Are You Depressed?

It’s probably a ridiculous question to ask coming on the heels of a two-year worldwide pandemic which doesn’t want to seem to go away, not to mention Europe being on the brink of another world war.  Add to all that the uncertainty of global economic markets, the threat of losing one’s livelihood if it’s dependent upon being vaccinated, serious supply chain issues which threaten our food supplies, China’s aspirations of being the world’s new super power with the ability to dominate mankind and Iran’s quest to rid the world of the only Jewish state on the planet.

After reading that super-charged list, if you weren’t depressed before, you might be now.  But that’s not the intention of this piece.  Clearly, if anything, it just goes to show that there is no lack of disheartening circumstances beyond our control which can and do contribute to anxiety, stress and certainly depression.

Having been there myself, as most everyone, I’m happy to say that I have been able to find a few helpful antidotes which, when incorporated into our daily lives, can definitely make a difference.  They’re worth sharing.

It was just around a month or two into the pandemic, as news reports began to get bleaker by the minute, that I began to search out some humor each day just so that I could have a good chuckle and remember how nice it was to laugh.  It occurred to me that if I began to feel better while viewing these comics, that others would too, so I began to send about 10-20 jokes a day to all of my friends on WhatsApp.  While some failed to appreciate the effort, others wrote to let me know just how great it was to receive these daily comics. Some told me I was providing an important service which made their day worthwhile.  Of course, just hearing that also made me feel great since I recognized that humor was becoming scarce as time went on.

It wasn’t before long that the feeling that “we are in this together,” began to part like the waters of the Red Sea as two distinct sides began to emerge – each with different sets of facts, information, experts and advice.  That phenomenon birthed many chat support groups where like-minded individuals were able to support one another’s positions, add their two cents’ worth, give a sense of legitimacy to their point of view and, in general, be a vehicle for hope and encouragement.

Those groups further developed into Zoom and even in-person meetings which brought about a sense of camaraderie among others who saw things as you did, allowing you to feel validated, heard and actually sane in your independent thought processes.

It became clear that being isolated, or made to feel that only you thought a certain way, definitely led to a sense of helplessness and depression.  What those groups did was to create a strong sense of unity, where like-minded individuals were able to find solace in one another.  In fact, it may have been one of the strongest contributing factors to the well-being of many.  Just knowing that you’re not alone helps to overcome so much of what causes us all to feel down and out.  So being part of a group, during these difficult times, has provided a much-needed space of support and almost team spirit.  The message is to never underestimate the power of unity.

The problem with depression is that it causes us to want to retreat, the very thing which can only exacerbate the feeling that makes life seem meaningless and not worthwhile.  Ironically, the more we need others to help pull us out of that pit, the least likely we are to reach out to them.

So if you’ve been feeling that way, here’s another tip.  It is during those times, when forcing yourself to go outside for some fresh air is the best medicine that can be prescribed for one’s soul.  Taking a walk, especially in nature, can change one’s perspective instantly.  The beauty around us is unavoidable.  Suddenly, you’re not thinking about far off wars, illness and disease or any of the other concerns which got you to that dark place to begin with.  It also reminds you that Someone created all this beauty and majesty, and it is that same Someone who is in control, despite what governments would have us to believe.

There is no question that these last two years have been excruciating for most of us as we, little by little, lost our independence, mobility and sense of personal control and destiny.  Yet, there are really only two choices – remain paralyzed, helpless and defeated with little or no motivation to press on and move forward ….. or force yourself to, once again, join the land of the living.

I am convinced that I’m not the only one who would love to get more phone calls (not texts), find meaningful ways to engage with others and discover old and new friends alike.  So search out those who would be genuinely happy to hear from you.  It won’t be everyone, but you’re sure to find one or two who are delighted to hear your voice and be grateful for the contact.

During this time, I’ve reconnected with individuals who I lost track of, only to discover that they were happy to hear from me and catch up with each other’s lives.  The more we spoke, the more we realized just how much we missed one another.  The common history that we shared suddenly rewove us into a tightly-knitted bond which I doubt will be broken again.

Next tip – appreciating things we have taken for granted, such as beautiful sunsets, old classic films which made us feel happy, taking the time to look at family photos which we hadn’t seen for years and just surprising someone with a note of encouragement, are all things which are needed antidotes at a time when being positive is not always easy.

Here’s a secret – making others feel good, ends up making you feel good too.

In summation, we all need beauty, laughter, fresh air, a bit of memory lane and most of all – each other.  Without those elements, life can be dreary, boring, mundane and stifling.

No one should have to experience long-term depression, because it just swallows up all that is good.  Force yourself to reach out, even if you don’t feel like it – especially if you don’t feel like it.  The sooner you do, the faster your relief will come.

None of us can afford to be depressed indefinitely, because we owe it to ourselves and to others to be their lifeline, as well as our own, despite the uncertainties we face.

One thing to remember is that you’re not alone, and whispering a prayer might lead to the discovery that you were never alone.  Just reach out, and someone will reach back sooner than you think!

About the Author
A former Jerusalem elementary and middle-school principal and the granddaughter of European Jews who arrived in the US before the Holocaust. Making Aliyah in 1993, she is retired and now lives in the center of the country with her husband.
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