Photographer’s Devotion: Fighting Depression

You can be having what everyone else would say a mountain top experience and still be depressed. I know I have been many times in my life.

1996 Olympic gold medalist Derrick Adkins used running to help deal with his depression. When he wasn’t feeling good he just went out and ran and his feeling of depression is what helped drive him to be the fastest 400m hurdler in the world.

Adkins had professional help and with the help of prescription drugs was able to find balance that he could not find before. One of my friends children started taking a yellow pill prescribed by a psychiatrist and immediately noticed a difference. One day the child said to his mother, “Everyone could benefit from a yellow pill.”  They didn’t want their child on medication, but this was their last resort and to see the child’s mood change so drastically brought tears to her eyes.

The old saying about your glass being half empty or half full is a key to fighting some types of depression. You can choose to see your glass either way, but the choice can be life changing.

Purpose Driven Life

When you feel depressed many times it is from a lack of purpose for your life.

Rick Warren is the founder and senior pastor of Saddleback Church, an evangelical megachurch in Lake Forest, California, that is the eighth-largest church in the United States. He wrote the NY Times bestseller Purpose Driven Life.

It was a runaway best seller I believe because so many people are depressed because they lack a purpose. Why am I here?

Ephesians 2:10 (NIV)
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

We are here to do good works. While this sounds simple if you are dealing with depression you are not really sure what your gifts are and how to use them or you may feel that your gifts are not really needed in this world.

Good Night’s Rest

While everyone of us benefits from getting a good night’s sleep, sometimes our bodies are not working properly. Sometimes the chemicals that get replenished in a healthy body are lacking in those who are dealing with depression.

Seeking professional help can be a life saver. Sometimes people can benefit from drugs to help them find balance. This is very similar to a person with diabetes that takes drugs to maintain sugar balance.

Now even if you get those drugs and they help with suicidal thoughts, you still need to have help with learning how to truly live life to it’s fullest.

Importance of Community

I can get caught in a thought loop. Just like a record that skips, I can have thoughts that are unproductive. Because I am stuck in a loop it is impossible for me to move forward and get better. I have found that it is in sharing my fears and struggles with others that I gain insights on how to move forward.

Often it is not because of what people say to me, but just the process of putting words to my emotions and saying them out loud actually helps me see the flaws in some of my thoughts.

We all have gone through those moments when either we or we see someone else come upon an obstacle and struggle. I mean how many times have you tried to open a door and realized instead of pushing you should pull?

How often do we need someone to show us on our computers how to do something?

When you embrace your flawed condition and live within a community being open and honest is when you discover we are all broken and need each other.

Throughout my life those who have helped the most in my times of need were those who revealed their own struggles. I think this is why Alcoholics Anonymous works so well. It is when they open up admit their struggles and then each help one another as they together recover.

Genius and Insanity

There is a very fine line between genius and insanity. We find many of those who were extremely creative would later take their own lives.

“No great mind has ever existed without a touch of madness.”
― Aristotle 

Vincent van Gogh battled mental illness and died from what was an apparent self inflicted gun shot wound.

I believe if you are an artist you will find yourself often on the edge of depression. I think the reason is that to capture mood you must be extremely in touch with your emotions. When you start to feel at this depth it can encapsulate you. You struggle to communicate to others your most deepest thoughts and fears.

It took Ansel Adams many years before he had his creative break through where he was able to finally pre-visualize and master the craft enough to know how to not capture what he saw, but what he felt.

Many war photojournalists come back from the war dealing with post traumatic stress disorder. The best therapy for those suffering tends to be when they journal. it is the process of moving those thoughts from one side of the brain to the other through writing that many are able to “process” their thoughts.

After 911, the news media helped America process their trauma. The media was helping us to write our story as a community. We were able to heal because through all this madness we saw the silver linings of our society. We saw the community come together as many of us have never experienced before.

As the media told the stories of rebuilding of families and communities we all were feeling much better.

Importance of Journaling and Community

Take the time to write down your struggles as best you can. Write down all the crap you are experiencing. Find a group where you can share your struggles.

I recommend saying the Serenity Prayer:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference. 

So take the time to go back through your journal. Make two columns and put all the things you have no control over in one column. In the other column put those things you do have the ability to change.

Make an action plan of the things you can do today.  No jobs today, then make a list of those people you can contact. What if you don’t know who to contact? Take the time to contact someone and ask them how do I find leads.

Sit down with a few friends and hopefully find a mentor who can help you sort out the list you have and thoughts. They can help you find the wisdom you need to make it through the day.

Help someone else today

One last action item I think you should have on your To-Do List for the day. Always find some way to help someone today.

I recommend once a week making a list of people that you will contact that week. Each day plan to contact 3 to 5 people.

While you may think you need to contact all these people and get them to help you, I challenge you to listen to them. Ask questions and get to know each person and where they are right now in life.

Do they need a word of encouragement? Do they need you to help them make a connection? Did you make the time to be able to just listen to them?

Your depression and hopelessness will help you be compassionate to another person who is struggling as well.

Resources

If you feel like life is too difficult to live, then please reach out to professional counselors. Every community has mental health centers where you can go and just talk. They will help you navigate your road to stability. Many houses of faith have counseling centers.

Be sure you are meeting with a trained professional counselor. I personally recommend you talk to a licensed clinical social worker; a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist. Remember only the Psychiatrist can really help you if your body is chemically imbalanced.

Be a resource as well. Be willing to listen to someone today. By just acknowledging someone you can be the difference between life and death for them.