In my last post, I talked about having Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Today, I address a common sibling, or close cousin, of OCD: depression.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), over 2 million American adults have OCD, but many millions more – about 30 million – struggle with some form of mood disorder, such as depression, or bi-polar disorder. My father has bi-polar disorder, so we both know how difficult depression can be to combat.
Depression, or Major Depressive Disorder as it is clinically labeled, involves much more than just “feeling down in the dumps.” Affecting physical stamina and other elements required for successful living, depression has a mind-numbing, energy-sucking, and joy-slaughtering impact on those drawn in by its venomous tentacles.
I address the subject of depression in conjunction with my experiences with OCD in my book, Self-Action Leadership: The Key to Everything. I know from personal experience that there is help, hope, and healing available to those who struggle with OCD, a mood disorder like depression, or any other mental illness.
Today, I address three specific areas that anyone afflicted with depression – or any other mental illness – can choose to focus on that will lead to a better tomorrow. They are:
2). Relational Help
3). Spiritual/Existential Help
First, let’s discuss self-help measures you can take.
The initial step when dealing with depression or any other mental disorder is to consider what you could do yourself to improve your situation. This includes study and research to better understand your condition. Before I was clinically diagnosed with OCD, I was able to diagnose myself by doing research in books and on the Internet at my high school back in 1996. Later in 1997, I was clinically diagnosed by a psychiatrist.
Health and fitness are other self-help tools I highly recommend. I am an avid runner. In high school, I was a State Champion, and in college, I became an All-American runner. But today, I run as much for what it does for my mental and emotional hygiene, as I do for my physical fitness, or to prepare for a race. I simply feel better psychologically and emotionally when I am in good physical shape. Getting your heart rate up and working your muscles is a great form of self-psychotherapy, and the best part is that it’s FREE!
In choosing an exercise regimen don’t feel pressured to become a runner like me. Many people despise running, and that is okay. When it comes to exercise, it is essential you find something you enjoy, or else your training plan will not last long enough to do you much good. Find some physical activity that you enjoy, and then try to engage it for 30-45 minutes at least 3-5 times per week. If you are consistent, you will be amazed at the results you will get after a while.
And don’t give up if you don’t see positive results right away. If I haven’t run in a while and am just getting back into a training regimen, it usually takes until the third or fourth week before I finally experience that “runner’s high” again for the first time. And frankly, the first few runs – even the first few weeks of runs – tend to be a rather miserable experience, especially if I have recently been struggling with symptoms of OCD or depression.
The SECOND AREA of focus is relational help.
If things are not improving with self-help efforts alone, relational help involves seeking the help of a licensed professional. With the assistance of a psychiatrist, counselor, or both, you can receive the counseling and/or medicinal treatments required to re-establish mental health.
Taking this step is usually not easy. With lingering stigmas attached to mental illness, many are hesitant to seek help even when they know they need it.
It may help to know that one of the most famous psychiatrists of all time – M. Scott Peck, M.D. – equated seeking out therapy to great personal fortitude, and suggested that such persons are among the strongest, not the weakest, who walk the Planet.
“You may think that [psychiatric patients] are more cowardly and frightened than most. Not so. Those who come to psychotherapy are the wisest and most courageous among us. Everyone has problems, but what they often do is to try to pretend that those problems don’t exist, or they run away from those problems, or drink them down, or ignore them in some other way. It’s only the wiser and braver among us who are willing to submit themselves to the difficult process of self-examination that happens in a psychotherapist’s office” (From Further Along the Road Less Traveled, Simon & Schuster, 1993, Chap. 3, p. 51-52).
Indeed, it takes courage to seek professional help, but the rewards can more than compensate for the perceived risks.
In less serious cases, you can seek relational help from a spouse, a mentor, a spiritual leader, a parent, or another trusted family member or friend. It is important and therapeutic to have someone in your life whom you can safely divulge personal, sensitive, and even secret information about yourself. Some things simply cannot be resolved all on their own. In such cases, we need the help of others.
I have benefitted greatly from the help of such relationships, both professional and personal. In addition to working with psychiatrists and professional counselors, I have also worked with semi-professional (grad-student) counselors when I could not afford professional fees, and even lay counselors (my older sister and brother).
As important as self-leadership is, it cannot replace the help that is sometimes needed from others.
Third, those who suffer from mental illness can find enormous benefits from spiritual/existential help.
Prayer, fasting, meditation, and worship have all granted me greater access to Heaven’s Power in working through my OCD and depression.
If you are not a religious or spiritual person, there are still things that you can do. For example, gaining greater clarity on your life’s purpose can provide great meaning, which in turn, has the benefit of aiding mental hygiene. In my book, I discuss some specific steps you can take to aid in clarifying your life’s purpose. For example, you can compose a Self-Declaration of Independence and a Self-Constitution (Chapter 30), which will also be the subject of future blog posts.
The great Viennese psychiatrist Victor Frankl of the last century was a survivor of the Nazi death camps in World War II. After his liberation, he developed a new brand of psychotherapy called Logotherapy. Logotherapy focuses on helping a patient find meaning in his or her life. In his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, Frankl claims that, “striving to find a meaning in one’s life is the primary motivational force in man.” Moreover, the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzshe has said: “He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how.” For Frankl, mental health is a direct outgrowth of finding meaning and purpose in your life.
My experiences support Frankl’s theories of Logotherapy. Despite any and all symptoms of mental illness I have struggled with, my mental hygiene is almost always at its best when I am eagerly engaged in a good cause that motivates me, and provides meaningful service to others in the process. Such activities provide purpose and meaning for me, and help alleviate my depressive symptoms.
If you, or someone you love struggles with a mood disorder like depression or bi-polar, or any other mental disorder, there is help and hope for healing. Don’t stand idly by and allow the disorder to conquer you. Rise up and claim the self-sovereignty that Life has endowed you with. Take action, seek the help of others, including a Higher Power if you are a believer, and search out the bigger picture of your life’s meaning and purpose.
Taking these steps in your life will not guarantee you will never experience depressive or neurotic symptoms, but they will make your challenges more manageable so that you, not the disorder, ultimately calls the shots in your life.
Remember the great truth that while you cannot always control how you feel, you do have control over what you do about how you feel, and there exists great power in your freedom and capacity to act. If you continue to do the same things you have always done, you will continue to get the same results you have always gotten. If you want a different output in your life, you must invest in a different input – this is simply a mathematical truism. When you begin to change, things will begin to change for you.
“What you become inwardly changes your outer reality.” ~ Plutarch / Otto Rank
VISIT FREEDOMFOCUSED.COM for more information on Dr. Jordan R. Jensen and his Company.