John had been feeling depressed for many years. He was highly functioning at work, but finally opened up to a couple of friends to get ideas for how he could overcome his ongoing depression. Unfortunately, his friends told John that he just needed to think more positively, to count his blessing every day. If he could do that, he could turn things around. He tried gratitude practices and read countless self-help books, but nothing changed. This just made John feel worse about himself. Why could others could get better with positive thinking & gratitude, but he couldn’t?
Then one day, John decided to look into his healthcare benefits to see if he could find a therapist to help guide him. He had heard that the right therapist could also be like a helpful coach in taking practical steps for healing depression. He decided to set aside 2 hours a week to find the right therapist. The first week, he looked at his insurance benefits online and discovered he could search for therapists in his area by certain criteria including who was accepting new patients. He came up with a list of 10 therapists close to his workplace. He then placed phone calls with his top three choices and asked them each for an interview which he was able to get scheduled in the 2nd week. By the 3rd week, he had selected a new therapist who he began working with diligently. He realized that if he accepted his depression and treated it like a work project, he could make a little progress on it every week, and each week things got a little better, especially once he had a professional supporting him who understood the complexity of his depression. John realized that the best way his well-intentioned friends could help, was to take him out to socialize at least once a week, so he asked them to support him in that way.
Sue recently moved to the Bay Area from her hometown to take a new and exciting job. At first, things were great; everything was new and exciting. But, after a few months, Sue realized she was suffering from depression. Although she loved her new city, she missed her hometown and the friends she had spent a lifetime developing. She was ok at work, but after work, she sometimes felt so down she couldn’t force herself to get to the gym, or even make herself dinner. She’d often stop & pick up something quick to eat, and then end up overeating to numb out her uncomfortable emotions of loss and grief. Then she felt poorly about herself and would end up flopping on the couch watching TV or surfing social media until it was time for bed. Sometimes, she’d even stay up too late, and then not get enough sleep at night. It would all start over the next day.
One day, Sue read an article that exercise was a helpful antidote to depression. But, she didn’t feel strong enough to make the commitment and stick to it herself. Sue decided to approach one of her new friends at work to see if she’d be willing to walk once a day before or after work, or during the lunch hour 3 times a week. Her friend was very excited because she too wanted to exercise more frequently. The two of them put together a plan and began exercising together. They also used the time to talk, and share what was going on in their lives. This helped Sue open up about her depression and soon it didn’t seem so daunting. She continued with the exercise, and then slowly began trying other strategies to help her cope with the big changes in her life that the move and new job had created.
Just like John and Sue, everyone’s healing journey is unique. Today, commit to taking one step towards your healing, and you’ll soon be surprised at how one step can contribute to feeling a little better every day.