Usually, when we think of depression, we immediately imagine the worse things about having it. The sadness. The guilt. The overwhelming crushing feeling.

But there is another side of depression.

Depression teaches us about our gifts too.  Following are seven things that I’m grateful to have learned from depression.

Support Network

First and foremost the importance of the compassion of my family and friends. These are the people, along with a therapist and psychiatrist, that are my support network. I am always reminded of how much I am cared for when I reach out to family and friends when I’m feeling depressed. They often provide a perspective I hadn’t considered.

I was introduced to the concept of a Support Network at Mayo Mood Disorders Unit and have spent a lot of time nurturing those relationships. A support network is made up of the people you can call on when things get dicey. Be they family, friends or both, these are the people that you can count on when you ask something of them. Whether that be just to chat with you for a bit. To give you a hug.  Or to go with you to the grocery store. This is a special group of people.  Be sure you nurture these relationships.

And, just being with friends and family, makes me feel better. The only thing you’ve got to do is overcome the inertia to call/text/email. If you’re having trouble, imagine the positive that will come out of the call/text/email.

Humor

I learned a long time ago that I find respite in humor. Put on anyone/anything that’s halfway funny and, if I’m not in the Pit of Depression, I will laugh. When I am depressed, my husband often puts on comedians doing a show,  old ones, like Eddie Murphy Delirious, or Richard Pryor. Its something to take my mind someplace else for just a little while.

Strength

I am a strong person. I have seen the worse that depression has to offer and walked out of the ashes. I bet you have a lot of strength yourself. It takes a lot of guts to struggle with depression day after day. You might have even found that you’re better at handling things in general because of what you’ve been through.  If you’re feeling weak and small, just remember all the brave things you’ve done in the past. 

Empathy

I have developed great empathy for anyone who is suffering. I especially feel close to others who are mentally ill. I also feel a deep understanding for anyone living with any kind of chronic illness. Empathy helps you step into a person’s shoes and understand the situation from their perspective. And empathy makes you a more caring, compassionate person.

Distraction

I have learned new ways to distract myself from depression and some of those things have led to pretty fun hobbies. I love to take pictures. I also love crossword puzzles. What kinds of things distract you from your illness? Do you like to garden or just be outside? Perhaps you like to read or watch mysteries on tv. I learned that the more I could distract myself, the less awful I felt.

I became a master at distraction. My phone is my biggest ally in this fight. I distract myself with the power of a single app.

The Gift of Happiness

I have also received the gift of feeling better. When you are desperately depressed, you can’t even imagine feeling better. But when you finally do, everything seems brighter. It is like you’re seeing the world through new eyes, not clouded with dark thoughts. I am so grateful for this gift.

Medication

Twice during my mental illness journey, I have taken a medication that whispered the right sweet nothings to my brain and took the depression away. I often think about how grateful I am that things worked out this way for me. I know many people who have suffered a lifetime of mental illness, never getting relief. People who always have depression sitting in their brains, governing what happens.

But every day, research is being done on better anti-depressants and I am sure that the treatment of depression is enough of a business interest to draw many companies into solving its complexities.

So remember:

*the importance of a support network;

*humor;

*your strength

*empathy

*distraction

*the gift of healing.

What have you learned anything from your mental illness?  I’d love to hear about in the comments.

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