Staying Out of the Pit

The post below first appeared at Cycle Guy’s Spin as part of a series on depression with the focus of helping those who have loved ones struggling with depression but who have never themselves personally struggled with it. The depression series stemmed from my second chance story, which was part of a series on 2nd Chances on Cycle Guy’s Spin.

With depression coming even more to our attentions with the death of Robin Williams recently, I decided to repost the depression series here on Struggle to Victory.


Staying Out of the Pit

What you read on Struggle to Victory covers my main approach to keep from falling back into the pit of depression. I get into the details of topics I am struggling with, find out what Scripture says about them, and process them by writing about them. Doing this helps tremendously in capturing thoughts and not letting them hold me captive, which is what happened when I didn’t know how process feelings. At some point, I just determined not to let my thinking exist without boundaries and structure anymore, and writing gives me a way to establish the boundaries and structure I need to keep well away from the pit.

But writing isn’t all I do. I’ve discovered that one thing rarely does exactly what you need in any area, at least not for very long. Writing simply provides an outlet for my very busy inner life. Being an introvert, my inner life is as busy as the outer life of most extroverts. Writing gives me a way to order that world and to deal with it in a healthy way.

In addition to, or rather alongside and within writing, there are various ways I keep from going in the direction of pit dwelling. First and most importantly, I maintain a daily, consistent relationship with God through Bible study and prayer. I’m not saying this as a high and mighty “look how spiritual I am” statement; instead, it’s meant to simply say that I know I am completely and utterly unable to stay out of the pit of depression without Him. Without the Holy Spirit working in my life, and without God’s mighty power active in and through me, I would not be alive today.

I also make staying physically healthy a priority by eating healthy, exercising and getting plenty of adequate rest. I’m willing to try different approaches to health and wellness because I’ve learned that limiting yourself to the approach of traditional, Western medicine only limits and may even inhibit your ability to overcome depression and become healthy. My approach is along the lines of integrative medicine.

Staying aware of personal triggers is important too. I know the signs of my getting overwhelmed (digestion issues, sleep problems, anxiety & general grumpiness, for example), and I make adjustments as soon as I realize what’s happening to prevent any more veering off into bumpy territory.

While I need routine and structure to some extent, I must balance them with flexibility and variety. Otherwise, I get into a rut of boredom that also leads to depression. Fortunately, my husband and sons help tremendously with this area not just with their busy schedules but also with their zest for discovery and adventure.

Knowing what to avoid is also key (examples for me include sugar, romance novels, and television shows in general). One area of thought that I need to be extra careful with is absolutes. Saying “I never…” or “I can’t…” or “I always…” usually takes me down a very narrow and precarious path. I’ve learned to leave the absolutes up to God who has the capacity to follow through with them simply because He doesn’t change and I do.

As you can see, I have a variety of ways I keep from falling back into the pit. All of them are negotiable except my reliance on God.

sooner quoteIn Retrospect

Some ask what I would have done differently now that I am able to look back on depression with some objectivity. Let me simply say that I just would have done all of this sooner. I would have taken the small steps needed to get out of the pit sooner. I would have asked God to help me sooner. I would have let others help sooner. I would have let my pride go sooner. Nothing really done differently since all were necessary parts of the journey. They just all could have happened sooner.

So much (most really) of what caused my depression was outside of my control, so I don’t think I personally could have prevented it. I could have just taken the steps to get out of it sooner. That’s all on me.

DISCUSSION: How can someone not suffering from depression help those who do struggle stay out of the pit?

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12 Replies to “Staying Out of the Pit”

  1. "I’ve learned to leave the absolutes up to God who has the capacity to follow through with them simply because He doesn’t change and I do." I love that, Kari! Rev says I take the blame for everything and everyone. If something goes wrong . . . I'm willing to feel guilty. Talk about a quick road to depression. 🙂 I'm going to memorize your words . . . leave the absolutes to God!
    My recent post Inspiration for a Balanced Life

    1. Definitely relate to what you said in your comment, Deb. When something goes wrong, I definitely look first to myself and what I did wrong and what I could have done differently. While that can be helpful at times, it also puts a lot of pressure on you in that it removes the idea that perhaps others are often at least partially (and many times as much or more) responsible than you in causing the problem. This definitely creates a clear path back to the pit. Talking it out with someone, like my husband, helps me see that I am not always the one at fault and certainly rarely the one who should take all the blame. Sure, I can only change myself, but no need to focus on areas that belong to someone else. Leaving the absolutes to God I think helps align our thinking with Him, letting Him be the steady aspect of our lives that we can lean on heavily whether it's us, others or both at fault.

  2. Kari,
    The things you mention not only help one stay out of the pit but certainly are tremendous benefit to just living the kind of life you want. It moves you in that direction. I think we all are our own worst enemies in terms of not doing the things we know are best for us. To live with discipline and purpose takes effort but pays vast dividends.

    1. Doing these things has definitely created a vastly different lifestyle for me now than when I was knee deep in the pit. Staying with them is the current struggle. Why is it so hard to do what we know is best for us? Flesh, I guess. What I know for certain is that there's no way I would have any of the discipline and purpose necessary without the Holy Spirit working in me regularly.

  3. I think what is essential kari is something you have mentioned. They all need to work together. Any one will not do it. Synergy for lack of a better word. I think having a "regimented" study time with God is essential. But I also think it helps to have a "regimented" exercise time. It is too easy to neglect one for the other. Just my .02 worth. Although with inflation it may be more like .50. 🙂
    My recent post Advice

    1. I\’d give you $1. They definitely all need to work together, and they definitely need regimentation. Otherwise, they work against and are neglected. Yet another point to add to the book!

  4. We are so similar. I have many of the same symptoms that I identify that let me know I'm getting stressed out and overwhelmed. Recognizing them helps me take a step back and go to Christ (and often take a nap). Lack of sleep is a big issue for me. When I"m not well rested things seem to bother me more.

    I think something people can do to help others is to recognize their symptoms of burn out , stress, depression, etc. There is someone in my life that when I see certain things I know she is on the verge of going down a dark hill. I know she needs prayer, support, and someone to listen to her.
    I also know that cloudy/rainy days make her sad, so I try to offer laughter and distraction on those days.

    1. Educating ourselves is a huge part of overcoming depression and any illness, mental or otherwise, for that matter. Knowledge of depression, food allergies/sensitivities, adrenal fatigue, and other topics helps me tremendously in staying out of the pit of depression. Along that same lines, so does knowing what God's Word says about how to live life, and this even more so than the physical. For example, knowing how God & David worked through depression and how God helped Isaiah see the impossible could happen helps me tremendously still today in staying out of the pit. While true wisdom comes only through the Holy Spirit, He can turn our knowledge into wisdom too. Knowing signs & symptoms also helps us help others, like you mention with your friend. Communication & getting to know the people in our lives proves to be crucial in helping them through the tough times. We just can't wait until times get tough to get into the details of one another's lives.

  5. Excellent post, Kari. I see so much of myself in what you have written here. Like you, it took me a long time to recognize that I need variety and flexibility. There is something refreshing about going new places and trying new things. For a long time, I was stuck in routine and bored. By awakening my adventurous side, I found how much I felt refreshed after breaking routine. Sometimes, I just have to push through the initial feelings of being uncomfortable, but it is usually worth it.
    My recent post How the Stories We Tell Ourselves Shape Our Lives

    1. The struggle is finding your unique balance between routine & variety. We definitely need routine, but we also need variety. And the needs are different for every person as well as situation. Pushing through initial feelings is another key point. Getting started is often the most difficult part. Once you start, it's easier to gain momentum and keep going, and before you know it, you don't feel depressed. This is also where having others to encourage adventure is helpful. So thankful for my two boys and husband to encourage this in me.

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