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Depression is a Life or Death Decision

I was as shocked as everyone else when I got the news of Robin Williams’ passing. I have been a fan of his since the “Mork & Mindy” days. It affected me for another reason as well. Some time back, I went through a very difficult time in my life. I faced the same depression that Williams did. And I came very close to making the same decision – to “leave early”. Obviously, I made a different decision, a different choice.

Let me say right here that I do not stand in judgment of Robin Williams. He was, no, is an amazing talent and a bright light in this world. His passing won’t change that. I don’t know what he was facing, or more importantly, thinking and feeling. Nobody does. So what I’m talking about is my decision to Live. Maybe that will help somebody else facing that same decision. I can’t think of a better way to honor Robin’s life. At least, I can’t think of a better way for me to honor him, or any other person who chose to leave us early.

I wrote in my journal once that depression was like a heavy, wet, rotting coat. It weighed me down emotionally and spiritually. It wasn’t that I didn’t care; all of my feelings were so numbed I couldn’t really feel them. And my general frame of mind was already pretty negative. In the previous 2 years, I’d had to shut down a business to avoid bankruptcy, had to quit a job to avoid being fired, screwed up my marriage so badly that it failed, had to sell the farm to prevent foreclosure, and in a fit of anger, quit the better-paying job that I’d gotten. They were all caused by my choices; no sympathy sought or needed. The depression affected all of the choices, though. And that’s a key thing to understand. Depression colors everything you see, everything you think, everything you perceive.

At some point in the journey, I was faced with a choice. Was I going to stay or go? One of the biggest decisions of my Life, and I was in no fit frame of mind to make the decision. I don’t think anybody suffering from depression is capable of making a decision like that rationally. I made the choice to Live by the Grace of God, the Love of my family, and the Help of my friends. Even with all that help, it was a close call. I got that help because I reached out to somebody and asked for it. It took me a long while to ask for that help. In fact, I laughed at the first person who offered to pray for me. It took me several years to believe that I was “good enough” for Grace. I know now that you don’t have to qualify for Grace. It’s there for all of us, regardless of our beliefs. I was able to make the choice to Live because I asked for help, even when I was sure I didn’t deserve it.

If you’re suffering from depression, know that somebody, somewhere Loves you. Even if they’ve passed on, they’re still here every time you think about them. Reach out to somebody. Talk to a friend. Ask your pastor, priest, or rabbi. Go see a therapist. But talk to SOMEBODY. Simply having somebody listen to you will help.

Start a journal, either paper or digital. You can buy a good quality composition book for $1.00. Write in it every time you feel the need. Say whatever you need to say, but get it out of your head. Pour out your anger & anguish on that paper, so it won’t fester in your mind. I’m on Volume 32, myself. And I’ve kept every one. Even when I think nothing has changed, I can go back and see just how much I HAVE changed from the person I was. But write it and burn it immediately if that’s what you need to do. It’s your journal. Write in it. It helps.

There are a lot of easy things to do that can help you.  Get out and move around. Take a walk outside. Get some fresh air. Spending time outside was one of the best therapies for me. Listen to uplifting music. Read positive books. Turn off the TV. Stay off the computer. Hang out with folks that make you feel better. Every one of these things helped me. They’ll help you, too. But they don’t take the place of talking to somebody about how you feel.

If you have somebody that you know that is suffering from depression, give them some Love of any kind. Even if it’s taking them a strawberry pie, dropping by to chat on a regular basis, or sitting with them without judging them while they drink themselves to sleep (which my father did for me). Encourage them to get help. Keep an eye on them. And “pray without ceasing”. However you do it, show them some Love. Trust me, it makes a difference.

And if they make the decision to go, don’t be angry with them. Love them. Remember them. Mourn them. Let them heal in your own memory and in the memories of others.

Send some Love to Robin Williams’ family. They need it. If you think of him in the next few weeks, send them Love again. They’ll need it then even more. Then send some Love to yourself. You need it, too. We all do.

 

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What Are Your Goals In Life?

I’ve been asked that question in some form or another for most of my life. Sometimes it gets asked in one word, “Why?!?!?” At least that’s the way people ask me these days. But that’s another post entirely. I’ve been looking at my life over the last 14 years, and I’ve come to some conclusions. One of them is that we are really confused about our lives. It’s nobody’s fault, really. It just seems to me we’ve let external institutions that were more concerned with power than life teach us (and our children and our children’s children) about life. I’m not going to rant about that; I think ranting is a waste of time. But it is good to be aware of those things.

I posted a piece on intentions versus goals a couple of weeks ago. In it, I talked about the studying I’ve been doing on intentions and goals. Intentions for me are “I AM” statements. Confident statements of the way I am in life. “I am a happy person.” To me, that’s an intention. It’s who you are NOW. Goals are different. “I want to be a happy person” is a goal, an actionable thing.

Here’s the thing that surprises me. One thing affects the other. And semantics seem to count, at least to your mind. Research is showing us that the mind is very “plastic”. You can literally change your mind. This can change your life. It’s not magic. It’s simply changing your perceptions of what you see, feel, and experience. We do it every day. Something happens that changes the way we look at someone or something, and all of a sudden, it ain’t so bad any more. Or it could be worse, but let’s just say it’s good. We can direct those perceptions by how we think, believe, and feel about things. Which leads us back to the intention or goal thing.

“I want to be a happy person.” That’s a goal. So go out and do the things that make you happy, and stop doing the things that make you unhappy. I realize the doing of this may be a little more complicated than the saying. If the car is broke down and the kids need shoes, the refrigerator is empty, and you don’t have any work, it’s hard to be happy (Ask me how I know that). But the concept is simple. It’s called acting “as if” you’re already that happy person. Help yourself out by creating or setting an intention for your desire to be happy. That intention is, of course, “I am a happy person”. If you’re doing this while you’re happy, you just turbocharged your goal. If you have to say it through clenched teeth, not so much. But it still helps. The mind doesn’t seem to be able to tell the difference between what we think and what we experience, which is both weird and exciting.

John Telford wrote in The Life of John Wesley, about a crisis of faith that Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church, was struggling with. He talked to a Moravian minister about it. “ ‘But what can I preach?’ said Wesley? ‘Preach faith till you have it,’ said his friend ‘and then, because you have it, you will preach faith.’ “ Wesley followed this advice, which changed his ministry.

Did Wesley have faith when he first preached it? The account implies he did not. “I don’t have faith. I am unfit to preach.” That belief could have changed his life and the Methodist Church might never have been founded. His goal of “I want to preach faith”, became his intention; “I am faithful”. That intention changed his belief. That change in belief changed his life. Again, no magic, just a change of viewpoint. Did he take that conscious step of creating an intention? I have no idea. But that’s how the process works. Have a desire, create a goal, set an intention, put it out to the world, take action. How well it works for us today is up to me and you.

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