Just a Jerk—Or Depressed?

“Why am I such a jerk?” Ryan punched the dashboard of his car in shame, bewilderment and exasperation. He couldn’t believe that he did it again—stormed out of the house after shouting at his wife and leaving his daughter crying. 

“Why do I snap so easily? Why do I repeatedly hurt them like this? What’s wrong with me?”

False Coping Behavior

He drove off down the street to a place that was becoming more and more a familiar hangout—the corner bar. A few beers would take the edge off the guilt and that heavy hopeless feeling that seemed to follow him all the time now. Alcohol calmed the fidgety restlessness. Really, it seemed the only thing that brought some comfort these days. Certainly nothing else brought much pleasure—not his favorite TV shows or biking. Even playing with his toddler daughter was a chore. 

Ryan certainly did not look forward to sleep. He tossed and turned all night. Seeing his friends was no fun; it was too much work to be sociable and he felt like he was a downer. Even food tasted flat; he barely had any appetite. And it did not seem like taste, color or joy would ever come back again.

The alcohol would also help mellow the impatience and irritability that put him constantly on edge. Every little thing seemed to annoy him, if not send him into a rage. People were all too slow, or too demanding, or too controlling or “constantly on my back.” He’s mad at himself too, since he can’t seem to focus and get anything done. 

He could barely hold it together at work. It took all his strength not get too visibly irritated with his boss or his co-workers, or lash out with his tongue. But his family was not so lucky. 

By the time he fought traffic to get home at night, he was a keg of gunpowder. And just about anything his wife or child did was a lit match. Why does his wife always need to talk so much? Is it too much to ask to just keep his favorite salad dressing on hand? And why can’t she get the kid to stop jabbering? Why the hell don’t they just leave him alone? 

Why can’t everyone just leave him alone? Why can’t the whole world just let him… disappear. They’d all be better off without him anyway. He’s disappointing everybody, especially his wife and daughter. 

“I’m such a stupid, worthless jerk,” Ryan tells himself, yet again.

Or Is He Depressed?

The classic picture of clinical depression is one of being teary eyed, dejected and moping around the house. But for some—especially men—the picture can be quite different. 

Depression can mean being always mad rather than sad. The person is grouchy, easily ticked off and prone to aggression. This explains why he may be verbally abusive even with those he loves, and more prone to road rage and picking fights with strangers.

It also may show up as reckless behavior, like driving too fast or acting in a way that risks censure at work. This is the other side of the apathy characteristic of depression: “I don’t care what happens.” 

Irritability, aggressiveness and risk-taking may be an unconscious defense against the hated humiliation of feeling the heavy sorrow of depression that seems so weak and unmanly to some men. Anger energizes and motivates by nature, and can help fend off paralyzing melancholy, at least for a while.   

While this version of the disorder is more mad than sad, both versions share the feeling of being bad. The depressed man will likely have low self esteem and suffer from excessive and irrational guilt and shame. These feelings are aggravated by the man judging himself for his depressive behavior, and others judging him as well. Anger and crankiness do not arouse sympathy in others as the tears and sadness of the other face of depression do.

But like any depression it more than just miserable—it’s dangerous. The desire to end the despair and relieve others of the burden he thinks he is by taking his life can get stronger and stronger, and harder to resist. And men are twice as likely to complete a suicide attempt compared to women. 

This is why it is essential to discern depression in men. It is harder to diagnose without telltale tears.

Signs of Depression

Here are the symptoms of possible depression, significant when lasting more than two weeks:

  • Persistent sad and anxious mood
  • Irritability
  • Feelings of hopelessness, helplessness and pessimism
  • Feelings of guilt and worthlessness
  • Numbness, and feelings of emptiness
  • Loss of interest in what used to be pleasurable activities
  • Oversleeping or insomnia or early-morning wakefulness
  • Chronic tiredness and loss of energy
  • Moving or talking slowly 
  • Restlessness and difficulty to sit still
  • Difficulty with concentration and memory
  • Having a hard time making decisions
  • Changes in appetite and/or significant weight loss or gain
  • Headaches, cramps, digestive problems or other aches and pains with no clear physical cause and/or that persist despite treatment
  • Thoughts of death or suicide, attempts at self-harm

Men are more likely to enter a persistent, clinical depression after a major failure to achieve a goal, an employment setback, a financial crisis or legal problem. Multiple stressful events at once can invite the disorder, as can unprocessed grief. In addition, a prior bout of depression, childhood sexual abuse, or substance abuse issues can increase male risk compared to women. 

There is Hope For Those Struggling With Depression

Depression is common and highly treatable. Effective remedies can include such simple approaches as improved nutrition, increased exercise and sunlight, talk therapy, and medications.

Ryan finally opened up about some of his struggles to a friend at work, who encouraged him to get expert help. “You’re not a jerk, or a bad guy,” he said. “Maybe you’ve got some medical condition, like depression. There are plenty of ways you can get help with that.”

Ryan nodded. “Really?” And he felt a moment of hope for the first time in months.

Written by John R. Williams, MA LMHC for the The Center • A Place of HOPE. If you are struggling with depression, anxiety or stress, our team is skilled at navigating these sensitive issues. For more information, call 1-888-747-5592 to speak confidentially with a specialist today.

The Center • A Place of HOPE specializes in the treatment of depression and has been voted a Top 10 U.S. Depressions Treatment Center.  We use a whole-person approach that allows you to discover what is truly going on in your mind, body, and spirit. 

 

Getting Sleep in Spite of Depression or Anxiety

When we think of depression, we might imagine sleeping a lot and having a hard time getting out of bed and facing the day. But it can often mean the opposite—being unable to get enough badly needed sleep. The same is true with anxiety. We can keep ourselves awake with worry or a vague restlessness can keep slumber just out of reach. 

Research confirms how vital good rest is for mental and physical health, in spite of our modern lifestyle of energy drinks, 24/7 connectivity, binge-watching and bragging about how little sleep we can live on. Even if you are not already struggling with either of these conditions, skimp on visiting slumberland long enough and depression will come knocking on your door, with anxiety likely not far behind.

If wakefulness is plaguing you, let’s review some of the basics that promote a restful sleep:

  • Get some exercise—but not too late in the day. Regular workouts or even just a daily brisk walk will relieve stress and then later facilitate sleep. Finish 90 minutes before bedtime so its energizing effects won’t postpone shuteye.  
  • Avoid coffee colas and energy drinks after noon. Even after 6 hours, half the caffeine is still in your system, so a 4pm espresso can still be haunting you at 10pm. 
  • Alcohol is a culprit too. It can make you sleepy at first but leave you wide-eyed in the middle of the night. It blocks REM sleep, the most refreshing kind, so you wake up feeling unrested. And it aggravates snoring and sleep apnea.
  • Develop a bedtime routine to signal the body to get ready to shut down. Turn off most lights, take a shower, change into sleep clothes and sip herbal tea. Listen to soothing music or a relaxing podcast. Diffuse lavender or other relaxing scents into the air.
  • Follow a regular sleep schedule even on weekends to keep body rhythms on an even keel, and avoid more than very brief naps during the day.
  • Discipline yourself to avoid screens—phones, tablets and TVs—at least an hour before bedtime. The blue light inhibits production of the natural sleep-maker, melatonin, and resets your body’s inner clock to a later bedtime. Like alcohol, this light also interferes with REM so you wake up feeling groggier. Avoid LED and fluorescents, too—same problem. Go old school and read a book. If you must work on your laptop at night, dim the screen or use settings to warm the color of the light. 
  • End that large meal two hours before sleep time. A late light snack like an apple might be helpful, though. 
  • Use the bed only for sleep and lovemaking, so it becomes associated with rest.
  • Keep the bedroom cool, dark and quiet. Try earplugs or a white noise machine or app to prevent intermittent noises from keeping you up or disrupting deep sleep. Eyelids alone don’t block light, so use an eye mask or opaque window shades. Turn that digital clock away from view. Not only is the light problematic, but you don’t want to focus on the time and start worrying about how much sleep you are getting.
  • Keep things well ventilated—open that window or turn on that fan and keep warm with blankets as needed. The best temperature is 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit. Try freezing a soft gel pack and slip it into your pillowcase to cool the scalp. 
  • Chamomile tea is a proven sleep aid. Make it strong and cover the cup to retain the oils. B-vitamins, and certain mineral, amino acid and herbal supplements are also effective to facilitate rest and combat insomnia (like this formula). 
  • Keep Bruno or Fluffy out of your bedroom if they disturb your rest. Even their resting body on the bed can inhibit you from freely moving about as you need to while asleep.
  • Wind down any focused task an hour before sleep, so your mind can get ready for rest. Same with any discussions of emotional topics. 
  • If basically calm but still awake after 30 to 60 minutes, consider getting out of bed and going to another room—you don’t want to lay awake so long that you come to associate the bed with sleep difficulty. 
  • Distract yourself with a quiet activity like light reading or coloring until you are sleepy. 

(What to do if you can’t stop worrying or reliving distressing moments from the day? Good question. That’s for part two of this blog.)

A key point is not to obsess about getting enough sleep or get impatient and give up after just a few hours. Worse comes to worse, let yourself lie and rest the eyes and aim for an unfocused reverie to give the brain a break for as long as you can. That can be good enough. 

Overcoming depression and/or anxiety requires a multi-faceted, whole-person approach, but optimizing sleep is certainly foundational. As Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of Hope, points out, these disorders and “sleep deficits are unarguably entwined. Yet in that interwoven relationship lie opportunities for treatment, relief, and healing.” Enhance your sleep and symptoms inevitably improve.

Written by John R. Williams, MA LMHC for the The Center • A Place of HOPE. If you are struggling with depression, anxiety or stress, our team is skilled at navigating these sensitive issues. For more information, call 1-888-747-5592 to speak confidentially with a specialist today.

The Center • A Place of HOPE specializes in the treatment of depression and has been voted a Top 10 U.S. Depressions Treatment Center.  We use a whole-person approach that allows you to discover what is truly going on in your mind, body, and spirit. 

Intentionally Change the Pace of Your Life

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” 

To paraphrase the famous Serenity Prayer, it is so important to recognize those things in our lives that we can change, and those things we cannot.  While there may be a great deal in your own life that you cannot change, you may be surprised at how many things you can.  

One of the keys to overcoming depression is to honestly and realistically evaluate your life.  Then, develop a plan to accept those things that are unchangeable and a plan to change those that are possible.  This requires taking stock of your life. Just as a storekeeper takes an inventory of all that he has, it is wise for us to make a tangible list of our physical, mental, and spiritual assets and liabilities.  Make a list in your journal of all your responsibilities; write down what you want to do or be in addition to what you have already done or become, and consider what needs to happen (or stop happening) to fulfill your hopes and aspirations.  

You may be reluctant to do this exercise for fear that it will make you even more depressed.  But the objective of taking stock is not to create an inventory of all the things that are wrong with your life.  Rather, taking stock will help to categorize the changeable and unchangeable things in your life to intentionally move forward, out of depression.  

Too often, we live our lives feeling like spectators instead of active participants with the power to choose our own outcome.  We get caught up in life’s flow, whether good, bad, or neutral. Wherever the currents take us, we go. It’s as if we are on autopilot, but depression happens when our autopilot gets stuck in a negative descent.  Unless we can take intentional action, chances are that circumstances won’t force a change to the positive.  

In other words, if you go along waiting for some “thing,” some event to alter the course of your depression, you’ll probably be disappointed.  It’s time to take control and look at where you are in your life. It’s time to actively and intentionally participate in the course of your life.  

Take a close look at the activities in your life.  Determine if you have too many activities, along with the overall effect they are having on your life.  Depression can occur when your activities are out of balance in the following ways: 

  • You have too many activities, and the sum of them outweighs their value. When you’ve got too many things going collectively, you’re too busy to enjoy any of them individually. 
  • You have many activities but too few worthwhile ones. 
  • You have too few activities in your life.  When your biggest activity is inactivity, you rob yourself of the stimulation and engagement of purpose and people.  

You may find that you are simply too busy.  If so, you need to evaluate which activities to continue, and which to let go.  Or perhaps you have isolated yourself from meaningful, worthwhile activities and will need to stretch and expand yourself.  Intentionally changing the pace of your life can help you move forward in your recovery from depression.  

If you are struggling with depression, The Center • A Place of HOPE is here to help. The Center has been voted a Top 10 Facility for the Treatment of Depression.  For more information, fill out this form or call 1-888-747-5592 to speak confidentially with a specialist today.

Creating a More Physical Lifestyle and Altering Your Attitude

In addition to doing wonders for your brain and body, physical movement can be a game-changer when it comes to your overall attitude. Exercise is the perfect tool for reprogramming a depressed prefrontal cortex. It can reprogram how you think and cope too. 

Here’s what else regular movement is going to do for you:

Increase your confidence. There’s a confidence that comes from having a body that is fit and healthy, and there is also confidence that comes from doing something every day that you know is good for you. Either way, regular physical movement empowers you to feel better about yourself.

Boost your creativity. Research conducted at Stanford University showed that something as simple as casual walking improves creativity by boosting convergent thinking (solving a problem) as well as divergent thinking (coming up with original ideas). [1]

Help you cope. We’ve already talked about the fact that the endorphins released while exercising serve as your body’s natural painkillers while helping to reduce anxiety and stress. That makes exercise the perfect go-to activity when you’re looking for a healthy coping strategy. Unhealthy coping techniques (such as misusing alcohol, overeating, and excessive TV viewing) may provide a temporary release or escape, but they are expedient at best and cause more harm than good in the end. Physical movement, however, is a coping strategy that not only provides relief at the moment, but it also offers innumerable lasting benefits for a healthy brain and body.

Increasing your activity level for one day is a great start, but the most powerful benefits will come from consistency. Once you get moving, how do you keep moving, day after day, week after week? 

Here are five ways to reap the long-term benefits of a more active lifestyle:

  1. Keep a journal. Write down what your thoughts and feelings were like before, during, and after exercising. Write about any improvements you feel in your body, attitude, or emotions. 
  2. Be consistent. Especially as you get started, remember that consistency is more important than intensity. As you gain strength in your body and mind, you may naturally want to increase the intensity of your workouts. In the beginning, however, make consistency your number one goal, and the rest will follow.
  3. Ban all-or-nothing thoughts. Consistency and commitment are indeed essential for an effective activity regimen, but don’t be hard on yourself if you slack off a bit. Perfectionism is the enemy of progress.
  4. Enlist the help of fitness apps. Downloading a fitness app on your phone or purchasing an activity tracker isn’t necessary (so don’t put off your fitness goals until you have one) but can be motivating for some people. If counting steps or reaching activity goals by using an app or tracker feels rewarding, do it!
  5. Create a favorite workout playlist. Music and movement are a powerful combination. Creating a playlist of lively tunes that make you want to move is always a great idea.  

Dr. Gregory Jantz is the founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE in Edmonds, Washington, voted a top ten facility for the treatment of depression in the United States. Dr. Jantz pioneered Whole Person Care in the 1980’s and is a world-renowned expert on eating disorders, depression, anxiety, technology addiction, and abuse. He is a leading voice and innovator in Mental Health utilizing a variety of therapies including nutrition, sleep therapy, spiritual counseling, and advanced DBT techniques. Dr. Jantz is a best-selling author of 39 books and has appeared on CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox, and CNN.

[1] Marily Oppezzo and Daniel L. Schwartz, “Give Your Ideas Some Legs: The Positive Effect of Walking on Creative Thinking,” Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition 40, no. 4 (July 2014): 1142–52, http://psycnet.apa.org/record /2014-14435-001.

How Digital Distortion Magnifies Depression Symptoms

It’s long been recognized that “keeping up with the Joneses” is a big part of what keeps us all running the “rat race.” Those may be outdated phrases these days, but the condition of unhealthy envy they describe is alive and well.

It’s admittedly difficult to avoid noticing the outward appearances of your neighbor’s life—job, car, home, overachieving kids, and adventurous vacations—and comparing them to your own, concluding your neighbor must be better off and happier than you. This comparison game is rigged from the start. Media marketers work overtime to be sure you feel your life is lacking so they can sell you what’s missing.

Before the Internet, however, those we compared ourselves to were mostly flesh-and-blood people. They lived down the street or worked down the hall. It was at least possible to see them at their worst as well as at their best. And they numbered in the dozens at the very most.

Now we compare ourselves to thousands, if not millions, of virtual neighbors. And we see only what they allow us to see—photos of their pets, happy dinners with friends, the view from an exotic beach, kids getting academic awards, crossing the finish line at the Boston Marathon. Most of this is posted by people who are “friends” in name only. It’s a giant understatement to say that all this adds up to a man- aged and distorted view of who people really are and how they actually live. And that’s before we account for perceptions created by advertisers that can be grossly manipulative, misleading, or outright false.

Those suffering from depression are already poised to believe that their lives don’t measure up to the lives of others. The Internet provides persuasive “evidence” they’re right about that.

While much of what you see on the Internet presents an overly rosy view of reality, millions of other sites peddle the opposite extreme: nonstop doom and gloom. It’s an alarming parade of war, famine, political strife, social injustice, and environmental catastrophe. Spend much time there, and you’ll be convinced the world teeters on the edge of calamity and collapse every second of every day.


Professional Health Tip from Dr. Gregory Jantz…

Conduct a technology detox once a week, or if that is too hard, once every two weeks. Take a Saturday or Sunday, and leave the device on the charger and out of sight (and earshot). See if you can go a full 24 hours. Get outside, enjoy fresh air, talk with friends, go to an event or favorite place and just…detox. 

If you have kids, set deadlines each evening for their device to be in your closet on a charger. We use 9pm in our home. Most teenagers are online from 11pm to 3am, disrupting sleep, being exposed to potential bullying and inappropriate images or text.

If you feel stress from reading a news feed, or an opinion page, or from your social networks, I encourage you to disengage. Avoid contentious, argumentative, men and outrageous conversations or opinions. Reside in a place of positivity, happiness, compassion and helping others.


 

I believe a steady diet of “digital distortion” is harmful to anyone’s mental health and magnifies depression symptoms. It rarely leads to healthy or effective political engagement on important issues. In fact, exposure to “doom porn,” as it is sometimes humorously called, simply reinforces feelings of powerlessness and despair. That’s why, to a person struggling to overcome serious depression, it’s positively toxic. Turning off the spigot and cleaning up the digital sludge is an essential step toward recovery.

If you are struggling with depression, anxiety or stress, The Center • A Place of HOPE is here to help. Our team is skilled at navigating these sensitive issues. For more information, fill out this form or call 1-888-747-5592 to speak confidentially with a specialist today.

Depression 2.0 – Enter Technology

Depression in the modern day is changing. Sure it has the traditional components that we associate with depression. Sadness, restless sleep, withdrawal, irritability and lethargy still exist. But the explosion of technology in the last generation is unavoidable. And it is impacting “traditional” depression.

Technical saturation can prevent mental down time and warp our thinking. 24/7 social media, online bullying, auto emails/texts, and pages of mobile apps on our phones can not only be consuming, they can become addicting.

What does that mean to someone suffering from depression?

Technology and Depression

Some studies are linking excessive social media use and depression. We use social media for connection and affirmation. But subconsciously, many compare what they see and read to their own lives. This can cause us to feel inadequate, unsuccessful and uninformed. For someone struggling with depression, these feelings can exacerbate their grief.

One doesn’t need to look far to be experience discourse online, on the radio and on television. Political, social, and even sports programs thrive on bitter exchanges. For those struggling with depression, repeated exposure to negativity can reinforce their feelings of despair.

Anxiety and Depression

This technology phenomenon is also driving a significant increase in anxiety. For many, anxiety is now becoming synonymous with depression. While different diagnoses, about half of people with depression are also diagnosed with anxiety. Approximately 16 million U.S. adults experienced a significant depression episode in the last year. About half of those, eight million, also experience serious anxiety with their depression.

When both are experienced together, characteristics are often amplified. Recovery can be slower. Recurrence rates are higher. Chronic symptoms are more pronounced. Social and familial impact can be greater.

With technology having a deeper impact on our lives, co-occurring anxiety and depression is increasing. Fortunately, both depression and anxiety are treatable, individually and as co-occurring disorders.

Depression, Technology and Sleep

Are you using your mobile device in bed right before bedtime? It may be adversely affecting your sleep. Excessive use of your computer or mobile device close to bedtime can have a negative impact on your sleep. Emotionally, interacting with upsetting, negative or argumentative content close to bedtime can contribute to restless sleep. Physiologically, the lights from electronic devices can impede melatonin secretion, the hormone that promotes sleep.

What Can I Do If I Have Depression (and Anxiety) Affected by Technology?

The first thing to “do” is to know that both depression and anxiety are treatable. Even if you have both together, a licensed professional or treatment center can help restore your balance. It can return you to the normal functioning, happy person you know still exists inside you. The Center • A Place of HOPE in Edmonds, Washington, is an excellent center that is recognized nationally for its success treating depression and anxiety.

Here are tips you can incorporate into your daily routine to help.

It sounds simple, but use less technology. Disengage as much as possible from social media. Do not watch or listen to programs you know will be filled with arguments and negativity. Spend that time to journal. Write down each day three things for which you are grateful. Write down one thing that inspires you. Write down one goal. Spend time with those who uplift you and do not judge you. Avoid those who bring you down and who do not encourage you.

One hour before bedtime, quit watching television. Do not eat heavy foods within an hour (or more) of bedtime. Create a quiet, dark cool and comfortable sleeping environment. Good sleep will provide restoration and support for your immune system, support cognitive function, and provide more energy for your body. More energy and better cognitive alertness can help minimize depressive and anxiety episodes.

Modern depression is becoming more complex for many. Fortunately, our understanding on how to treat depression, anxiety, and both together has advanced. If you or a loved one are struggling with either or both, contact a mental health professional.

 

Dr. Gregory Jantz is the founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE. For over 30 years, The Center has treated thousands with depression and anxiety. Recognized as a Top 10 Center for the Treatment of Depression, The Center utilizes the whole person approach to care. Dr. Jantz is a leading voice and innovator in mental health utilizing a variety of therapies including nutrition, sleep therapy, spiritual counseling, and advanced DBT techniques. Dr. Jantz is a best-selling author of 39 books and has appeared on CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox, and CNN.

 

Depression and Suicidal Thoughts

Suicide. For many of us, it is an uncomfortable topic to discuss. But ignoring this serious issue will not help improve it.

By now, most of us are aware of the sobering increase in depression, anxiety and suicide rates in the United States. Depression will be the #1 health issue in the world in 2020 according the the World Health Organization. Suicide rates have increased about 30% in the United States in just the last 18 years. In many areas the numbers are much higher. Kansas, for example, has seen a 49% increase. Men are 4 times more likely to commit suicide than women.

We must acknowledge that these are a result of a society and culture we have collectively created over generations. While it is important for us to have frank discussions on how we can adjust and improve in each of these areas, it is also important to understand that each of these areas is treatable.

How To Help Someone Who You Believe May Be Suicidal

It is normal to feel uncomfortable when speaking to someone for whom you believe may be considering suicide. Just remember, the goal is not to take on the person’s problem or to have all of the right answers. The goal is to show honest compassion. If you do not know how to approach someone, you can call a suicide prevention hotline or a treatment center and get advice from them. Please see resources at the end of this article

If you are truly concerned about someone, do not wait. It is better to approach your friend or family member with compassion and caring, than to hope that their pain goes away.

According to the American Counseling Association, here are some key points you can make when discussing with your friend or family member.

  • “We all go through tough or scary times.” It can be common for an individual to believe they are the only ones who struggle with life’s challenges. Reminding them that all of us, including you, struggle at different points in life, lets them know they are not alone in their feelings. Acknowledging their concerns are legitimate can reduce the stigma of reaching out for help.
  • “It’s OK to ask for help.” By saying this, you normalize the help-seeking process. You remind them that we all need help sometimes.
  • “I’m here for you.” It is important to let your friend or family member know you are available to LISTEN without judgment.

Professional Health Tip from Dr. Gregory Jantz…

Avoid the temptation to give advice. Sometimes we all just need to feel heard. If they request advice, a good response can be, “I know I love you, and I want to make sure I help you you get through this. Let’s consider professional counseling or treatment.”


Are You Depressed?

Take this A Place of HOPE online evaluation and receive immediate feedback

A whole person approach to care has proven to be powerfully effective. It takes commitment, for sure. Treatment can involve weeks of work with trained professionals. But the results can be dramatic and beautiful. Treatment is effective for depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and combinations of the three. 

Important Notes on Helping Those With Suicidal Thoughts

We often get asked whether a loved one should talk about suicide with the individual who may be suffering. We believe the answer is yes. Do not wait to see if it subsides. But importantly, start by being a good listener. Let them tell their story. Do not try to fix their situation with immediate feedback. Acknowledge their pain and express your sadness that they are not feeling well.

There are many things that should not be said. It is important not to try to minimize their pain, or make them feel guilty or “selfish”. Do not try to scare them away from suicide. Their pain is real, and they need understanding and love. Most importantly, they may need help to regain their strength, balance, and ultimately their happiness.

If you are concerned about someone, encourage them to get help. Encourage them to talk to a professional; you can even have an initial call yourself with a professional to learn how best to be helpful. Know that treatment can be very effective for those considering suicide.  

Resources

  1. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 800.273.8255
  2. Crisis Text Line – 741-741
  3. To learn about treatment programs for those suffering from depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts, please call The Center • A Place of HOPE Admissions  – 888.771.5166

 

Dr. Gregory Jantz is the founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE in Edmonds, Washington, voted a top ten facility for the treatment of depression in the United States. Dr. Jantz pioneered Whole Person Care in the 1980’s and is a world-renowned expert on eating disorders, depression, anxiety, technology addiction, and abuse. He is a leading voice and innovator in Mental Health utilizing a variety of therapies including nutrition, sleep therapy, spiritual counseling, and advanced DBT techniques. Dr. Jantz is a best-selling author of 37 books and has appeared on CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox, and CNN.

Be Aware of Life’s Challenges

As you work towards becoming stronger and more resilient in areas of your life, it’s important that you remember O’Toole’s Law.  Simply states, O’Toole’s Law says that Murphy was an optimist.  If something can go wrong with Murphy’s Law, it will go ballistic with O’Toole’s!  With that inescapable truth in mind, here are four areas where you will need to be particularly vigilant in the days ahead to ward off emotional exhaustion and stay strong.

Be alert to ordinary, expected life events.  None of us can escape these.  They are the stuff life is made of: high school, trade school, and college graduations, moving across the street or across the world, retiring, getting a promotion, making new friends, or trying to fit into a new neighborhood.  Anticipate these events as best you can. If you do not have a plan to accept them in the normal course of living, any one of them could throw you for a loop.

Be alert to the probability of unexpected life events.  These are the shocks and sorrows of life.  The death of a spouse or a child; the tragedy of an automobile accident; getting a call in the middle of the night informing you your best friend has suffered a massive heart attack.  These are really tough times. To be strong is to prepare yourself for these sudden events by building a strong foundation faith in God and in his ability to see you through. With God-based courage, you can face the ups and downs of life and remain strong.  The hard times will not destroy you or drive you into prolonged depression and despair.

Be alert to ongoing events that can drive you crazy.  These can be the everyday emotional killers — like the dog next store that barks endlessly, the ongoing skirmishes with a spouse, the quarrels with our kids.  You may be caring for an aged parent who lingers on in poor health, sapping you financially and emotionally. It could be the sheer boredom with a career that’s going nowhere, pressures at work, or unresolved issues with an ex-spouse.  

Events such as these tend to have a cumulative effect. If we do not recognize them and deal with them as emotionally health persons, they won’t be easily resolved.  As they weigh us down, we may feel as if we’ve been ground down to almost nothing. Yet to accept the unacceptable with courage and good humor is one of the ways you can regain control of your life.  In God’s strength you can be strong in even these most difficult daily situations.

Be alert to stress born of your own personality traits.  Much of your stress is actually related to how you are wired.  If you are a perfectionist, life is going to be stressful. In fact, it may border paralysis, with that feeling that you’re never quite up to par and continually comparing yourself to others.  If you feel insecure, lack self-worth, and have an overwhelming sense that people are out to get you, you will often allow stress to get the better of you, and it invariably will steer you toward emotional exhaustion.  

When, however, you learn to roll with the punches, laugh at our world, and not take yourself too seriously, then what are stressors to others will become little more than annoyances to you.  Can you make huge changes in your personality? Probably not. That’s why your best solution is to know yourself, be aware of your challenges, and let life be your wise teacher as you anticipate future events.  

If you or someone you know is struggling with depression, emotional exhaustion, anxiety or disordered eating, The Center • A Place of HOPE is here to help.  Contact us today at 1-888-771-5166 and begin the healing process.

 

Emotional Abuse Can Lead to a State of Depression

The negative effects of emotional abuse can be overwhelming and debilitating.  This can lead to a state of depression when the effects of the abuse compromise your ability to hope, cope, envision a future, and to find the strength to carry on each day.  Without optimism, it is difficult to drown out many of the negative messages you heard growing up that damaged your emerging sense of self.  When these negative messages become too loud and strident to overcome, physical depression can be the result.

In my counseling experience, people are baffled as to why they are feeling depressed. They are unsure how to get over it.  They want answers to “fix” the problem; they want drugs to “fix” the problem.  At the heart of so much of the depression I have treated is emotional abuse as children.  Because they are now adults, they can’t see how what happened to them twenty, thirty, even forty years ago could make such a difference.  Often they have spent their adult lives “moving on” and attempting to put the past behind them.  What I help them learn is that it is only possible to move on from the past once you have acknowledged and dealt with it.

I also help them to see that the ways they have chosen to put the past behind them end up pushing patterns of the past to the forefront.  Ignoring the past doesn’t make it go away.  Accepting the past does.

Depression has been described as a deep, black hole you find yourself falling into.  The sides are steep and slick.  There doesn’t seem to be any way to stop your descent.  It happens in slow motion — flailing of the arms, twists and turns of the body, agonizing movements that produce no results.  Eventually you stop fighting and just slide down into the pit.  No light, desires, energy.  No hope.

But also no pain.  No anger.  No emotion to deal with at all.  Just a numbing grayness hanging over your life.  When pain is too great, anger too consuming, and emotions too conflicting, the blurry haze of depression has an allure.

Emotional abuse leads to intense feelings of anger, rage, resentment, and bitterness.  Submerged feelings of guilt and fear of your abuser can lead you to choose a safer target for your anger than your abuser.  All too often that target is you.  Unspent anger continually works inside the body, using up energy, causing feelings of fatigue and apathy.  Unable to see any hope in your life, you slowly begin to isolate yourself from others, from getting out and socializing, from exercising or taking care of your body.  So often in your abuse nothing has seemed to work.  Every time you thought it was going to get better, it got worse.  So what’s the use? you wonder.

This world we live in can be a difficult place.  Pressures and stresses that come from everyday living are enough to temporarily sideline even the healthiest of us.  When emotional abuse has battered your defenses, maintaining a successful stand against those forces can be almost impossible.  That is why it is so important to gain support from others:  from healthy relationships, from friends who love you, even from caring professionals who can assist you in rediscovering your strength to face each day successfully.  You may also need a professional to assist you in rebalancing your body’s natural chemistry when necessary.[1]

The Center • A Place of HOPE specializes in the treatment of fear, anxiety and depression, and uses a whole-person approach that allows you to discover what is truly going on in mind, body and spirit. Contact us today at 1-888-771-5166 and begin the healing process.

[1] For a thorough discussion of the effects of depression, see Gregory L Jantz with Ann McMurray, Moving Beyond Depression:  A Whole-Person Approach to Healing (Colorado Springs:  Shaw, 2003)

 

Do You Have a Pattern of Pessimism?

A state of happiness is really a state of mind.  It is a way of looking at the world and circumstances.  One of the key components to this state of mind is learning to exercise optimism.  In a pessimistic, negative world, this can be quite challenging.

Undoubtedly, you have heard the adage about the difference between an optimist and a pessimist.  The optimist sees the glass as half full, while the pessimist sees the glass as half empty.  The pessimist chooses to focus on what is not in the glass; the optimist chooses to focus on what is.  The operative word here is “chooses”.  An attitude of optimism or an attitude of pessimism is a choice.

The good news is, if you have learned to be pessimistic, you can change.  And the first step toward change is admitting the way you are now.

If you are a pessimistic person, proclaim it, own up to it, and accept it.  Frequently, people don’t see themselves as pessimistic.  In fact, while they view everything else as being universally negative, they tend to view their pessimism as positive.  Instead of interpreting themselves as pessimistic, they instead see themselves as pragmatic, realistic, more informed and enlightened, savvy, and smarter.  For them, a pessimistic response to the world is seen as protective and even superior to the optimist.  Because they approach life believing the worst in circumstances and in people, they feel they are better prepared for whatever life throws at them.  They live a guarded, cautious, defensive life.  Problems, difficulties, inconveniences, and downright disasters are expected.

Pessimists live their lives in perpetual fight-or-flight mode.  Life is a battle to be confronted, factored, and endured.  Every good thing that happens is an unexpected, short-lived surprise.  Every bad thing that happens is confirmation of the correctness of their pessimism.  Since people tend to want confirmation of their own opinions, they choose to focus on the bad things that happen.

A pattern of pessimism can be very difficult to give up because it seems safe.  If you’ve been wounded, it appears smart to venture out cautiously, carefully, defensively.  Pessimism appears to be just the armor you need to engage a hostile world.  Pessimism becomes not an armor of keeping the world out, but a prison keeping you in.  It’s a world that says the worse thing that can happen to you is to be hurt by someone or something else.  This is a world where hate triumphs, where evil flourishes, where wrongs outweigh rights, where oppression is standard and disappointment is the order of the day.

There’s only one problem with this worldview; it’s a worldview.  It’s a view completely obscured by this world.  It presupposes that all there is or is ever going to be in this world, with all its faults and problems.  This is the type of world described in Ephesians 2:11 – 12.  It is a view “without hope and God in the world.”

But you do have hope, and God is in the world, so this worldview is a lie.  Since the underlying assumptions of your pessimism are a lie, it’s perfectly logical, rational, pragmatic, enlightened, and savvy to reject it and instead base your response on life to truth.  And what is truth?  God is truth.  Instead of a worldview, have a God view.  With a God view, your response to life can change from pessimism to optimism.

Are you struggling with pessimism and feeling depressed? Do you feel that your life is not in your control? The Center • A Place of HOPE is here to help. Contact us today at 1-888-771-5166 and speak with a confidential specialist. Begin the healing process and have confidence that there is hope, and that joy and optimism is attainable.