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Survive Depression

Welcome. You must be feeling really down right now. Your inward focus is so consuming that you don’t event know that your cell phone might be ringing.  You don’t care if it rings or not. 

To help you out of this deep moment of depression, despair, and feeling alone … I want you to try and “get out of yourself” by looking outward at your surroundings.  See if you can see a piece of dust floating in the air.  Are there any plants around you? How about animals? It important for you to become aware of your present surroundings. Sense the smells, textures, and lightscapes around you.  Even if you are sitting in the dark, look out the window and tell me something that you see outside. Are there stars in the sky? Shadows of light against the skyline?  Flickering movements barely noticable on the street?

Depression can put us in a blacker than black space. You MUST try to push yourself to see what is around you. Make notes of what you see. Pick up the phone and call someone you know. Tell them how you are feeling then describe the things that you see.  Try and get outside of yourself.

To manage your overwhelming array of emotions like sadness, isolation, loneliness, I developed the LIFE RAFT approach to surviving depression. LIFERAFT is a set of tools to help you out of life’s hard moments.

LIFE RAFT is an acronym for:

  • L = Let Others Help You.
  • I = Identify Your Emotional Pattern
  • F = Flow
  • E = Emotions Are Chaotic
  • R = Respect Your Needs
  • A = Awareness of NOW
  • F = Find Joy
  • T = Timechunk

 

Let’s take a look at each individually:

L = Let Others Help You: When feeling down, letting others help is difficult to do, yet, one of the most critical. From birth we are taught to be self sufficient, tough, strong. Well-intentioned friends often echo this sentiment by telling us to suck it up, move on, get over it. This advice is just plain wrong! Whoever heard of telling a cancer patient to get over it and move on with their life?

Those of us in emotional pain cannot move on or get over it. Our emotions live with us. We must deal with them, not bury them. Asking others for help, in whatever form we need (e.g., mowing our lawn, listening to our sadness), not only helps us feel better, it allows our friends to give us a precious gift. Remember how you felt the last time you helped a friend? Let your friends give you the gift of help. Don’t be shy. Ask them. They want to help you.

I = Identify Your Emotional Pattern: Identify your emotional pattern means mapping your unique and individual emotional mood swings. We all cycle through emotions at different rates and with different intensities in response to life’s events. In grief, for example, we can experience sadness, joy, anger, and laughter all in just a few minutes or over the course of an entire day. Knowing the frequency and intensity of our mood swings gives us a chance to know what to expect and when to expect it. This step in becoming aware of our emotional patterns can alleviate anxiety significantly. Once we know what our emotions are most likely to do, they no longer imprison us. We become free. So identify your emotional pattern. It is what it is. Don’t try and change it. Just be aware of it. To learn more, see “The Secret to Overcoming Your Depression.”

F = Flow: Emotions must flow through you. Don’t fight them. Accept them. Like grief, you cannot go under them, over them or around them. You must experience every aspect of pain, sadness, grief, mania, etc. that comes your way. It’s as simple as that.

E = Emotions Are Chaotic: Emotions are chaotic and can change drastically from one moment to the next. It’s OK. You need to let your emotions be chaotic. Accept the fact that they are chaotic. Know they will not last forever. Whatever emotion you feel will eventually change. This is a fundamental truth.

R = Respect Your Needs: In the past, I often found myself doing what others wanted me to do, behaving like others wanted me to behave and thinking like others wanted me to think. I said yes when I felt like saying no. Those days are gone! Don’t be afraid to say no if saying no is in your best interest. This is not selfish! This is purely and simply taking care of you. So my advice is to make decisions that are in your best interest and if you choose to go against what you really want, think or feel, be conscious of the reasons you do so. Respect and protect your personal needs and you will experience more happiness.

A = Awareness of Now: Live in the present moment as much as possible. There are amazing colorscapes, smellscapes, touchscapes to be experienced in any moment. Don’t miss out on them. Pay attention (I once saw a bumblebee sleeping on my deck in the middle of the day). Once the moment is gone, it is gone forever. Practice living in the present. This alone will transform your life.

F = Find Joy: Find activities that give you pleasure and joy. Experience them often. Whether you love to paint, write, hike or talk, knowing what gives you joy and putting these activities into your daily life as often as possible will help you live a fuller, more satisfied, more joyful life.

T = Timechunk: If the day seems overwhelming, cut it down into smaller time chunks. Think only about the next hour, minute or second if if the day or week seems overwhelming. Every one of us has a specific size bucket that holds our emotions. When the bucket is full of negative emotion, life seems overwhelming to the point of paralysis. We cannot help ourselves. If we begin to focus on a smaller time increment, the bucket becomes less full and we are able to deal with life more effectively. So chunk it up!

Life rafts are meant to save lives. The LIFE RAFT approach presented here saved mine. I hope you will find it useful in managing your own grief, depression, bipolar disease, divorce or any other traumatic or anxiety-laden event of life. I welcome your comments and stories.

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