(Note: this post may have affiliate links in them. Please read my disclosures here. Also this post does not equal professional help. This post is not a substitute for counseling).
That dark cloud that hovers over your shoulders....stretching it's arms around your eyes in such a diminishing way that you can only see shades of grey.
If can also feel like an invisible heavy blanket that your spiritual senses can see or sense. It sits on you like your own skin.
Do you know this feeling?
Most people that know me have not seen me with this cloud and blanket. It has been a long time since I have carried that around, but I can recall it instantly.
It's ugly and sad. It was debilitating at times.
I healed from my depression many years ago. Much of it was my living environment, childhood wounds, etc. Before I even thought about working as a counselor, I started working on me.
After my own work, tons of training and finessing tools with clients, I will share what seems to work for many people. These are strategies to help shed the clouds of lies swirling in your mind about who you are and your life.
This post will focus on minor to moderate depression.
*Major depression or the depression that comes with bi-polar is something different. This post will not cover that. If you have that sort of depression, seeing a therapist and a doctor for possible medications will be necessary.
What is Depression?
Let's look at the DSM 5. Here is the criteria a clinician will assess:
Depressed/sad/irritable mood every day for at least two weeks.
Decreased interest in hobbies or activities.
Changes in sleep (too much or too little).
Loss of energy.
Changes in activity.
Weight loss or weight gain.
Worthlessness or extreme guilt.
Suicidal ideation (plans or fantasy) or attempts (this would fall into major depression--seek help now if you have these thoughts. Here is the suicide hotline number: 1-800-273-8255).
There are other pieces to the puzzle to get a clear diagnosis, as some of these symptoms can be other issues.
All of the above symptoms fall into a continuum. Low end to high end. I always use the 1-10 scale. 1 would be very minor changes/feelings. 10 would be major changes/heavy feelings. 5 would be in the middle (makes sense, right?)
Most of us will have symptoms that change on the scale 1 to 4 at various times in our lives. They may last a day or two. This does not mean you have diagnostic depression. It means you are having a crummy day. It means you are stressed and having a hard time dealing with something.
If you have several of the above symptoms and it feels Medium/high-ish to heavy (7 to 10 on the scale), now would be the time to see your doctor and/or therapist. It may be major depression. It might be something else. It is essential you get this checked out. It stinks feeling this way and there is help.
If you have several of the above symptoms, but they are on the 1 to 4 scale, continue reading. See if the ideas here help clear it up.
If you are in the middle, you can try these tips to see if that helps. If not, see your doctor and/or counselor.
Sound good? Okay, let's move forward.
Whenever I had a client come in saying they are depressed, we would look at their life holistically. This would almost always pinpoint what is causing the depression.
Get out 3 papers and a pen. Let's do this together.
First, we pray. We need God to help focus in on our time. As you do the exercises below, make sure you have uninterrupted time. Here is a sample prayer that you can pray to get you centered.
Write down the following (with space to add to it shortly):
Now go back and rate each one. Use the scale of 1 -10 of how much you are stressed by each one (or lack of having--for instance, if you want kids...you would not be stressed by kids but stressed/frustrated you do not have them).
1 would mean you are not bothered by it it at all and 10 would be you are really stressed by it. Don't think about why right now.
Next, go back again and think about why you came up with that number.
For example, my number for home would be "5." The reason is, after my house is clean, I really enjoy it. I feel at peace and relaxed. When my home is messy, I do not like my home. I feel stressed, irritable and restless. This is due to the condition of my home and not the people in it. So my number is an average of the extremes of how I feel.
Are you seeing anything that is standing out to you as to why you are feeling down? If you are, and you were able to change that situation, would that help you feel better?
I had a client that came to see me about depression. We went through this list and she listed all was good except work. After uncovering her experiences at work, she realized she was being emotionally abused and manipulated by another employee. She was able to go to HR with her concerns/complaints. While the person was being held accountable, my client realized she also was working too much.....without extra pay. It was interfering with her family life.
Life was unbalanced.
Her employer would not cut down on her hours, so she quit.
She felt like a million bucks and her depression lifted. It took realizing what was causing the problem and then taking action to change it.
Sometimes, you need to release your current situation in order to feel better.
As you review your list, does your life feel balanced? Are you getting enough time for you? Enough self care? In my own life, I get really unbalanced. With homeschooling, life can become overly focused in that area. I have to remind myself to take "me" time.
Now take another paper. Write the following:
Now rate each of these on the scale of how well you are doing in each one. 1 would be lousy. 10 would be great! Medication means how you feel being on whatever you are taking. Are there side effects? Maybe you don't notice anything. If so just write n/a
Go back and write why you wrote that number. My example is that I would rate eating as an "7." In the last 6 months I have made some major changes to my eating. I eat more living foods (fruits and veggies). I notice I feel better when eating healthier.
Your last paper. Write the following:
Note that some of these may require a spirit filled Christian counselor to assist you.
Who do I need to forgive?
Do I feel guilty about anything?
Do I have a voice in my head that is saying negative things?
Do I need forgiveness about anything (a.k.a. do I need to forgive myself?)
This is where you ask God (listening prayer) to help reveal these answers to you. The following is common to how I would lead my clients in these areas. This part can take a long time depending on the issues at hand. You may need to have a few different sessions to get through this.
A sample prayer to connect and lead you about forgiveness:
Heavenly Father, I want to be accountable for my actions and thoughts. I ask you to scan my heart and reveal to me any unforgiveness that needs to be released. I understand that forgiveness is releasing me of the bondage of bitterness against someone else. It also moves me out of the way for you to do your work in the other person, if needed.
(Be ready to write down names of those that are revealed to you. Even if you feel like you have forgiven a person on that list, there may be more than needs to released.)
Thank you, Father for revealing those names. I ask for your forgiveness for holding onto revenge and bitterness and ask that you forgive me. I am forgiving (name the person) for hurting me by (name the person's actions). Father, I ask that you intervene in (the same person's life) and heal them of their pain so their eyes are opened to what they have done. I pray they know you. In Jesus' name, Amen.
If you feel guilty about anything, you can use this sample prayer to lead you through releasing it.
Father, I feel guilty about (list them to Him). I ask your forgiveness about them. I know that in Micah 7:19 it says that you take our repented sin and toss it into the depths of the sea. I know you do not use it against me, but rather it is forgotten. Father, I ask that you help me forgive myself, so that I also do not use it against myself. If the Creator of the Universe can forgive me, I can do that as well. In Jesus' name, Amen.
If you struggle with guilt, and find that after this prayer you are still struggling, please consider working with a Christian counselor to help you get to the root of why you are prevented from forgiving yourself. This was a common issue in my practice. See my post on finding a Christian Counselor.
If you have a voice that constantly is putting you down or judging others, you may need someone to help you discern if this is your voice or the enemy's voice. I sometimes have the negative voice and over time have learned how to discern and deal with it.
If you struggle with this, then I highly recommend finding a spirit filled counselor to help you figure this part out. If it's the enemies voice, then it will need to be figured out how he was allowed to get in your head. If it's your own voice, you will need to learn why that is happening and end it with God's help.
This is similar to releasing guilt (see above). Ask Father God to show you if there are areas you need to forgive yourself. If there are, then do! If you are still stuck and do not feel that you can, then seek counsel. Why live your life holding bitterness over your mind?
I hope this has blessed you and you feel the depression has lifted, at least some. If it has not, you may need a spirit filled counselor to help you get to the root of some of these areas. That is okay. I needed help too!
May you be filled with the Spirit of Peace!