Finding Joy Again (How I Overcame Depression)

 

How One Man’s life was changed by a lesson from his mother

 How I overcame depression early in my life and now find joy in being a father.

(I am going to preface this with a disclaimer: This is my experience and in no way should it be seen as a cure all for everyone. How I  overcame depression is my own experience. I know that there are a lot of people our there that have worse cases of depression that I did.)

We are born into this world with no guarantees of what life will bring. Everyone experiences life from a different view. Some children experience happy childhoods, healthy home environments, and plenty of things to invite learning and growth, not to mention joy and happiness. Others may not have the same blessing. There is so much chaos and gloom in the world today. If I was given an assignment to list 100 reasons why my life didn’t go as planned, I haven doubt I would  get an  A+! It’s always easier to see the glass half empty, but more of a stretch to find all the reasons why it’s half full!

Now that I look back, I had a lot going against me:  my Mom and Dad had divorced when I was  8 years old, I did not like Junior high (to say the least), my best friend had moved to New Mexico, and I was having some health problems.

I used to love school,  but in Junior High my life went.downhill. My grades were slipping and my attendance was slipping. My Mom used to come home from parent teacher conferences telling me that my teachers ‘loved’ having me in class. She said that was not the norm. It made me feel special when she said stuff like that to me. In Junior high, life became very…depressing. I felt like there was no joy in my life and no motivation to find any.

My mom took me to several doctors. They would ask her as if I wasn’t in the room, “Does your son have a reason to live?”  In the end, the Doctor’s prescribed an antidepressant. I remember, on the way home, asking my Mom if we were going to pick up the prescription.

“No.” was all I remember her saying.  (now before you go criticizing her for being a bad parent, I must come to her rescue. Call it mother’s intuition, or whatever you want, but I feel like she must have known I needed a different approach. )Later she called me in and told me that she had a different prescription for me…Gratitude.

She told me that she wanted me to think of 10 things I was grateful for in my prayers each night. Prayer was never the easiest thing for me.  In fact, it was probably the hardest!. My wife will tell you, that even today, my communication skills  ‘suck.’ (The poor woman still continues to love me and put up with me every day, though!) What is prayer if it is not communication with a higher power?

I knelt down and tried that first night.  I thought of the first thing:

We had a house, and I was thankful for that.

A second thing: We had a car that worked most of the time, and I was thankful when it did.

A third: ‘We have food to eat, and I’m thankful for that.’

At first everything was just the basics.  But then as I continued on with my mom’s challenge of expressing gratitude every night, I remember starting to stray from the basics and thinking of different things each night. It turned out, I had a LOT of things to be grateful for!

I had been living my life with a ‘glass half empty’  perspective.

Things started to turn around as I realized all I had to be grateful for.Yes, my Mom and Dad were still divorced, yes, I still did not like Junior high (who does??),yes, my best friend was no longer there, and yes, I was still having some health problems.  But I had a lot of things going my way now. Nothing had really changed since my doctor wanted me to take antidepressants, except my perspective.

So, what now? Now I am the grateful Nazi! That one lesson proved to be one of the greatest lessons my mother ever taught me. It has helped me TREMENDOUSLY throughout my life! We found out that I had a brain tumor when I was 15. After surgery I had to learn to walk and talk all over again. Two years later, it grew back and I had to go through the whole process again! Thank goodness I had learned to look for the positive through all of that!

Now, more than 15 years later, I am married with 4 kids. Teaching MY kids to be grateful…well, that’s a topic for a whole new post, but I feel like I have been able to help my wife and kids through some pretty rough patches because of that valuable lesson I learned while I was young. PicMonkey Collage

My wife, Katie, has gone through 5 really tough miscarriages over the years, and had crippling back issues. It has been hard for me to watch her go through this. There were times that we wondered if we would be able to have kids. It’s was easy to find ourselves sinking into what felt like a black hole sometimes where everything seemed hopeless! Today we have 4 very active children and I’m grateful for EVERY DAY that I have to spend with those little stinkers!

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My youngest son is only 18 months and his sweet personality ALWAYS puts a smile on my face. I’m so grateful for my sweet wife and all the challenges we’ve been through that have made us who we are today.

Back to the disclaimer. I realize just being grateful is not a cure for everyone’s depression. I realize that how I overcame depression may not be the norm and that there are people that WISH WITH ALL THEIR HEART, that gratitude was the only answer they needed. My heart goes out to you. I do know, though, that it can make a major impact on everyone’s life, so what is there to lose? (other than driving your friends and family NUTS with your gratitude attitude!)

My advice? Take the challenge my mother gave me. Oh! and give your mom a hug today!

(If you enjoyed this post, you might enjoy the following post by my wife, Katie: Finding Joy Through a Child’s Eyes, or Flipping the Switch to Positive thinking by Trish)

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