When the pain of life gets too strong, what do you do? When you’re hurting or struggling, lonely or scared, how do you cope? Finding ways to deal with depression can be a challenge. I’m a big fan of conventional treatments but they aren’t magic pills that make everything better. They may ease the anxiety but they don’t give you confidence. They may pull you out of the dark hole but they don’t give you the job you need. They may make you happier but, alone, they won’t fix a troubled marriage. So how do you deal with the gap between medicated assistance and the realities that life is hard?
Filling the Gap
It wasn’t that long ago that my life went from me being in bed, praying for God to take me, to a reasonable facsimile of a high functioning adult. I write to those in pain, not because I have all the answers but because I know the struggle. I know life can improve and does improve over time with work, patience and perseverence. But there’s still the gap.
The gap is the resurgence of depression. The gap is the very real struggles in life that don’t go away just because we persist or just because we want them too. So, I’ll ask again, how do you fill the gap? Unfortunately, for some of us, we fill the gap with anything that will ease the pain, even momentarily. We fill it with drugs or alcohol, food or exercise, shopping or friends. Some options may be better than others but all can be taken to unhealthy extremes. The marijuana that can treat anxiety can lead to apathy and dependence on altering one’s state of mind. That single drink at the end of a long day can become a habit you can’t live without. Even exercise, a generally healthy way to boost endorphins and stay healthy, can become an unhealthy obsession.
Acknowledge the Problem
When I get down I turn to food. One would think two stomach surgeries would dissuade me from using food to cope but my ability to be self-destructive overwhelms all else. The obsession I feel for food is my most self-destructive tendency. I turn to food when I am stressed, lonely, scared, bored – usually every other reason but hunger.
So, I am acknowledging this. I am confessing to everyone who reads this post. Why? Because acknowledging there’s a problem is the first step to dealing with the problem. And because I don’t think I’m alone in this behavior. I think there are others who struggle the way I do. And because that is true I know this isn’t a topic for judgement against me but instead is an opportunity to join together to lift each other up in support. I don’t have this problem solved but I am moving in the right direction.
There are some things I can do to overcome this behavior. Once I realize I have a problem I can look for help. In Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous and their sister organizations they refer to this as turning to your higher power however you define it. I’m a big believer in turning to God with our problems as He can intervene and assist us in ways no one else can. Recognizing you’re helpless, recognizing your situation is out of control, and recognizing you can’t do it alone is an important step.
If you need help, reach out. If you know of someone who needs help, don’t judge, love. Love them through their pain – NOT ENABLING them but helping them. True love doesn’t turn a blind eye to sin but it doesn’t make value judgements either. Judging is left to God’s hands.
Addictions are destructive not only because of the physical effects but also the emotional ones. For me, it starts a vicious cycle of I feel bad, so I eat, so I feel bad, so I eat... Recognizing and making the changes that need to take place emotionally is vitally important. My daughter was addicted to heroin and meth. She went through the program, gave up the drugs and hasn’t touched them in over 2 years. All set, right? Not even close. As I watched her go through the process of recovery I watched her get clean and then I watched her work – daily – on the behaviors and mind sets that led to the addiction and was the most likely thing to sabotage her recovery. Now she’s this amazing woman with a self-awareness and capacity for compassion that blows my mind but she didn’t get there overnight and she’s never going to be “done”.
Know your worth
It’s hard to change, to put the work of change in place, if you don’t think you’re worth it so let me be very clear: You are a child of God! You are more valuable than you will ever comprehend because you are loved by a being beyond our understanding. If you can really KNOW that. If you can comprehend that simple truth, then you can really begin to take care of yourself. If you value something, you take care of it; you nurture it; you treasure it. See yourself in that same light. You are valuable so take care of yourself; nurture yourself, treasure yourself.
I know all this and still I struggle so I’m not saying this as a “follow these steps and you will be healed” sort of thing. I say this because they are true and whether or not you or I apply them to our lives, it doesn’t change the accuracy of these statements. We each have to get to that place where we turn from the lies we tell ourselves: “You’re not worth it.” “You’ll never succeed.” “One more time won’t hurt.” And, instead we turn to the truth. We are worth it. We WILL succeed and even if it takes A LOT of work to get where we need to go, we can do it. We can overcome the addictions that sabotage the joy in our lives!
I started this post with the question, “When the pain of life gets too strong, what do you do?” I’ll end it with a little twist, “When the pain of life gets too strong, what will you do?” What will you do to fill the gap in a healthy way? You can turn to God instead of turning to your drug of choice. You can find a healthy way to eat and exercise instead of unhealthy ways. You can give back with your friends or to your friends instead of getting stuck in codependence. There are lots of things you can do so what will you do? Think about it.