I can’t find anything to talk about except my pain. Depression does that to you: It turns your thinking inward; all you can wrap your mind around is the misery you feel. You end up feeling very alone.

Another person complained to me about an acquaintance with depression who couldn’t manage to do anything more than lie on the sofa. “Couldn’t he just try and make himself do something?” she asked. Nothing I said could convince her that this was an illness that, like other illnesses, couldn’t be helped by simple willpower. Those who have never experienced depression find it difficult to understand how profoundly a brain disorder can affect the entire body.

A long time ago, when I was bordering on psychosis, my doctor put me in a seniors’ care facility for a few days to give me relief from the stress I faced at home. I called a close family member to let her know where I was. She advised me, “You’ve got to pull yourself together and be strong. You have to try harder.” That was insensitive. I was at the facility because I was doing my best to recover – I wasn’t living with eighty and ninety-year-olds for fun. She should have known I always try my best. When I’m trapped in this state, extricating myself is extremely hard. I need time and medication to recover. If I sound angry and hurt, yes, I was.

A person I worked with recommended strongly that I get counseling. “You don’t need those pills you’re taking. All you need is to talk to someone at my church.” She knew nothing about mental disorders like mine. She had no idea what I was dealing with. Again, I seethed, remembering how psychotic I was when I was first admitted to hospital. I could become sick like that again if I didn’t take the medication my mental stability depended on. Would this person tell a diabetic to stop taking insulin?

Christian psychiatrist and author, Dwight L. Carlson, writes, “There are legions of God-fearing Christians who – to the best of their ability – are walking according to the Scriptures and yet are suffering from emotional symptoms. Many of them have been judged for their condition and given half-truths and clichés by well-meaning but ill-informed fellow believers. ‘Pray for God’s forgiveness,’ some are told. ‘A person who is right with the Lord can’t have a nervous breakdown.’”

Fortunately, I have not been treated in this way. The church congregations I’ve belonged to were understanding, yet the stigma continues. It hurts me deeply that Christians who should be compassionate are often judgmental. Church communities need to learn the medical basis for mental disorders and how that differs from the spiritual. They are in the best position to help those in crisis. But when they don’t understand, they are in danger of doing a lot of damage. For Christians, there is nothing worse than to be told our emotional problems are our own fault, the result of unconfessed sin. We suffer so much already. Having to shoulder blame multiplies our mental anguish.

 

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1 Dwight L. Carlson, Why do Christians Shoot Their Wounded? Helping (Not Hurting) Those With Emotional Difficulties,(InterVarsity Press, 1994)

Marja Bergen has lived with bipolar disorder for over forty years. Her mission is to dispel the lingering stigma attached to mental health conditions and to encourage people to lovingly welcome the sufferers into congregations by understanding them better and supporting them in practical ways.

She is the author of Riding the Roller Coaster (Northstone, 1999) and A Firm Place to Stand: Finding Meaning in a Life with Bipolar Disorder (Word Alive). Marja is the founder of the growing faith-based support group ministry, Living Room.  Visit her website and her blog.

 

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Instability and the Believer

I feel good, too good— and it concerns me.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, I’veBipolarArt4 been down this road before.  I guess this is my big issue with Bipolar Disorder (BP);  its unpredictability, the way you  fluctuate.  You get up in the morning and you immediately have to start analyzing your mood.  “Am I more depressed than I was yesterday, or I am speeding up?”  For  BP persons we never can be too sure.  We are always in a state of flux or movement.  As BPs who are believers in Jesus, it seems like we have broke “every rule in the book.” This disorder almost demands hypocrisy– which instills a lot of guilt and shame.

About 35 years ago, a visiting pastor to our church came up to me and prophesied. This was long before I was diagnosed with Bipolar.   I can’t remember much, but I do recall him saying, “You are as unstable as water”.  I tell you, I was quite concerned about this; and to make it worse I put a real negative spin on it.  It was stability that we emulated, and frankly, water is not the best metaphor to describe your life.  Rock, yes.  Water, well… not so much.

But I can see now that instability has made me a deeper, more tolerant person.  I give a lot of latitude to other’s shortcomings.  I know how difficult it is to process life and to face issues.  Because I do this “yo-yo” thing, I can accept inconsistency as a normal part of life.  I realize that I’m not perfect, nor is anyone else I know, but I’m learning to make allowances for it.  Sometimes, just being aware is half the battle. And I suppose, understanding God’s grace would be the other.

On a practical level, I’ve also determined that caffeine really can activate me.  The anxiety and mania really intensifies when I load up on my ‘vanilla lattes.’  Coffee elevates me up almost to the point of being superhuman, but I also get real flaky.  I get terribly self-conscious and paranoid.  But, sometimes it’s a real hoot!  (Sorry, but man, I do love my coffee.)

Well, I’m running out of things to comment about, and I’m thinking that I’ve said quite enough.  But, if you’re struggling today, please let me know.  I will pray for you and connect back on some level.  Whatever your issue, we are in this together.  God answers everyone who calls to Him. 

12 “And I want you to know, my dear brothers and sisters, that everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News. 13 For everyone here, including the whole palace guard, knows that I am in chains because of Christ. 14 And because of my imprisonment, most of the believers here have gained confidence and boldly speak God’s message without fear.”

Philippians 1:12-14, NLT

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Becoming Manic: What You Can Do

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Top tips for coping

These are a list of things that people who have difficulties when they become high or manic have found helpful:

  • Try to get some sleep. Going without sleep has been shown to cause manic states and make them last longer.
  • Eat well. Don’t go without food or eat high energy food. Eat slowly.
  • Use relaxation techniques.  Quiet prayer works well right now.
  • Stay in bed even though you feel compelled to do lots of things.
  • Don’t act on your ideas. In a few days time you may see things completely differently.  Emailing friends now is dangerous. (I know).
  • Don’t buy anything expensive. Some people have found it helpful to give their credit cards/check book to friends.  (I tried to buy a 7 foot potted tree in London, UK once, because it was lonely.)
  • Use medication, herbal remedies, or other things that slow you down and/or help you sleep.  Think “speed bumps”.
  • Take relaxing (rather than high energy) exercise e.g. walking, swimming.  This is a must-do.
  • Make a plan for each day and keep to it. Don’t plan to do too much.
  • Try to do things slowly rather than quickly. Talk and walk consciously slower than you feel driven to.
  • Challenge any grandiose ideas you might have about yourself.  You must do this!
  • Reduce any pressures or stresses on you.
  • Cut out stimulants e.g. coffee, sugar, chocolate, fizzy drinks, alcohol. Some anti-depressants (e.g. the SSRIs like Prozac) can have stimulant-like effects – discuss this with your doctor and consider stopping them.

It may be helpful for you to make a plan about what to do before you get really elevated. You know yourself best, so build as many things into the plan that you feel will help you not do things you may later regret. It may be helpful to draw up a plan, and a list of ‘warning signs’, with a trusted friend or mental health professional at a time when you are not ‘high’, but that can be put into place as you or others notice your warning signs.

Some people believe that ‘getting manic’ is a response to not thinking about or facing things that might be quite frightening or depressing. It might be helpful to ‘get connected’ to such things, by talking and thinking about your life and some of the root causes of some unhappiness in your life. You could do this with a trusted friend or mental health professional.

 

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