When we think of cartoons, we usually think of happy and funny characters doing dumb things. But, shockingly, not all cartoon characters are happy. Charlie Brown, of Peanuts fame, is often depressed at the prospect of having to deal with a challenging cartoon world full of difficult people, together with the struggle and pain of childhood. And in Winnie the Pooh, Eeyore is the voice of doom and gloom, despite living in a beautiful wood in the English countryside, where he should have been able to find something to be happy about. Depression can feel like this. It can feel as if you are carrying a 100 lb. weight around all the time. But there is help available if you are living under a dark cloud of depression.
What is the Difference between Feeling Unhappy and Being Depressed?
We all get depressed at times, so how can you tell the difference between feeling unhappy and being depressed? We have all experienced a bad day at work, or a breakup with someone, or even a bad hair day that made us feel less than our best. The word “depression” is often used to describe temporary unhappiness.
In fact, depression is a mood disorder that can leave you feeling hopeless about your life and your future. It can be accompanied by feelings of worthlessness and self-hate, tearfulness, fatigue, and possibly even thoughts of suicide. Depression in men, especially, can take the form of irritation or anger. Major depression is prolonged, and may last for weeks or months, with the sufferer unable to shake it off, even with the help of medication. Ultimately, depression results in an inability to find joy or pleasure in anything.
Ways of Coping with Depression
People with depression can feel as if they have no control over their depression and are unable to do anything about it. While depression can be overwhelming, that does not mean there is nothing that can help. But this does require that you take responsibility for your depression and find ways to cope with it.
Here are a few suggestions for way ways in which you can improve the quality of your life if you struggle with depression.
- When you are depressed, every suggestion seems almost impossible. For example, exercise is known to increase endorphins, which give us a feeling a well-being. When you are suffering from depression it can be hard to get started, yet moderate exercise – walking the dog, for instance – can help you to feel better.
- Note whether your depression stems from a real source that can be addressed. For example, if your spouse or boss is playing a role in your depression, note how you are reacting to them.
- Clean up your diet. Avoid excessive amounts of sugar, which can lead to a condition called hypoglycemia that has been associated with depression.
- If you are a “stuffer”, that is, someone who does not allow your feelings to show, then your internal pressure can build up to the point where your anger becomes inwardly focused as depression. This does not mean that you should throw temper tantrums or have screaming matches when you are angry. But being “too nice” can be a problem because you then stifle your true feelings and turn them on yourself instead.
- Recognize cognitive distortions. These are the thoughts that run in your head, much like a hamster in a cage. For example, all-or-nothing thinking can run to absolute statements of what feels like the truth, such as “Nobody can love me”, “I’m a failure”, “I never do anything right”, and so on – even when these are only based on one recent problem in your life.
If you have struggled with depression or are currently feeling depressed, you have probably heard all of these suggestions before. The reason you continue to read and hear about them is that they work.
Christian Counseling to Help You Cope with Depression
In addition to the coping strategies listed above, you should find a therapist to work with. As a Christian counselor, I have seen that the best results when dealing with depression come from a combination of therapy and medication, if needed.
“Cascada,” courtesy of Hernan Pinera, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY-SA 2.0); “Midsummer,” courtesy of Miguel Virkkunen Carvalho, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY 2.0); “St. Stephen’s White – HDR,” courtesy of Nicolas Raymond, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY 2.0) www.freestock.ca