One of the many self-care practices I generally implement when going through dark times is a gratitude practice. This can be as simple as keeping a gratitude journal where I write down a list of five things that I am grateful for from the day before I go to bed. It can also be as extensive as using my 101-bead gratitude “necklace” to count off 101 things I’m grateful for from the day.
Often I implement this practice once I’m already down in the midst of the darkness when I’m trying to climb my way back out of the pit. This time I was already using my daily gratitude journal practice before the downward slide even began. It’s interesting to notice the difference.
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1
Belief and faith are words that tend to be used interchangeably in many religious circles, but I think of them differently. Belief is the holding of a mental proposition to be true. Faith is trusting in something or someone even without proof.
For me, belief comes from the head. Faith comes from the heart.
“Secret of Adulthood: If I want to ask a lot of myself, I need to give a lot to myself.” ~Gretchen Rubin
Gretchen Rubin of The Happiness Project frequently shares her Secrets of Adulthood on her blog and on Twitter. These are things she’s learned over the years about how life works. The one posted above is one I encountered today on her Twitter feed.
Like many of her Secrets of Adulthood, it sounds rather obvious, but it’s something that I don’t do very well at living into. I tend to expect a lot of myself but think that it’s selfish to give anything to myself. The problem is that when I don’t fill my own tank, I have nothing to give to others. Therefore, I continually disappoint others and myself with my inability to do what is expected of me.
“Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal.” ~Albert Camus
I’ve run across this quote numerous times; the most recent was from a friend who posted it on Twitter with the hashtag #depression. It fits well with my experience of what depression is like.
The simple tasks and activities that most people take for granted as “normal” become tremendously hard work. Whether it’s meeting people for lunch or keeping the house clean or cooking dinner or running errands, these every day activities suddenly seem to take more energy than I have to give.
My work group recently began reading some of the scripture passages from the Daily Office Lectionary each morning as part of a group prayer time. Even though we do not follow the Morning Prayer service (we just do the scripture readings and offer prayer for those in our lives who are in need), this practice gradually led to me resuming the practice of doing the Evening Prayer service on my own each night and now to doing full Morning Prayer on weekend mornings.
As I’ve begun this latest journey through the dark lands, I’ve been struck by how often the liturgy of the Evening Prayer service talks about light and darkness. I suppose it shouldn’t be surprising since it is intended to be read during the hours when day shifts into night, but I had not really noticed this language before now.
“Depression is something that makes you lose your sight.” ~Michael Schenker
Dark night. Black cloud. Thick fog. Darkness. Shadowlands. Blackness. Black sun.
All of these common ways of describing depressing describe conditions in which we can’t see very well. Our sight is dimmed in darkness, fog, and shadows. Familiar objects take on distorted appearances. Color is washed out. We can’t see where we’re going, and we can’t even see our current surroundings with any clarity. Everything appears gray and misshapen.
“Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.” ~Mary Oliver
I’ve always loved this quote because it’s taken me years to understand that the darkness in my own life is a gift. It often does not feel that way at the time, but it is a gift nevertheless. And recognizing it as such in the moment, even when I can’t see it, makes the darkness easier to bear.