I’ve suffered from depression for most of my life.
I was a melancholy, serious child.
I was a sullen teen.
I was a self-destructive young adult.
I struggled as a young wife and mother.
I’m 40 now, and while I don’t have all the answers, I have come to terms with who I am, what my expectations are, what my needs are, and what my goals for the future should be.
Being happy isn’t really the goal.
I don’t need a dare or challenge to be happy.
The idea of happiness calls to mind laughter and silliness, and that’s not usually lasting joy.
I prefer to use the term “content.”
I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance andneed. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:11b-13
It’s not my job to make my children happy.
I’m not their entertainer, fixer, cruise director.
I don’t plan playdates or fix their conflicts with each other or teachers.
Kids need to learn to manage their negative feelings in order to be successful adults. If I run to fix every negative feeling or try to take it away, I create fragile kids. I prefer to listen to their complaints and then ask them what they’re going to do about it. Sometimes, they just need to vent or an empathetic shoulder to cry on – with no advice or fixing.
I see many parents who exhibit immature behavior and emotions, threatening their children, being passive-aggressive, narcissistic. They place blame on the child for their own poor reactions to disappointment. The media portrays many adults with dysfunctional emotions and even glorifies the immature parent who cannot show their children unconditional love or healthy emotions.
And I’ve lived some very dark days.
It’s my job as a parent to model happiness, being content, the spectrum of healthy emotions to all of life’s ups and downs.
These are the ways I’ve found over the last few years help me to be happy:
There’s just no point holding onto anger, hatred, bitterness. Let it go. I’ve seen the horrible effects of unforgiveness and how it hurts everyone. Also, forgiving oneself is extremely difficult. I am still learning how to deal with disappointment in a healthy way.
I try to go outside at least 30 minutes a day. It’s often hard and I don’t always feel like it, especially if the weather isn’t ideal. The fresh air and nature is good for me. I try to take a little walk around the village, or preferably a little hike on our forest trail. Sometimes, I just sit in the garden. It provides peaceful reflection.
I actively evaluate and re-evalute everything we do and have to eliminate clutter and stress. I try to exercise regularly. I want to be healthy and still be around for my grandkids. Stress weakens the heart and mind.
It’s taken me years to educate myself about religion and faith and really seek God. While it’s a lifetime process, I finally feel like I’m on the right track to a faith-filled life. Prayer really works.
Don’t trade in emotions for food, screens, or retail therapy. There’s no reason for a screen to be on all the time. Interact with family and friends or just sit in silence. Noise is stressful. I don’t have a TV now but I never used one for background noise. I like to hear the birds and crickets and wind and rain.
I make sure to get enough sleep. I also take time to rest in the afternoons, with tea and music or a good book. We need rest to assimilate new information. I also like to take walks alone in the mornings before our day begins. It helps me to recharge. We have a restful and peaceful home and homeschool without stress or rushing around with too many obligations.
I think too many of us spend too much time worrying about what others think and we seldom express our true selves, maybe not even to ourselves. Do what you love. Create. Write. Wear the hat. Buy the shoes. Paint your nails. Do what you love. Be who you are meant to be. Often expressing emotions in a creative or healthy way can help us to overcome the past or the negativity. I’m still learning to get in touch with my creative side after years of suppression.
Life is too short for regrets. While I’m not a big hugger, I remind myself to fill up the love tanks of my children. I learn their love languages and listen for their needs and I try to meet them.
Replace the voice.
You know the one. That sometimes rather loud voice that tells you that you’re not enough. Start training that voice to say something else. Think positive. While there’s always room for improvement, it’s never necessary to beat yourself down. Grant yourself small victories and reward yourself for meeting little goals.
I evaluated our eating habits years ago and made some changes and we’re all a lot healthier on natural whole foods than processed, chemical dyes, artificial flavorings, and fake sugars. We like good food and we learn how to make it as a family.
I often need to remind myself about this list.
It’s my job to be a role model for my children, modeling healthy emotional behaviors and reactions.
I also use essential oils and take dietary supplements and I feel that these help boost my moods. I’m always learning. I’m always re-evaluating my priorities.
I still sometimes sink into a rut or something upsets me or reminds me of the past. It’s important to allow a moment to grieve. It’s healthy to give into emotions and embrace them occasionally, but never to wallow in the negative.
And never say the trite little “Just smile more. Just pray more. Just be happy. How can you be sad?”
Depression is real. This is how I choose to manage it.