When your soul, heart, and mind are blanketed by the darkness of mental illness, you begin to think living is dreadful and hopeless. Many attempt suicide. Some succeed. Those who are suffering often think there is no way out of their inner pain and the only way is to end their lives. They often think life is not worth living if it’s meant to be such misery. What they can’t see is that recovery is possible. There is more to life than their saddened hearts can see. Life is a gift worth fighting for and worth living.
Why is life worth living? I’ll give you many reasons. Reasons that took me time to find, but I’m glad I did. These reasons kept me alive when I thought taking my life was the only way to ease my anguish. Maybe they will help you.
- There is a future waiting for you: a happy, productive, and beautiful future. You may not see it right now, but it’s there. It’s standing within the light of recovery. If you listen carefully, it’s calling to you and promising you many things. Maybe a husband, maybe good grades, maybe college, maybe a good job, and most of all, happiness. Right now you may think there is no such thing as happiness, but there is and you have to keep living to find it.
- There are new friendships to build. Right now you may feel lonely, but there are people out there who may not know it, but are ready to meet you and become your friend. We don’t know who we will one knows meet in the future, but God upstairs knows. God has special people to place in your life. Friends who will last a short time, but make a big impact, friends who may hurt you, but leave you with a lesson to learn and make you stronger, and friends who will stay at your side for many years no matter what happens.
Those special friends who stand at your side will be there no matter how many miles separate you, no matter how rough things get, and even through disagreements. Many types of friends are out there waiting for you. Forever, fleeting, and casual. They are worth living for.
- There are wonderful memories to create. Life is full of memories waiting to be made. Memories of laughter, ones of trips you may want to take, ones of babies being born (yours or ones in the family), ones with your loved ones, and many more. Memories are all around you patiently waiting for you to live them and for them to become engraved in your heart and mind. There will always be bad ones that sneak in, but the good ones stay with you forever and shine brightly when days seem bleak.
- There is true love to be found and loved ones to enjoy. If you haven’t found your one and only, he or she is out there wandering this earth looking for you. God has a special time for you to meet. He has planned it all out for you. He has picked the perfect day and time for you to meet him or her. If you’re not around, how will you ever find him or her?
Then there are the loved ones you have. The loved ones you have can be your family and also friends who are like family. They care about you very much and they need you as much as you need them. Enjoy spending time with them, laughing with them, creating those memories with them, and sharing good and bad times with them. Watching your children or nieces and nephews grow, having dinner with your grandparents or friends, having long talks with your parents, teasing your siblings, hanging out with your friend, and so on.
- There is the beauty of nature to enjoy. Quiet walks in the woods or in a park, the feel of sand between your toes, the kiss of a summer breeze, the awe of a sunset, the warmth of the sun soaking into your skin, and much more. Just enjoy the simple miracle of God’s creation.
If all of these are not worth living for then what is? Life is a precious gift from God and he has filled it with many things to make it wonderful. It may be hard to see all these wonderful reasons to live, but they are there. If you take your life, you’ll never get a chance to find them and enjoy them. Fight your illness with all that’s in you, fight to live your life and fight to see what lies ahead of you. Think hard of all you would miss if you took your life, and reconsider. Life is a wonderful thing that should be nourished and lived to the fullest. So I say to you, live as if you have never lived before and strive to live life to the fullest.
I’m glad I never succeeded in taking my life. Because I chose to live, I watched my nieces and nephews grow up, I met the love of my life, I have held my great niece while I waited for another one to come, I have created many memories, I have celebrated my Grandma’s ninety-first birthday with her, and much more. Life is worth living and since I have chosen to live it to the fullest, I stand in the light.
Mental illness can also be classified as a disability. The dictionary defines a disability as “a condition (such as an illness or an injury) that damages or limits a person’s physical or mental abilities.” Mental illness does affect a person’s physical and mental abilities. It can be debilitating at times, and it can affect your ability to focus, make decisions, and think clearly. For some, their illness is so bad they are unable to work or function in society. Some need extra help. There are many who fall in a rut. They let their illness take over and they don’t even try to work or function. They just let the word “disability” define them as incapable to do anything when they are more than capable.
I never considered my mental illness a disability. I saw it as another obstacle I had to work around. Even though I could barely get myself out of bed, I felt exhausted all day, I couldn’t keep much food down, and I struggled to concentrate, I never thought that my abilities were hindered. Despite my illness, I continued to go to my college classes and pass with good grades. It wasn’t easy, but I forced myself to keep going.
However, once my illness did become overwhelming and I had to take time off from college. During my time off, I could have given up and lay in bed all day. I did feel like my life was over and I was a failure, but something in me pushed me to keep going. I hit the bottom of the hole. I was injuring, suicidal, depressed, and unable to sleep at night. My thoughts were out of control and my soul was blanketed in darkness. I needed time off from school to take care of my illness, but staying home and doing nothing would have only made things worse. So I started looking for a job. First I started working at a fast food restaurant, and when they wouldn’t give me enough hours, I got a job at a grocery store. I had to make myself go to work despite the anguish that burned so deeply in my soul. I was sick, but was not unable to do anything. I had to keep going.
I made mistakes with my schedule. One day, I thought I was off when I was supposed to work. I couldn’t remember the prices in the bakery department, and I was too depressed to talk to other employees. I could have easily given up and collected social security disability, but I refused to. I had to work around my illness and keep myself going. I started therapy and moved to the front end of the grocery store as a bagger. In time I made friends, started going out, and started to feel some relief from my illness. Once I reached recovery, I returned to college and got my degree.
Years later, when I fell back down the hole, I was hospitalized after being in an abusive relationship. I was determined I was not going to stay in the hospital long. I knew I had a long road to recovery, but nothing was going to stop me. I left the hospital within a week. I took time off from work. My therapist insisted I go on social security disability, but I told her, “No.” I said, “I want to work and I’m not disabled.” My therapist was upset. She was sure I could no longer handle my job, but I didn’t agree.
I didn’t want to give up. I knew the road to recovery was hard, but I had to fight for it. My illness never made anything easy for me, nor did my learning disability, but I have always been up for a challenge. I could have easily taken the SSD and sat home and wallowed in my misery, but that wasn’t me. I had to work. I had to get out of the house and be around people. I had to keep going. To me, staying home and letting myself be labeled as disabled was giving up. I was never a quitter and never will be. I fought to graduate from school despite my learning disability, and I sure wasn’t going to stop fighting to keep working and being a productive part of society.
Even though you have an illness that affects your abilities physically and mentally, it doesn’t mean you are unable to do anything. Don’t let your illness stop you from doing what you want to. It’s not easy to work around your sickness, but it is possible. Don’t look at your illness as just a disability, but also as a challenge. You can work, you can become a part of society, and you can function. It will be hard, but you can do it. Don’t give up on yourself. Fight for recovery, fight to keep going, fight to finish college, fight to work a job, and fight to get up each morning. You can do it.
Having a mental illness didn’t stop me from graduating from college, it didn’t stop me from keeping the same job for twenty-two years, it didn’t stop me from making friends, it didn’t stop me from writing my memoir, and it didn’t stop me from reaching recovery. Because I view my illness as an obstacle instead of a disability, nothing stands in my way. I’m reaching for the stars with my writing. Since I let nothing stand in my way, I feel as if I am floating within the light.
Many who suffer with mental illness do so in silence. They often tell no one of the pain that burns throughout their souls or the feelings that rip at their insides. They put on masks so no one will suspect the sadness they feel. They often carry the burden of their illness alone and feel as if they have no choice. Why? Because they fear no one will understand what is happening within them and no one wants to be troubled with their problems. They often think they are the only ones in the world who could possibly feel the way they do. They feel like they are all alone in a world of happy people.
Throughout my childhood, I struggled with darkness in my soul and with feelings I didn’t understand. I kept my thoughts and inner anguish to myself. I felt no one would understand what was happening to me. How could they? I didn’t even understand it. So I told no one. I often felt like I was alone in a house hold of six–four children and two adults. The problem was my feelings bubbled up inside me like a boiling pot and they burned my insides. I had no outlet for them. Instead, they haunted me night and day. I got into fights with my siblings, especially my brother. I was extra sensitive to everything.
I argued with my parents and drove them to their wits’ end. They often asked me what was wrong, but I couldn’t tell them. Then my emotions became extremely painful and out of control. My mood would change suddenly. I flew off into angry fits. I yelled, I cried, and I threw things.
My parents would sit me down when I was calmer, but a blubbering mess. “Aimee, tell us what’s wrong. Why are you acting like this?”
I’d whimper, “I’m upset with the kids at school. Everyone hates me. I’m not as smart as them.”
I wanted to tell them I was dying inside. I was drowning in sadness and my emotions were out of control. I wanted to cry out, “Something is wrong and I can’t explain it. Please help me,” but I couldn’t. Instead I made excuses for my behavior. I feared they would never understand and I was all alone.
For years I felt I was the only one who felt such awful things. I thought my illness was my own burden to carry. I did try to tell a friend in letters, and she let her mom, an old teacher of mine, read my letters. Her mom forbade us to see each other and said I was a bad influence. This led to us sneaking around to spend time together and her abusing me. This confirmed me no one understood my pain and I went back into silence. Injuring became my only outlet and only way to cope.
My mom spotted some of my injuries and I lied to her about how I got them. I couldn’t explain to her why I was hurting myself. I knew she wouldn’t understand. So I just worked harder at hiding my injuries while I slipped deeper and deeper to the bottom of my dark hole. One day I couldn’t hide it anymore. I broke down and confided in my mom. I thought she’d turn away, but instead she went out of her way to find me help. I was suddenly no longer alone.
Years later after some time of recovery, I fell back into depression. My emotional outbursts and mood swings became more frequent. Once again I thought I was the only one who felt out of control. When I was hospitalized, I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. In the hospital I found many who were suffering with the same problems. After my hospitalization, I started group therapy and found people who knew exactly what I was going through. In time I started going to a self-injury support group and I made a friend. I was no longer alone.
You may feel like you’re all alone and no one will ever understand what you’re going through, but you’re not. Don’t suffer alone. Tell someone you trust what you’re going through, a friend or a family member. Go to therapy. A therapist can be like a friend in some ways. Join groups on and off line. Reach out to people whom you trust and you’ll find people who care and want to help. You will find some people who don’t understand mental illness, but don’t worry about them. If you look around you, there just might be more people than you know suffering with similar problems. When I opened up, I found other people I knew who also had mental illness and like me were hiding it. Remember, you’re not alone. There are people who care and others who know what you are going through. There is also help.
Since I let people know I had mental illness, I have found a strong support system and others who are struggling. I even found a very supportive husband. With my support system and my husband I am never alone. Now that I have people to turn to when things get tough, I stand strong within the light.
Who knows why some people get illnesses–like cancer, diabetes, multiple sclerosis and other illness–and others don’t? Scientists and doctors try to find links to why people get ill. They have theories, but no absolute answers. We ourselves question why. We ask, why me? What have I done wrong? I try to stay healthy, I exercise, I try to eat right, and so on. How could this happen to me? People with mental illness have similar thoughts. Sometimes they feel they brought their own illness on themselves. They blame themselves for having an illness they have no control over.
When I was suffering from my illness, I lay awake in bed at night staring up at the ceiling and trying to figure out what I did to cause my illness. Did I put the awful thoughts in my mind? Did I do something that caused my mental illness? Maybe I’m making myself sick. Maybe my sadness isn’t real. Maybe my illness was a figment of my imagination and I was just using it for attention, but if that was the case, why couldn’t I stop it?
I’d twist around in bed trying to figure out how I was causing my illness. There were plenty of others walking around with smiles on their faces and laughing like they didn’t have a care in the world. How come they could be happy and all I felt was sadness? Did I do something to make God punish me? Did I lie about something, did I cheat someone, did I break one of God’s commandments, or maybe I wasn’t a good person?
I screamed into the silent night, “What did I do wrong? God, please tell me what I did to cause my illness and I’ll make it right.”
There never was an answer. I just lay in bed fighting my racing thoughts and anguish. My insides twisted into knots and sleep became impossible. If I wasn’t to blame for my misery, who was? In my distorted thoughts I could find no one to hold responsible for my inner pain but myself. I even thought maybe I deserved to suffer. I wasn’t a good Christian. I hated God. I stopped going to church. I questioned his existence. I thought maybe God was like Santa, make believe. I made God mad, therefore causing him to give me an awful illness.
There I had the proof I was to blame for my mental illness. I came up with my own evidence to convict myself. My sentence was a life of inner anguish, deep sadness, emotional episodes, getting sick to my stomach, sleepless nights and inner pain so deep nothing seemed to ease it but hurting myself. I didn’t even get a trial or a chance to prove my innocence. I was automatically thrown down into a dark endless hole.
It wasn’t until I started going to therapy that I found out I was all wrong. My therapist told me I had an illness that could have been caused by many factors, such as the harassment I received in school, by inheritance or a chemical imbalance in my brain. She told me I didn’t cause my illness and no one could really know why I had it while others didn’t. Just like no one knew why one person had cancer and another didn’t. Maybe we’ll never know why. It’s just one of those things. She told me by no means was I to blame for my illness and my illness was real, not something I made up.
In time I started going to church, and with the help of a friend, I asked God back into my life. I realized God was never punishing me and even though I turned my back on him he was always there. He waited patiently for me to come back to him and he kept me going when I didn’t think I could. He kept me alive when I tried to take my life. He was never mad at me for questioning his existence, and even though I did, he stayed beside me.
Once I reached recovery, he helped me use my illness to write this blog, to write for a website, to write inspirational quotes for a web page, and to write my memoir to help others. I turned my back on him and he forgave me. He has opened doors for me. I use my experiences to help and reach others suffering with similar problems. I didn’t suffer for no reason. Now I have a purpose. I suffered to inspire, help, and teach others. Despite what I have done, God was there for me and still is.
If you’re blaming yourself for your mental illness, stop. You’re not to blame. You didn’t do anything wrong. Once you accept that there are natural and environmental causes that are out of your hands for your sickness, then you can move forward. Let yourself off the hook. Accept your illness as something you didn’t cause and move towards recovery. No one is to blame for your illness, but you can be the one to overcome it by fighting to climb out of the hole and standing in the light.
Now that I know I’m not to blame for my illness, I can stand in God’s light and the gleaming light of recovery with joy.
When you are hurt by a friend or boyfriend, sometimes you write her or him a letter telling the person how you feel. It helps you get pent up feelings out. When you go through a traumatic event like abuse or rape, your therapist might suggest you write a letter to the person who hurt you to let go of the anger, pain, and anguish buried deep in you. After you write the letter, you bury it in a file or burn it. The letter may never be seen by the person, but the purpose is to help you find peace with what happened to you.
Have you ever thought of writing a letter to your illness? It will help you separate your illness from who you are, it will help you release your feelings toward it, and it will help encourage you to fight it. Your illness hurts you and pulls your feelings inside out, so why not tell it how you feel and what you think of it? Give it a try.
I’m in recovery, but I still have feelings about my illness so my letter is below.
Dear Mental Illness,
Most of my childhood I didn’t know what you were; I just knew something was tearing me apart bit by bit. You took a lot of my childhood away from me. I hurt my parents and siblings because of you. I felt so alone and sad because you drained everything bright and beautiful out of me. You sent me into fits of anger and I did stuff and said stuff I didn’t want to do or say. I hate you for that. You were so cruel and heartless. Did you even care what you were doing to me or how you were destroying me?
You tortured me and I was so scared of you that I kept my pain to myself. I tried to fight you on my own, but when my uncle was killed, you nearly broke my will to go on. Then when my cousin died in a car accident you pushed me so far down the hole of darkness I thought I’d never be able to climb out. You took away my will to live and made me try to take my life. Oh how I wanted to wrap my hands around your neck and squeeze the life out of you, just as you were doing to me. You made me sick to my stomach, you kept me up at night, and you caused my thoughts to race endlessly and my soul to linger in deep despair.
I just wanted to yell at you and tell you to leave me alone. You hurt me so badly and you were relentless. Oh how I despised you. All those years of my life you took from me and shoved me in misery. For a while I was free from you and during that time I made friends, I dated, and I had fun, but you came back. How could you do that to me? How could you come back and hurt me again? How could you send me back into the hole?
You took away my ability to make good decisions. I got into another abusive relationship and friends left me all because you had no mercy on me. I was even hospitalized, but in the hospital I decided you would no longer allow you to beat me down. I also decided I no longer wanted to live in your dark hole. I refused to allow you to rip me apart any longer. I fought you with all my strength over a period of several years. I punched you, I wrestled with you, I stood up to you, and I won. Years of battling you and I finally found strength to stand above you. You thought you could continue to destroy me, but this time I was stronger.
Sure, sometimes you send me into sadness and make me sick, but I am tough. You will never control me again. You are now just an obstacle in my life. I still get angry at you from time to time. You play games with me. No matter how hard you try, you will never push me down that hole again.
I won my battle with you and you lost.
Try writing a letter to your illness. Maybe it will help you feel better about it and give you the strength to fight it. It’ll help you look at your mental illness as an illness, not as a part of who you are. Let your feelings out in your letter, free your soul of the anger you have toward it and tell it what you think of it. You can keep the letter to remind you to keep fighting or you can burn it. Watching it burn can symbolize letting your illness float away while you put on your boxing gloves and fight it.
Writing my letter reminded me how far I have come, the journey I took, and the battle I won. It gave me closure to the anger I feel at having mental illness. Writing the letter and keeping it will help me stay within the light.
We all do stupid things or say the wrong thing that we feel bad for at one time or another. Sometimes we get mad at ourselves, but we chalk it up to being human. When you have a mental illness, you at times do and say things you don’t mean to. You feel like you have no control over your actions and you feel guilty for everything you do and say. You can’t let the guilt slide off your shoulders. Others might forgive you, but you can’t forgive yourself. You can’t just let it go. Your guilt eats at you.
It’s hard to forgive others who do you wrong, but it’s even harder to forgive yourself. Letting yourself off the hook isn’t as easy as saying, “I’m sorry.” How do you apologize to yourself? Do you need to? How do you forgive yourself? Can you?
When I was sick, I found myself easily irritated by the smallest things people did. I’d get into fights with my brother, smack one of my sisters for something as stupid as her tapping her fingers on a table, and I’d blame my mom for not caring about me when she went out of her way to be there for me. Later, once I sat alone and thought about what I’d said and done, I’d suddenly become overcome by guilt and self-hate would fill my soul. Internally I’d rip myself apart.
Thoughts would race through my mind:
- I’m a horrible person for hitting my brother.
- I’m a total jerk.
- I hate myself.
- Why am I so mean to my mom?
- I am an awful person.
- I don’t deserve to be loved by anyone.
My self-loathing thoughts would go on like an endless road. I punished myself quietly and this threw me deeper into darkness. I’d apologize endlessly to my family, and even though they said they forgave me, I couldn’t forgive myself.
Then there were the emotional episodes of my Borderline Personality Disorder. This illness made me feel helpless. I’d be okay one minute and suddenly an exploding bomb the next. I’d scream, throw things, and say awful stuff. I’d turn into a raging fire of anger and hate. My feelings were out of control and so was I. I tore apart anyone in my path and shattered anything I could place my hands on. I got into fights with my siblings and arguments with my parents. I could never seriously hurt anyone, but what I did do was bad enough.
I’d run to my room and crumble to the floor into a crying mess. I’d pull my legs to my chest and begin my round of self-punishment for my actions. I’d self-injure. When I was younger, I hurt myself by pulling my hair, and then when I got older, I started cutting. My family said they knew I didn’t mean it and they forgave me, but I didn’t forgive myself. I couldn’t.
I couldn’t forgive myself for what I did and said. I also couldn’t forgive myself for letting an illness of my mind take over my actions. I should have been stronger than my sickness. I should have known how to control myself. I shouldn’t have said such things nor done such things. I shouldn’t have allowed myself to have mental illness. There was no way I could forgive myself for all that.
In group therapy we went over ways to stop emotional episodes before they became out of control. In regular therapy we talked about how to forgive myself. My therapist told me I wasn’t to blame for my illness or the things I did because of my illness, but there were ways I could learn to take control of my actions before they had a chance to take control of me. Things like journaling my feelings, taking my anger out on a pillow or punching bag, practicing calming techniques, taking a deep breath, or walking away when I felt my emotions building.
Once I learned to take control of my illness, I was ready to forgive myself. Forgiving myself wasn’t easy and it’s very personal. It was a matter of accepting I had an illness and in no way was that my fault. I didn’t give myself mental illness and I didn’t do the things I did of my own free will. I did learn how to be responsible for my actions by learning ways to handle my emotions and behavior before they controlled me. I sat alone in my room and whispered to myself, “I forgive you.” These three words freed my soul.
When you’re struggling with mental illness and you do and say things you don’t mean to, don’t wallow in guilt. Let yourself off the hook. You didn’t ask to have such an illness. You don’t cause your deep sadness and you don’t purposely hurt others. You’re human and you have an illness. Instead of hating yourself and allowing your guilt to rip you apart, allow forgiveness to ease your anguish. Take the steps you need to find ways to take charge of your illness and reach recovery.
By forgiving myself and taking control of my illness, I was able to reach recovery. I now stand in the light soaking in its warmth.
When you are working towards recovery, you stumble, you slip, and you tumble, but do you give up? Do you say, “It’s not worth the fight if I can’t get better right away?” If your therapist isn’t helping, do you just quit therapy? When your therapist makes a suggestion you don’t like, do you walk away? The sad thing is many quit and never reach recovery. Why? Because they want to reach recovery overnight and they want their therapist to always be good and right. These people who give up end up in an endless cycle of despair and anguish. They never reach recovery; instead they sit at the bottom of their holes.
At the grocery store where I work, I recently waited on a nurse who works in a mental health hospital. I told her about my recovery and she told me, “It is so good to hear about someone who sees recovery through. So many get impatient and I see them often back in the hospital. If only they would keep fighting, they could reach recovery.” She is so right. If only more who suffer with mental illness were patient and willing to keep fighting there would be more of them enjoying recovery.
A woman I know is having mental health problems. She went to her doctor who referred her to a therapist. She went to a few appointments with the therapist. The therapist made suggestions she didn’t like so instead of telling her therapist or finding one she liked better, she quit going. She continues to struggle on a revolving cycle of deep sadness, hopelessness, and negativity. She goes to work and home. She finds the bad side to everything and has driven away some of her friends. When she is invited out, she finds a reason not to go. She may never reach recovery because she refuses to fight. Instead, she gave up on her chance for recovery.
Another woman I know has gone from psychiatrist to psychiatrist and therapist to therapist trying to find recovery. She has chosen to change her own medication because it’s not working as fast as she wants it to. She keeps searching for a fast road to recovery to only find herself falling back down the hole. She goes to her friends looking for comfort, and when they can’t give it to her, she turns away from them. She keeps giving up on those who are there to help her because she is impatient, so her sadness goes on and on.
I, too, at one time wanted a fast recovery. I wanted to be better right away. I didn’t want to wait. I just wanted my inner pain to end. I got mad at my therapist and at myself when I kept tumbling backwards. I was up and down. When I thought I was getting better, I slipped down into the hole. I felt that recovery was impossible, but a voice within me said, “Don’t give up. Keep fighting.”
I had a therapist tell me I was cutting to hurt others. Another therapist told me to think happy thoughts. One psychiatrist played around with my medication and I went through withdrawal. Another psychiatrist put me on a lot of antidepressants and even though I wasn’t improving, he wouldn’t do anything. I felt like quitting, but I didn’t. Instead, I tried out several therapists and psychiatrists until I found ones that I liked and ones that helped me.
Recovery took several years. I struggled through bouts of depression and anguish. I stumbled and tumbled down the hole, but I didn’t give up. Instead, I fought. I wanted to find happiness, I wanted a normal life, and most of all I wanted to reach recovery. So with determination I worked hard and I fought to climb up out of my hole.
If you want to reach recovery, learn to be patient. Allow yourself to slip and fall. If you don’t like your therapist or psychiatrist, search for new ones. Try several until you find a therapist or psychiatrist that best suits you. You don’t have to approve of all the advice they give. Use the suggestions that work best for you. Recovery doesn’t happen overnight, so buckle down and prepare yourself to fight for as long it takes. Fight no matter what happens and remember you must do the work. So work hard and in time you will stand tall within the light.
I didn’t give up. I fought over several years and I did fall down the hole many times, but I pulled myself back up. Because I didn’t give up, I bathe in the light.
This week due to the holiday I was unable to put up a blog post. I do want to say the Christmas spirit has been alive. While working as a cashier I watched as customers paid for other customers groceries. They asked for nothing in return they simply said, ” Merry Christmas.” So this Christmas give a piece of yourself to others. It’s not about gifts that money can buy, but gifts from the heart for God gave us a gift from his heart. His one and only son.
Give from your heart each day and into the new year.
Who likes winter? Those who participate in winter sports, those who plow driveways for a living, those who live in warm climates, or those very few who just like the colder weather. Many of us who live in the areas that are known for cold weather and snow get the winter blues. Many suffer with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) which is a type of depression that comes around during the change of season, particularly winter. Even if you’re not diagnosed with SAD and you have depression, winter can make your depression worse.
When I was a kid, I loved snow. I’d go sledding with my siblings, we’d build snowmen as big as we could make them, and we’d have snow ball fights and stay outside until we could no longer feel our fingers. We even built ramps out of snow and jumped them with our sleds. We had so much fun. Childhood was fun, but as I got older, I began to hate snow and winter.
When I was a teen, it meant darker days which matched the darkness already lingering in my soul. The cold became a nuisance, boots and hats weren’t cool, and I no longer liked going outside. I sat alone in my room with thoughts racing through my head: mean, ugly and nagging thoughts. My thoughts ripped at me and tormented me. There was no escape from them. The fun of winter became only a memory. I fell deeper into my hole of depression.
Then I started driving. Driving down icy roads, through blizzards and hardly being able to see. Next it was scraping snow off the windshield, getting stuck in snow drifts, and sitting in a cold car waiting for it to heat up. I began to dread the winter more. I’d hold on to my steering wheel until my knuckles turned white. Where-ever I went I worried about the weather and whether or not I’d make it home. The winter blues settled in. My heart grew heavy and the hole seemed darker. My stomach twisted and my worries overwhelmed me.
Now my husband drives the car to work and I have to walk down to the end of our road and wait for the bus. Some sidewalks are shoveled and some are not. It can be very cold and the wind stirs up the snow and throws it in my face. I feel my soul sliding down that hole. I want to lie in bed until spring. I don’t want to face another day of dark skies, cold temperatures, and endless snow, but I push myself to keep going.
To get through the winter blues, I had to find somethings good about it like: I have a warm home to go to. If I look out the window, the snow seems to glisten with an unspoken beauty. No matter how cold it gets there’s a way to get warm and no matter how bad the weather gets, I don’t lose my home and all my possessions. On days that I don’t have to leave the house for work, I keep myself busy with writing, housework, journaling, reading, and so on.
Beat the winter blues. It’s hard, but there is good in winter. Think of the people who are losing everything they have to natural disasters; think of those who have no home to go to and be grateful for what you have. Stare out a window at the snow. See how it hangs from the barren tree branches, see how it glistens when the sun peeks out, and watch how it falls from the sky in perfect flakes. Be a kid again. Make snow angels, make a snowman, and throw a snowball at a friend.
I grumble about the winter and sometimes I find myself sliding towards the hole of depression, but I remind myself that there is beauty in all God has created, even winter. When the winter blues settle in, I chase them away and look for something positive hiding in the dark and cold of winter. Finding something good helps me feel the light shining through the billowing clouds.
We are always in a hurry. Everyone’s always rushing around trying to get everything done in a flash, especially this time of year. With the holidays coming, we are trying so hard to send our cards out, buy gifts, plan meals, and wrap gifts. We lose track of things like the meaning of the holidays, the feel of the sun on our face, the meaning of life, the kindness of a stranger, and so on. When you’re working towards recovery from mental illness, you want to rush the process. You want to get better right away, but unfortunately, it takes time. You have to take it one day at a time.
Recently I have been reminded to slow down and not to push myself. I got sick last month with a cold that turned into a viral infection and into a sinus infection. I worried about work, my writing, and editing my memoir. I didn’t have time to be sick, but my husband told me my health comes first. He sentenced me to the couch to sleep and watch television. The doctor told me I needed to take time off from work and to rest. I hated the idea of missing work, but Lou made sure I stuck to it. I had to take it one day at a time.
Patience was also something I had to learn while working towards recovery. I wanted the sadness to go away over-night, but unfortunately, it didn’t work that way. After my ex-boyfriend threw me out, I went into the hospital, and in the hospital I decided I wanted to get better. I wanted to live a normal life. I wanted to find happiness and live in the light.
After I left the hospital, I started seeing a new therapist, I went to a therapy group, and I started on new medication. I even began going to church with my parents. After some time off I returned to work. I was doing all the right things, but yet I cried in therapy, I sat alone in my room, and I struggled to stop injuring. I still had so much hurt in me from the abuse of my ex, and my sadness wouldn’t just go away. I wanted it to just disappear, but it took time.
Day by day I worked hard towards recovery. It seemed like progress was slow. My therapist had to remind me to take it one day at a time. Recovery doesn’t happen overnight. I had to change years of negative thinking, I had to heal old wounds, I had to rediscover myself, and I had to learn to love myself. That’s a lot of work.
I worked hard and over a few years I started to find some happiness, but yet I kept falling into episodes of depression. Each day I wrote in my journal and practiced positive thinking, yet I kept falling back into the hole.
I remembered the hymn, “One Day at a Time, Sweet Jesus.” The chorus sang in my mind,
“One day at a time sweet Jesus
That’s all I’m asking from you.
Just give me the strength
To do every day what I have to do.
Yesterday’s gone sweet Jesus
And tomorrow may never be mine.
Lord help me today, show me the way
One day at a time.”
That part reminded me I had to take each day one at a time and I need the heavenly father’s help to do it. No one knows what tomorrow holds for us. We have to slow down and be patient. I slowed down and prayed. God introduced me to my husband, we started couple therapy, and with his help and in time the episode of depression went away. In time I reached recovery.
So, don’t rush your days away and don’t hurry your recovery. Slow down and take it one day at a time. Go to therapy, work on your thinking, fight with all that’s in you, but be patient. It doesn’t happen overnight. It may take months or years, but in time you’ll reach recovery. Pray to Jesus for the strength and guidance. Take it one day at a time for we never know what tomorrow holds. Tomorrow the sun might shine even brighter. Pace yourself and learn from the journey.
Now and again I have to be reminded to slow down and enjoy each day, but since I learned to take it one day at a time, I am enjoying Jesus’s light shining down upon me.