Like a once blooming flower which has lost its petals, depression can turn a beautiful soul into someone who feels lifeless. And to those who have never experienced depression themselves, my intent for this article is to help you understand it. I also would like to help those who feel so stuck in the dark to see a glimmer of light. No matter how much we try to help those in a depression, sometimes our efforts aren’t enough. Professional help and the possibility of medication are sometimes necessary. Sometimes they are only needed for a short time, and other times for a lifetime.
Can depression be genetic? I believe it can. But try not to instill unnecessary fear into those loved ones who have it in their family. Sometimes depression can happen after a loss of a job, a divorce, a loss of a loved one and life changes in general. Mine started when I was 15. As a sensitive person who always wanted to give and please everyone, I was shy (yes, believe it or not). I never wanted to be the center of attention, I lacked a voice and I definitely lacked love for myself. My parents were wonderful. Don’t get me wrong, we had our ups and downs as every family does, but as far as my depression, my parents were both very understanding, compassionate and did whatever they could to help me. Not everyone is as lucky as me. Depression is something my grandmother suffered from, my father’s mother. I do not have much memory of her since she passed away when I was young. Hearing the stories of her childhood made it clear to me why she would have had it. But why did I? Was it passed down? Was it a genetic thing? In my heart, I really don’t feel it was. I feel my Grandma was left feeling very alone and scared as a child, which carried into her adult life. Rather than try to take the time to figure out why I was depressed, my parents decided to try and help me overcome my depression. They got me into see a psychologist. I am not sure if it was my mom’s intuition or what, but she knew somehow that keeping me involved with things that brought me joy was a great way for me to cope. It kept me balanced and busy and out of bed. Dancing and my church’s youth group were my thing. And although I took piano lessons, was in Girl Scouts, chorus at school, choir at church and involved in some school plays, my joy always came from dancing and my youth group. No matter how tired or sad I was, I always felt better once I was there. Did it make me want to get up and go to school? No. I would pray for snow in the fall, just so I could stay home and sleep. And the more I slept, the more I wanted to sleep. I’d sleep on the bus on the way to school and on the way home. I sometimes ate and drank nothing for days. Then there were days I could eat an entire box of Cheez-Its watching Legends of the Fall, one of the most depressing movies ever. I would not take phone calls from my friends nor would I want to see anyone. I longed for summer break when I could sleep or hang out in the sunshine by the pool with my friends. I would have nightmares as soon as the letter came stating who I had for a teacher for the new school year. I ended up failing my senior year of high school (not the only year I failed). I was told not to attend the graduation and received my diploma in summer school, which I aced by the way.
Depression isn’t something you can just force yourself out of. Believe me, I tried. I was falling asleep behind the wheel on my way to work as I got older and this was even under the care of a professional and taking medication. When you have no desire to do anything, taking a shower is difficult. Your brain is not functioning correctly when you are in a depression. And you know it, yet, how do you fix it? And if you have people around you who lack compassion for this dark disease, it only takes you further from the light. Guilt takes over and you feel screwed. There is no sign of hope. I am definitely blessed that I never turned to an addiction of any kind; well, unless you call binge watching depressing movies and eating an entire box of processed crackers an addiction. My grandmother was an alcoholic. I believe she drank her depression away so she could pass out and not have to face life. And that is what addictions are. It is an escape from healing ourselves, from working our way to who we are supposed to become in this lifetime. It’s a Band-aid that may stick there until the day we cross over or decide we’ve had enough and try to take our own life. Some unfortunately succeed. While suicide was never a thought that crossed my mind (I feared death as a child), I did not want to be here. From dealing with drama in school, to then clinging to an alcoholic and abusive pothead for a boyfriend, depression seemed to be a pattern for me. Medication would only work for so long until the doctor had to increase it. Then when that stopped working, they would put me on something else. It was an endless battle of starting over. I always felt that I made a few steps forward only to get plummeted 10,000 steps backward. My heart was broken. I lost my job that I was really good at and loved because the ‘new boss’ brought in her own assistant and pushed me out the door. I believe she even set me up. I suffered from hormonal issues on top of all this. Life was like a huge hamster wheel. I could not get off of it. At one time when I was a single mom to my son, living back home with my parents, I was put on Prozac. It was by far the best medication I had ever been on. By this time I was in my late 20s. After a few weeks of this medicine, or what I referred to as “the wonder drug,” the one that made me feel like I could live again, I started having problems swallowing. It was after my weight dropped to about 105 pounds that my pharmacist asked why I was so skinny. He actually showed concern about how sickly looking I was. It was when I told him I could not swallow and no test showed anything wrong with my throat, he pulled out a list of the serious side effects of my Prozac. Guess what was on it? Yep, problems swallowing. Darn it. Now what? Here we go again.
My doctor weaned me off it and I went on something else. It wasn’t long after that when I ended up going off everything. I was engaged in a career I loved, doing nails for Mirror Images in Quakertown for about 13 years. I loved my boss and her family. We are still friends to this day. Going back to school for nails was the best decision I could have ever made. I got straight A’s and even passed with a grade of 100 percent on my final. I knew I had it in me but at the time, I wasn’t depressed so it was easy for me. Besides, I was doing something that I was interested in rather than doing something I was forced to do. My boss was and still is a very confident person who knows what she wants, doesn’t care what anyone thinks and truly taught me to live life and stand up for myself. Because of her, I really came out of my shell. However, in 1999 I lost my best friend–my grandmother Mimi–to cancer. Depression set in once again. It was indeed one of the hardest times of my life. I wanted to be with her so badly because she was who I turned to during my darkest hours. What was I going to do now? She was my light. She was the Christmas spirit in my family. Christmas was not the same for a very long time. I think I probably stayed in that depression until I was divorced, which was really bad because I had given birth to my son and suffered majorly from postpartum depression. And that little baby knew it. Lack of sleep, body and hormone changes, ugh…it was an ugly time. It was then that I felt the urge to read Self Matters by Dr. Phil. I actually engaged in the workbook. The book made me face all the challenges in my life and all the areas I needed to heal. I had a lot of ugly cries through it, but the release showed me the light. I never knew that letting go was so important, as well as forgiving others as well as myself. I stayed out of depression until I miscarried with my first baby in my second marriage. I was in my second trimester and had to endure surgery in order to have the baby removed. I was told I had a molar pregnancy and was not allowed to try to get pregnant for an entire year. I was mad at God. I was mad at my life. I just laid in bed every chance I got and slept and cried.
Then my daughter came. Despite what the doctors wanted, I was pregnant within 6 months of losing the baby. So now I was on high risk. My doctor knew about my past postpartum depression and suggested I go on a low dose of Zoloft while I was pregnant. It was the best thing he could have done. The birth wasn’t great, but my daughter is. And I believe God gave her to me to help me stay on the path of light. I went off Zoloft when she was only a few months old, and have been off medication now for 11 years. Even through my experience with brain cancer this past year, I never felt the need for medication. I am a completely different person now. How do I stay afloat? How do I stay out of depression even with so many negative things going on in the world? Here’s what I have found works for me.
Meditation: Clears your head, gives you ideas and clear thinking. Gets rid of fear and worry and doubt. Brings you peace.
Helping others: This doesn’t mean putting others before yourself. This means helping where you can and when you feel like it.
Taking care of myself: Exercise, Epsom salt baths, walks in nature, listening to music, taking adult tap classes (doing the things that brought me joy as a child), going regularly to the gym, getting to the beach as much as possible, getting some energy work done by my friend Linda.
Laughing: Watching episodes of Friends, watching a funny movie, spending time with uplifting people.
Reading: Self-help books, spiritual books, inspirational quotes, inspiring biographies
Watching: Inspirational/spiritual videos on YouTube, inspirational/spiritual movies: I recommend The Shift by Dr. Wayne Dyer and You Can Heal Your Life by Louise L. Hay.
Engaging in Creativity: Painting rocks, coloring in my adult coloring books, writing, planting in the garden.
Filtering out the negative: The people (yes, even family), the news, the unfulfilling job or relationship.
Setting Boundaries: Say no when I want to say no, visually protect myself in a bubble of light every morning. I won’t answer the phone if I see who’s calling and can feel their energy may be toxic to me at the moment.
Engaging in a morning ritual: Bubble, prayer, gratitude, affirmations, putting the blinds up to see the natural light, making my bed so I stay out of it.
Daily: Think positive as much as possible, say affirmations, get outside, set goals, set intentions. I refrain from taking things personally, I call on the angels and God for help with everything, find God in everything and in everyone, I am aware of my ego and I always try my best.
You may come up with whatever feels good to you since everyone is different. If you are feeling down and depressed, at least get outside in the sunshine for a little bit each day and stay away from anything negative that will only depress you more. If you have never tried meditation, do it! What are you waiting for? YouTube has wonderful guided meditations for everyone and every area of your life. Also, please know that you are not alone. You have many guides, angels, ascended masters and ancestors who are trying to help you from the other side. All you have to do is ask. You are never on the wrong path of life unless you try to take your own life. There are detours which will be a lot easier when you call on spiritual guidance for help. Light will be shown! May you grow and bloom continuously.
Amy Musser, a Hellertown resident, is a spiritual adviser and owner of The Angel Whisperer based at Sacred Space in Hellertown. She was diagnosed with grade 3 astrocytoma, a type of brain cancer, in 2016. She documents her progress fighting the disease and shares inspiration on Facebook.