Rants, Musings, and Mental Meanderings of a former Conservative Christian Mother. Standing Strong against ignorance, preconceptions, labels and excessive housework. Celebrating original thought, religious freedom, parenthood, free enterprise and chocolate.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Dealing with Discouragement

I have heard it said that the greatest tool the Devil has against someone is discouragement, but I take it a step further. I believe it is the isolation that comes with discouragement. Have you ever noticed that when something (or someone) has really gotten you down, if there are people around you to help you out of your slump, you are able to shake it off much quicker. However, when you start to feel isolated, what may not have been a very big issue to begin with can grow and grow until you have some heavy-duty depression setting in.

So, what causes this isolation? There are many different reasons for it, but I had one older woman tell me she believed one of the greatest factors was the fear of letting people know you were discouraged. Many of us are so afraid that if anyone finds out we are dealing with discouragement, they will think it is because we are not spiritual, because we aren't good wives, mothers, teachers, etc..., because we are in some kind of sin, because we're too weak, stupid (fill in the other self-degrading adjective here) to handle our lives, the list goes on. And the really sad part is, sometimes it's true that there are people who react that way! They see someone who is discouraged and think, "Well, it's their own fault, since they did ______." I was talking to one woman who is in her 50's, and I was telling her how I felt bad for someone who was really struggling with discouragement. She just rolled her eyes and said, "You know, there are some people who just like to be mad and bitter all the time. You can't feel sorry for them or try to help them, since they really just enjoy being that way." Wow, now that's a loving, compassionate attitude for you. Now, I will admit there are some people who just revel in being a victim, but for the most part people do NOT enjoy being unhappy. (Not to mention, it is not our job to decide that someone "deserves to be" or "wants to be" depressed.) I was really taken aback by her attitude, and I wondered how many other people think this way! It is easy to see why some people hide their discouragement and try to deal with it on their own, afraid of what people will think of them if they confide that they are struggling. This is really sad.

My mom had a friend (who was battling cancer at the time) talk to her about dealing with discouragement, and every other sentence she kept giving the disclaimer, "I mean, I DO trust God, it's just that..." It was as if she was afraid that by confessing her emotional struggles, people would assume she wasn't trusting God. Well, I have news for you, if not liking your situation made you not right with God, then Jesus did wrong in the Garden of Gethsemane when He prayed to God, "Let this cup pass from me." Guess what! Jesus was not looking forward to being crucified!!!! In fact, He felt emotions about it to an extent we will never comprehend, sweating drops of blood as He prayed, and He was not in sin. Job cursed the day he was born, and if you read the book of Job you will see (in very poetic language) just how strongly Job felt about his situation. Later we read, "In all this, Job sinned not..." Job was very vocal about his feelings when all he had was wiped out and all his children were killed! He didn't just bite the bullet, smile piously, say, "Well, I'm just trusting the Lord" and go floating on his way. He was very open about his feelings. What am I getting at? Don't be afraid to feel things. Don't feel guilty when you feel overwhelmed. Don't be afraid to cry out to God that you are not happy with His plan in your life sometimes. I am not talking about defiance, I am talking about crying out to your Heavenly Father saying, "This hurts too bad! I don't think I can handle this!!" The most precious moments I have had communing with God have been in times when my heart was broken, and I just told God exactly what I feeling. My favorite verse when I am feeling down is, "The Lord is nigh unto them that of a broken heart." We can ask God "Why?" anytime, as long as we are willing to accept the answer. These feelings of sadness, despair, being overwhelmed, feeling hopeless, feeling guilty, frustration... all are not sin in themselves. It's all in how you handle it. If you let this discouragement grow into rebellion and bitterness, now you have a problem. Nip it in the bud, so to speak. These are some little tips that help me to fight discouragement:

If you are feeling down, don't be ashamed of it. You're not doing anything wrong by feeling this way. Once you can accept that these feelings are okay, you will be better able to deal with it.

Find a friend or family member you can confide in... the sooner the better!!! It's especially nice to have someone you can vent to that won't take it personally or make it worse. The longer you let something go, the worse it gets. Snuff out those little issues quickly.

Work on your relationship with God. Make your peace with His will in your life. If He has revealed a sin in your life that you just aren't willing to take care of, true peace is going to elude you until you deal with it. Remember, God is the only One who will never let you down, and it sounds corny and cliche' but it's true: He only wants the best for your life. You may not always like what He has in store for your life, and that's okay. Just don't let anger or bitterness at God for the way He has directed your life build up to the point where there is a wall between you. Blocking God out of your life is a very dangerous decision, and I can guarantee that whatever the reason you are pushing Him away, it's not worth it. It's a plain and proven fact : You need God in your life.

Realize you are worth salvaging. When you feel down, it's easy to think that no one cares about you, no one needs you, and it really doesn't matter if you can shake this or not. Every human being in every situation is needed by someone and has a Divine purpose. Never forget that.

Make sure it's not a physical problem. Persistent, recurring depression lasting longer than four weeks at a time may be a problem requiring a doctor's advice. Don't try to be a hero. If you had diabetes, you wouldn't feel weak by taking insulin! Some of the most damaged lives I've seen are people who had medical problems and were told it was just a "sin problem" or believed it was a weakness of some kind. If you need help, take the initiative and get it. You're worth it!!!

Recognize that ups and downs are normal. You will have days when you feel on top of the world... and days when you wish you could just stay in bed and eat chocolate. God created everything to have cycles; nothing ever is exactly the same all the time. So for goodness' sake, don't expect your emotions to be.

Work on personal relationships. Take time out of your day to blog, e-mail, make a phone call, mail a card... whatever your communication preference. Just stay connected. The more you withdraw into yourself, the more susceptible to isolation you will become. I am the type that has to remind myself to talk to people. (I can be a bit of a hermit.) But, it's worth the effort. One way to tell if you are doing good with your inter-personal relationships is by having a good "mix" of contacts. There should be a bit of each: family, old friends and new friends.

Reevaluate your priorities. Are you discouraged because you feel overwhelmed? Like you just can't keep up no matter how hard you try? Take a step back and realize if you made the people you care about feel loved today, it doesn't matter if the laundry didn't get folded. Sometimes we are discouraged because we are looking for the wrong things to make us feel like we accomplished something. (Especially as mothers! We can sometimes feel like we run around all day just to break even, let alone accomplish anything!!!) Realize that even the little things you do matter, and only worry about things that will make a difference in 20 years. This doesn't mean totally neglecting housework, though, since dishes sitting in the sink for 20 years will be pretty gross... (Sorry, couldn't help it.)

Find out what makes you feel good - and DO IT. (Within reason, if you are prone to overdoing things... Having a bit of ice cream is okay. Eating the whole carton is not.) Use common sense here, ladies. ;0) I don't mean trying to elope with some hunk or blowing up someone's car when they make you mad. I am talking about something that is not immoral or illegal! Write down a list of your favorite simple pleasures, and when you get in a slump pull it out and indulge yourself. Again, if you catch it soon enough, you'd be surprised how much easier it is to shake off those blues.

Lastly, if you are not struggling with discouragement, reach out to someone who might be. Have compassion and remember, people need love the most when they deserve it the least. A person who is discouraged can be kind of cranky and annoying to be around, but sow that seed of kindness and it may grow into a friendship that you just might need somewhere down the road.


Sissy said...

Somewhere somebody really needed this blog today. Who knows you may have written it for me so I can look back in a few weeks or months when I am struggling myself. I have had people tell me that depression is because of sin. Sometimes it is but sometimes it's not. Thanks for the reminder that it's okay for life to happen!

Jessica Boots said...

I really needed this today Angie...thanks for the blessing...I was having an isolation moment!
I love you!


Angela said...

Love you too, Jess! Keep your chin up, even if you have to hang a poster of Johnny Depp on the ceiling to do it.

I do hope the people that need to see this find it. It actually began as a devotion I wrote for a Ladies meeting at church... and I ended up being preggers (and miserably sick) when the time came for me to give it. I wondered why the Lord even gave it to me, then just tucked it away. I came across it the other day, and decided to post it. Believe it or not, though, that's the short version. Hee, hee. Maybe I'll post the rest as a sequel...