I have been cursed with depression most of my adult life. I especially remember that my bouts of depression would center around the delivery cycle of The Mother Earth News magazine. It came every two months and I would read it from cover to cover and then, usually fall into a blue period which would sometimes turn into depression. I figured that it was because the magazine caused me to dream of freedom and a different lifestyle which was very different from the one I was living. I didn’t feel there was a way to live the life I longed for, that I was stuck, so I became depressed.
As time went on, I noticed that when I was under a lot of stress, my depression cycle deepened. When I sold books door to door, the job was very stressful and I would be able to work at selling for two weeks and then each third week, I would be unable to face the world and stayed in bed for a week. Then I would feel ready to face things again, sell for another two weeks and retreat to sleep for another week. This was not a healthy cycle, it really put a strain on relationships with others. I was lucky that Jeanne was able to cope with my ups and downs.
When I faced a crisis of sorts about the age of 28 and irrationally moved to Missouri without any job or prospects (following the Mother Earth News lifestyle) I found that depression left me for a long period of time. My stress levels were lower, and I was living a life that was closer to the one I desired. My cycle was still there, I still had a tendency to get a little down, but it was dip in my mood, rather than a full depression. So I had a few pretty good years. I started a stained glass business and rented videos from the three stores I started, things were pretty good.
Then I made some “responsible” choices, going to college and joining the regular workforce and slowly my depression cycle returned. I think the cycle is a naturally occurring ebb and flow that we all have and that the deep depression was my subconscious minds’ way of trying to deal with life choices it didn’t agree with. As I struggled with employment issues and dealing with teenaged children my depression really became a monster that sometimes completely stopped me in my tracks. I would find myself unable to do the simplest tasks. I began visiting a depression treatment center, encouraged by a councilor to figure out what was wrong so that I could be over this once and for all. That was one of the worst times of my life, because I had no way to get out of the cycle of depression. I wasn’t working, so didn’t get that positive lift to my ego. The medications seemed to do little to help. And the kids weren’t making life any easier.
Eventually, I just went back to work and forgot all the depression center nonsense and my mood immediately rose. They say men derive self esteem from work and women derive self esteem from their relationships. That may be true because I certainly began to feel better being back at work. Still the cycle continued, at least I found that anytime I got a cold, I stayed sick longer than normal. A cold that would cause a normal person to miss a day of work would knock me out for a week. This effects your reputation at work and has a negative impact on your career. I began to suspect that I might have allergies that were causing me to be physically overwhelmed and thereby affecting my mental state.
Good theory, but when I finally learned that I had type 2 diabetes (in 2003) I finally understood why I had these lingering illnesses. Diabetics typically have symptoms three times longer than others. Their systems abilities to fight off colds and flu are less, so they need to be careful to avoid sickness. And being sick opens the door to depression, mental states are lower and your ability to cope goes down when you feel helpless.
My depression cycle still continued, but since I knew why I was unable to give good consistent work to an employer, I determined to go back to stained glass full time. It had been part time from the day I sold my business back in 1984, now it’s full time again. One of the benefits of being self employed is that if I’m having a bad day, I can go to work later. I can adjust my work hours to go along with how I’m feeling. Some days I’m only up to 3 or 4 hours of work and some days I’m up to putting in 10 or 12 hours of work. Depression is not as much of an issue any longer because I’m doing what I love and so my stress levels are at a level I can handle.
But occasionally, the monster of the “artistic temperament” raises its’ head and I have to deal with it. I have found a few ways of coping with depression over the years.
First, when you find yourself getting down, try to look inside and see what is causing the additional stress. Getting down is normal, it’s when you start to not be able to deal with it that you have a problem, so look inside and see what’s going on. Are you facing moral issues that weigh heavily on you? Is your life not tracking where you want it to? What is it that seems to be trapping you? Once you find your answers, you can begin to dream of ways to bring your life back into control, which will lessen your feelings of helplessness. It may be something as simple as starting a savings account for a vacation that you want to take, or starting a plan to get out of debt. Your problems won’t disappear, but your attitude towards them will make them feel less threatening.
Second, make sure that the little voice in your head is positive and not negative. Write yourself a little commercial that you read to yourself everyday and throughout the day. It should be positive and state what a winner you are and how successful you are, it should reflect your dreams and state them as if they are already a reality. This little recitation to yourself will turn away the negative that can grind you down and allow you to get to a place where you can handle things again. When I can’t work up the energy to even read my affirmation, I sing a little song which I made up (patterned on one they taught when I was selling):
It’s a great day to be a glass man, Best Thing I know,I t’s a great day to be a glass man, Everywhere I go, go, go, go Cut my own pieces, Put them back together, It’s a great, great day to be a glass man, No matter what the weather.
It’s a very dopey song, but I find that no matter how down I am, I can mumble this and it raises my attitude enough to croak it and then to sing it and then to believe it. And if I believe I’m happy, then I am.
Third, and most important, I have to let God into my life. When I’m down, I don’t believe in anything, not God and not Jeanne and not my own abilities. But if I can open up just a little and talk to God and ask for help, he always helps in some way. He didn’t give us life so we can suffer, we’re here to have joy and get out of ourselves and look around us and see the good in life and enjoy it and see the suffering around us and reach out to help relieve that suffering that others are experiencing.
Depression is a natural event, in my life anyway. So I figure it must be a natural event in your life as well. It’s neither good or bad, it just is. How we deal with it, that’s what determines the difference between those whose lives work and those whose lives don’t work.
David Gomm started building stained glass windows professionally back in 1983 and has become an expert at many aspects of stained glass building, design and repair. He writes a monthly newsletter at his better stained glass website.
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