Reflections on Shuffle-Play

Depression is no fun. It slinks in on a perfectly lovely day and hovers over everything, putting a slightly minor tune over the notes of each hour.

I’ve learned over the years how to take care of myself in the midst of recurring depression. I know to be gentle with myself, to do my best to eat well and keep on exercising. I speak to myself in a mothering way, gently reminding me that even though I might feel like burying my face in junk food or watching TV all day, I will likely feel better if I get up and move and stay busy.

I read a book many years ago called, “Care of the Soul”, in which the author, Thomas Moore, talked about how these times when we feel unhappy or ‘down’ have real value and rather than trying to usher them away, it is better to see what insight they might offer us. For example, if you are feeling bad and you don’t know why, don’t punish yourself by thinking, “I really ought to feel happier. Why am I being so ridiculous!? Cheer up, self!”  Instead, consider that perhaps you are needing some time alone or some time to be quiet. When we feel down, we naturally tend to be quieter and more lost in thought and perhaps that is what you need. Take time for yourself and remember that just as the earth goes through seasons, so do we.  Not every day is going to be a sunny summer day. There have to be the gray, rainy days, too.

When I keep this perspective that feeling down is a natural part of life rather than the sign that I’m doing something wrong, I’ve found that the dark times don’t get quite so dark.

Sometimes I think being a mother helps, too. I need to stay healthy and take care of myself so that I’m able to remain present and functioning for my children. I can’t afford to be a drama queen like I sometimes was in college or my twenties or even my early thirties. The world won’t wait for me while I sit on the porch and smoke a thousand cigarettes in a cloud of doom. So, instead, I look for ways to draw glimmers of joy back and lift the depression as soon as possible.

I realize as I write this that there are levels of depression – and actual clinical depression can’t just be lifted with some simple steps. It often takes therapy and/or medication. If you are feeling persistent, ongoing depression, please get help from a medical professional.  And, for the rest of this reflection, I will switch to the term, ‘sadness’ to refer to what I am addressing here.

Here are the best ways I have found to combat sadness:

  1. Work on a task: cooking, baking, creating anything. Getting the mind going and focusing on something else is quite helpful.
  2. Watch a movie. I love movies and they can be a blessed reprieve from thoughts that are taking me on a downward spiral.
  3. Spend time with my children. Doing anything with my kids helps me find laughter again.
  4. Go for a walk! Fresh air and a change in scenery is best, but a treadmill will do.
  5. Pet a cat.
  6. Or a dog.
  7. Take care of some small chore or errand you have been putting off: organize your drawers, organize the spices, clean out the refrigerator, take some items to Goodwill – completing something that needs to be done gives a sense of accomplishment and that combats the helplessness that sometimes comes with random sad days.
  8. Usually when I write, I am able to figure out why I am sad and that understanding brings a sense of peace.
  9. I find that often my writing takes on the shape of prayer when I am sad.
  10. Call a friend or go for a walk with a friend. If I am feeling like talking, spending time with a safe, trusted friend is great therapy.
  11. Or isolate myself for a bit if I need to and not feel guilty about that. For an introvert, time alone can be very healing and helpful.
  12. A nap or going to bed early has great curative properties. Most of us walk around tired too much of the time. If you are feeling ‘off’ and you just aren’t sure why, a nap could be a great place to start.

It might be comforting, as well, to remember that most people go through times when they feel sad for reasons they can’t quite explain. It’s part of being human. If today is a sad day for you, I pray you feel better soon. Until then…listen to some Johnny Cash – cuz that can only help.


Recorded by NIN and Johnny Cash

I hurt myself today
To see if I still feel
I focus on the pain
The only thing that’s real
The needle tears a hole
The old familiar sting
Try to kill it all away
But I remember everything

What have I become
My sweetest friend
Everyone I know goes away
In the end
And you could have it all
My empire of dirt
I will let you down
I will make you hurt

I wear this crown of thorns
Upon my liar’s chair
Full of broken thoughts
I cannot repair
Beneath the stains of time
The feelings disappear
You are someone else
I am still right here

What have I become
My sweetest friend
Everyone I know goes away
In the end
And you could have it all
My empire of dirt
I will let you down
I will make you hurt

If I could start again
A million miles away
I would keep myself
I would find a way

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