I was addressing an attentive group about what my life was like after my depression when one woman raised her hand to ask, “How did you do it; how did you overcome your depression?” With a wrinkled brow, I knew she too had been a victim of depression or at the very least knew someone who was.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health or NIMH, major depressive disorder is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. for those as young as 15 through the age of 44, and more prevalent in women than men with such contributing factors as chemical and hormonal imbalances, premenstrual disorders, postpartum depression, menopause, and stress (a big one for men as well).
After sharing some of her story, the group and I discovered that she too had been one of the millions suffering from this debilitating disease. Her question was a serious one and while I wished I could have devoted the rest of the evening to it, I simply replied, “Living in service to others.” With only a few minutes to explain, I shared howliving in service to othersor being of help in some way to others had brought me out of my sadness and self focus.
For me, it came about by working in a church environment and while not one of my own faith the similarities were remarkable. Ministers, parishioners, and volunteers were reaching out to the greater community to which they belonged. Donated flowers distributed to nearby nursing homes, meals prepared for the needy and free baby sitting services offered to local families. People were reaching out to others in need and in the process I saw how they too were uplifted, fed, and cared for.
Slowly in the process of helping others, I helped myself. Ifound my own value and worth in the needs of neighbors and strangers alike. Others depended on me and me on them. I found the meaning and purpose to my life. I found my reason for being. Eventually, I found myself flying out of the pit of depression and into a future of possibilities. Depression no longer had a strong hold upon my life and the cure did not come from medications or professional therapies, but from the simple connection with others.
Happiness was found in the connection to others yes, but also to that which for so long had been forgotten — the spirit or soul of me, the part that connects to an even greater spirit or oneness to which we all belong. It was the spirit of me that had the same needs and desires as those I was reaching out to. I needed to know of my own value and worth. I needed to know of the meaning and purpose to my life. I needed to know the reason for living, for dying, and for all which occurs in between. It was that longing for the truths to our existence that eventually led to uniting the mind, body and soul of me. For the mind allows us to ponder our universe and us, the body to meet and make a connection with others, and the soul to learn and grow from our experiences. There is a purpose to all the parts of us, to the mind, body and soul of us. We need only remember to each there is an importance. Remember to tend the garden of thoughts, for right thoughts lead to right actions. Remember to nurture the body sacred, for it enables us to be who we are meant to be. Remember to address the spirit within, for it allows us to connect to that which is outside of ourselves. It is that connection to a greater oneness that not only brings about a greater grasp of self and life, but also the ability to live a happier, healthier and more fulfilling life. For it is then that we transcend self and experience something greater than matter and material. It is then that we can better understand our existence, embrace our humanness, and spiritual mature into who and what if only we can first believe and perceive of ourselves to be.
While your depression may be helped by addressing the physical, mental, and emotional aspects of self, please don’t forget to include the spiritual as well. For it is when we address the whole self or the mind, body, and soul of us that we find not only our health and healing, but also our true happiness. Remember to look within to the spirit of you, to the part of you that connects to an even greater spirit or oneness to which we all belong. Meet and make a connection with others and your spirit is sure to soar from the pit of depressionto those heights even greater than either of us can imagine.