Last week I reached a level of depression I hadn’t experienced in a very long time. I had wanted to focus on gratitude, but it was hard. It’s not that I wasn’t grateful. I thought of many, many things I had to be grateful for, I just couldn’t feel it in the depth of my depression. However, I still wanted to try.
I thought of this quote by Tim Keller a coworker shared in a meeting the week before. “It’s one thing to be grateful. It’s another to give thanks. Gratitude is what you feel. Thanksgiving is what you do.” I decided to do more than just think of what I was grateful for. I wanted to do something and see if it helped.
Even though I wasn’t feeling much of anything, other than despair and defeat, I wrote a bunch of little notes stating what I was grateful for about my husband, then placed them all over the house for him to find. It felt good. Seeing how much he appreciated finding them felt good. It didn’t completely take away the darkness and depression, but it did help to lift me from it. And it inspired me to do more.
Normally, I’m the type of person who keeps my head down and tries to avoid conversation with others when I’m at a store or in line to pay for my groceries. I worry having to make eye contact and talk to someone will trigger my anxiety. But I decided to step outside my comfort zone. I took my girls shopping for clothes the day before Thanksgiving. The person helping me asked if I had any plans for Thanksgiving. I answered her, then asked her if she had any plans. She smiled and replied, then we continued to have a wonderful conversation. She seemed really happy—maybe even grateful—when I told her I hoped she had a great Thanksgiving just before I took my bag of clothes and left. I had a similar conversation with a checker at the grocery store after Thanksgiving as I asked her how her Thanksgiving had been. We both smiled and she seemed genuinely happy that I had asked her questions and engaged her in a real conversation. I was happy, too!
Focusing on gratitude and then stepping outside my comfort zone and doing, rather than just thinking or feeling, really did make such a difference. I know it can be hard, but I encourage others to give it a try, too, and see what a difference it makes!
I found this quote by Albert Schweitzer. “Constant kindness can accomplish much. As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust, and hostility to evaporate.” Kindness is inspirational.
It was very hard on my mental health seeing how much judging others were doing at the beginning of the pandemic. As someone who’s depression suffered from the isolation, as someone who couldn’t “just wear a mask” because of my extreme anxiety I felt the need let others know how difficult this time was for those of us with mental illness and that things aren’t always as simple as they seem. Their hate and anger did nothing to inspire me. But kindness did.
When I found out I would have to wear a mask when I went back to work at the end of summer, I panicked. The first time I even tried to put a mask on I had a panic attack. I didn’t know what I was going to do. I thought I’d have to find a new job—one I could work from home where I wouldn’t have to wear a mask. I was so stressed and overwhelmed. I opened up to my coworkers about my anxiety, and they were so loving, accepting, understanding and kind. They all started suggesting things I could try and ways they might be able to help. Their love, support and kindness is what really inspired me to find my own solution so I could keep my job. That’s what led me to the silicone mask inserts that I wear beneath my mask. It is the only reason I can wear a mask.
Similarly, my daughter also struggled to wear a mask because of her anxiety. We tried so many different kinds of masks. We tried the same inserts I found, but nothing worked. Then I saw a coworker with a mask I’d never seen before. I asked her where she got it, and she told me she’d made it. She told me about her claustrophobia, and how these were the only masks she could wear without panicking. I told her I’d been looking for something for my daughter, and she volunteered to make her some masks. Pure and simple kindness, but such an inspiration!
Kindness, understanding, love and open-mindedness inspire, help, build up and allow “hostility to evaporate”. I think the only way to do this is to allow ourselves to see beyond our own perspective. We don’t have to change our beliefs, but we do need to try to understand each other and understand that we are all different. We have different experiences that have shaped who we are. We are not a one size fits all world. No matter how much we might think we understand someone else, until we really are walking their shoes we don’t see the whole picture. That’s why kindness is so important.
I reconstruct my suit of chainmail,
a piece I had dismantled long ago.
I knit it together piece by piece,
clink by clink.
It is heavy and hot and restrictive.
It is not me.
But it is the only protection I know of
that will shield against the poisonous arrows
that rain down on all sides.
It is not impenetrable,
but--for now--it will do.
I then wrote this just after:
Deeper down the rabbit hole of darkness I go. There is no light. There is no warmth. And I can’t find the door out. Maybe there is no door . . .
It’s easy to feel like my efforts to educate people on mental illness isn’t making a difference. Yet I keep trying because I keep hoping—somehow—that it will make a difference.
Just the other day I saw a post from someone I know about how angry she is that not everyone where she lives is wearing a mask or taking Covid seriously. She posted a parody on a song from Beauty and the Beast that used harsh, shaming, judgmental language about people who don’t wear masks. Things like how simple it is, it’s just a piece of fabric and just wear the f***ing mask. It broke my heart—not so much for myself, but for other people who have depression, anxiety and PTSD. For some of us, seeing something like that could be what finally pushes us to the brink of utter despair and even suicide.
Even after all this time, it’s not always that simple. If someone isn’t wearing a mask it doesn’t automatically mean we’re not taking Covid seriously. For those of us with anxiety masks are more than “just a piece of fabric”. Masks are claustrophobia that literally do make it so we can’t breathe and can’t function. For those of us with PTSD masks are the face of someone who assaulted or violated us. We are already struggling, while trying to do our best, without being shamed, condemned and judged.
This is a difficult time for so many people. Can’t we reach out in kindness and love instead of anger and hatred? I started, and continue, this blog in the hopes that it would help someone, in the hopes that it would educate, in the hopes that it will inspire. We can all have different beliefs and different struggles while still helping, educating and inspiring each other in love and positivity. As slim as my hope is, it’s what I’m hanging on to.
November 6th I got married! I wanted to post something before the wedding and honeymoon, but it was a busy time. The wedding was beautiful and wonderful and perfect. The honeymoon to Kolob Canyon, Snow Canyon and Zion National Park was amazing and so much fun! I had this illusion that when we got back things would still be good. Mostly, they really are. I’m married to the man of my dreams, and that is very, very good! But we also came back to some incredibly difficult challenges. Challenges that could have had me curled up in a ball crying and hopeless. And yet, all I could think the other night was how I wanted to thank God for all He has blessed me with.
More and more it seems as if society skips right over the Thanksgiving holiday. It’s all about the commercialism of Christmas. I love Christmas and celebrating the birth of my Savior, but I also love Thanksgiving as a time to remember all the things we have to be grateful for.
I know I’ve written about gratitude before. Gratitude doesn’t just cure or take away mental illness, but I do believe it can help. Times when the hard things start pressing me down, threatening to crush me, I’ve been trying to think of all the ways I’ve been blessed recently, and I find myself staying above the weight of the depression. Gratitude is always important, but I’m really going to try to focus more on it this month and invite all to join in with me. Hopefully we’ll all see a difference in the level of happiness and peace we experience.
Walking through that door makes the blue a little lighter. She holds space as I gently spill. We sit, we talk - we water, dig and bury. Nurturing a shoot. Aiding it in light - to find its path through thorns - Malan Wilkinson