The following post is what I was just moved to say in response to a powerful little poem about living with depression posted in Mandy Halbot’s blog today. Serious wow!
I have had my own “big black dog” for most of my life myself. My recent hope is to start a revolution, though, because I finally found something that seems to really help. Seriously! I have found a natural and completely harmless antidote to chronic depression. How can I possibly keep that to myself? I want EVERYBODY to benefit from this, hoping it isn’t limited to just helping me, but I really hope it helps you, Mandy. Because you inspired me and surprised me and impressed me with your writing.
The big depression antidote that I accidentally discovered is something that lifts me up no matter where I happen to be in my depression cycle– even when I am at my happiest this stuff lifts me up even more, and it helps me when I am so feeling so low that I cannot keep my head off of my pillow all night and all day and all night… I bet you are wondering if I am giving you a sales pitch for some new psychotropic drug, but I’m not. Not unless you consider the endorphins your own body makes to be a drug. The trick is just helping somebody else! So simple!!
Whenever I turn my attention outward and notice someone who would benefit from an act of kindness, and then I dare to take a risk and step in to offer my help, I feel blessed (and I don’t believe in a sentient god.)
It started with the blessing of a beautiful big dog I rescued a week ago. Now I am not advocating that all depressed people should run out and get a dog or any other animal. Partnering with an animal as intimately as we do dogs is not unlike a form of marriage and should only be entered into with the level of care marriage deserves. Not that it actually gets, now, but what it deserves. Honoring the trust of someone else is always a big deal, or should be. When you divorce a dog it usually ends up at a shelter.
(Woah. What if my new wolf-sized-but-skinny German shepherd in real life is a metaphor for the “big black dog” of depression that has been my life companion for over 40 years! WOW!)
Anyway, back on topic… I have been on an upward spiral ever since I adopted this gorgeous dog and showered him with loving patience. In return he has rewarded me by thriving in my care with gentle gratitude. There are so many obvious benefits to my life with the addition of this dog, but it is only in retrospect that I realize there was a dog-shaped hole in my life.
After that huge “tipping point” I had an amazing experience offering a ride to a very elderly man carrying six bags of groceries down a huge hill on a very hot day, only to find out that he still had over three miles to go before he was home! I told him I was going to be late for work, but that his need was more important to me than my arriving on time. And I felt even BETTER because I really meant it. I felt it. It felt wonderful. It was literally the best high I ever had. Since then I have helped several other strangers and friends in different ways– with unexpected car rides, with much needed food, with a donation to someone homeless, with helping do A task that an anxiety-ridden and PTSD-ridden disabled friend finds very stressful (sorting, prioritizing and responding to their avoided, accumulated mail.) I am richer for having done so.
With each new random kindness I invested myself in, I felt as though a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. It helped loosen the bonds with which my depression likes to keep me captive. I so hope others can use this information to feel a little better (to a person stuck in the quagmire of depression ANY improvement is worthwhile.) I want anyone battling depression to have more power in deciding how they feel from time to time.
Anyway, I hope you can sense my sincerity, honesty and joy. Yes, I have even experienced some actual JOY since stumbling into this monumental discovery. Please try it as soon as you can but do not jeopardize your safety in any way. Follow your heart. I think it knows the way. When I was confronted with these opportunities that I took, I did very little thinking about it. I knew what to do in my gut if the choice whether to help or not was not obvious. Let me also point out that I experienced some opportunities that did not feel like I was meant to get involved in, so I trusted that instinct and stayed away. Please don’t think I am saying you should take every opportunity that presents itself. Be smart and protect yourself. Our world today can be a very scary unsafe place.
So try it and let me know if mindfully practicing small acts of kindness to loved-ones, friends, acquaintances and strangers lifts you up even a little. Then tell everyone you know! We might just accidentally start a revolution of peace.
BTW, Mandy’s blog about life with depression impresses me. Please keep reading it. And if you are curious to hear more about this unexpected and wonderful new way I am gaining some control of my depression, please check out my blog, Mutual Muses. Because we all need to start helping each other more.
I’m going to copy this whole response and post it at Mutual Muses; hope no one minds. This story I just told you feels like another piece of the puzzle for me, another part of the reason I just recently felt inspired to start that blog.
Thanks for reading!