Another tragedy struck Florida this week.
I hate to say this is becoming common place – may that not be true! But at the very least when people are senselessly shot down, we are left with questions, anger and sorrow.
But a tragedy isn’t the only situation that can set off the 3 “D” words. Sometimes it’s past trauma or something as simple as a difficult day. Maybe they’re set off by prolonged distress like abuse or bullying. Perhaps we’ve managed to survive for years when one of them, or all three, strike, leaving us reeling.
What are those words?
Depression. Despair. Destruction.
From the limited information I’ve heard, I would guess that the young man who open fired at the school in Parkland, Florida experienced those emotions. And certainly the families devastated by his actions will grapple with them.
So how do we handle depression, despair and destructive patterns?
I’m not a psychologist. I don’t have formal training. I don’t claim to be any kind of expert. But I’ve experienced all of these feelings at some point in my life, and I’ve talked with others who have struggled to get a grip in the wake of these emotions. Along the way, I’ve learned some information that has helped me.
Maybe if we each learned to cope with our feelings of depression, despair and destruction and noticed the indication of those emotions in others, we could help lessen future incidents of violence that result from hurting hearts.
First, I want to acknowledge that there can be chemical and hormonal reasons for depression. For some people, medication may be the answer. I don’t propose that someone who is being helped by medication should not take it or feel bad about taking it. Each individual needs to do what’s best for them. Here are a couple of things that have helped me:
- A dear pastor friend once told me that depression was caused by something being “pressed down” in my life, thoughts or heart. So I learned that whenever I feel depressed I should ask myself “What are you pressing down?” Usually, it’s sorrow, disappointment or frustration created by some previous incident, and I haven’t allowed myself to process, cry, talk, grieve or somehow deal with my feelings. Maybe I’ve been too busy, or thought I shouldn’t feel that way or tried to pass it off as no big deal. It’s usually a far bigger deal than I think if it leaves me feeling depressed. Sometimes I’m not sure what my feelings are or why, but I believe God knows. So I ask him. The Bible says:
“Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” Jeremiah 33:3
- I had to learn how I process situations and the emotions arising from them. Some people process internally, mulling over things until they can sort them in their head. Others process externally. I’m one of those. I think of it as dumping the contents of my purse on the table. When I see it all, I can keep or discard what I need. I have to talk out loud about things, sometimes more than once, in order to sort through it. If I try to process internally, I become depressed. Likewise, for some internal processors, if they’re forced to talk about something before they’ve had time to think, they may feel depressed by their inability to pinpoint what is in their heart or head. How do you process? It’s good to know and act according to how you best function. Whether you are internal or external, it’s good to talk to God and a trusted friend about your feelings when the time is right for you. God says in Hebrews 4:16 that we can approach him with confidence. He understands what we’re going through.
- Sometimes we need to do some simple, everyday, ordinary task. Take out the trash, get dressed, make a bed or take a shower. Just one task at a time. And then another one when we’re ready. In the Bible, the prophet Elijah was depressed. He’d just had a show down with an evil woman and was exhausted. An angel came to him and said
“Arise and eat.” I Kings 19:5
No earth shattering advice or vision or deep spiritual explanation. Just get up and eat. Sometimes God tells us to do something ordinary.
“…His inspiration is to do the most natural, simple things– things we would never have imagined God was in, but as we do them we find him there.” Oswald Chambers
- A change of scenery can change a perspective. Often when I am feeling depressed, I’d rather lie in bed than go out and face the world. But sometimes getting out to another setting even if it’s simply going outside for a little while can shift my thinking. Isolation begets depression so even when I feel I can’t be around people, interacting with others, especially if I’m doing something to serve them, is exactly with I need to break out of a depressed state.
These actions help me when I’m feeling depressed. I pray they will be helpful to you as well.
Next week we’ll look at the next “D” word: despair.
What helps you when you’re feeling depressed?