I am in my 50s and have been on disability for three years. Part of my challenge is that I can't do anything physical. My yard is a disaster and is a constant reminder of just how worthless I am. My sweet little wife does everything, and I am so blessed to have her. She is not so lucky to have me. I have been on depression medicine for eight years so I should be fine, but I’m not. I have thoughts of suicide, at least weekly. My focus is gone and I am lost as to what I should do and who I even am. I was once a helper and a problem solver, people talked to me when they had problems to feel better. I don't know where that person is now. What can I do at this point to get my life back?
It sounds like you are feeling rather hopeless. The most important thing when going through times of hardship, illness, grief or depression is not to lose hope. You must hold onto belief around two things:
1) This experience is in your life for a reason, and that reason is to serve you in some way.
2) It will change, because no state lasts forever.
Victor Frankl’s book "Man’s Search for Meaning" has always helped me get through rough times, mostly because he has credibility with me when it comes to suffering. If he found the strength (both physically and mentally) to survive a concentration camp, torture and I’m sure horrible discouragement, then I can do it. Frankl said that “suffering ceases to be suffering in the moment it finds meaning.” What he meant was if you see every experience as here for a purpose, to serve your growth, it makes it at least count for something, which helps.
I would recommend you sit down with some paper and answer Frankl’s question to his fellow prisoners after the war, “Can you write down 10 positives this experience has created?”
When you can see the ways this might be making you stronger, wiser, kinder or more compassionate toward others, you will see life as a wise teacher trying to educate you, you will see this whole experience from a more positive perspective.
But when your challenge is one that most likely will last the rest of your life, I have another suggestion (and I have a health problem like this myself, so I know how discouraging it can be). In this situation you must focus on this hour or this day — and no more. If you try to carry the weight of all the coming years today, it will crush you. Don’t think about the long haul. Focus on getting through this hour as positively as you can and keep doing this every hour.
Claritypoint coach Kristena Eden interviewed an inmate from the Utah State Penitentiary recently to talk about hanging on to hope (since this is a place where life often feels hopeless). These are some other key principles that came to light.
1. Keep believing there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Allow room in your heart for dreaming about better times. It is easy to let our dreams go because we just feel they are impossible or we are not good enough to accomplish them. But take a look around your world today. All the amazing technology and the conveniences we now enjoy were at one time thought to be impossible. If you can dream, then you can hang onto hope.
2. Give sincere encouragement to others. This is a big one. Giving encouragement to others is one of the greatest ways to validate them and make them feel valued. You don’t have to agree with what they are choosing in their life, but a few minutes to just ask questions and listen to them can make a world of difference. When other people feel that you care about them, they feel better and you do to. Even when you can’t do much physically, as long as you can talk you can encourage others.
3. Replace destructive thoughts with positive ones. Your thoughts are the building blocks of your quality of life. Your thoughts become feelings, so you want to monitor your thinking and recognize when negative thoughts show up, you have the power and agency to embrace them or replace them. In my book "Choosing Clarity," I teach a four-step process for choosing trust and love in any moment.
4. Be an overcomer, not just a survivor. A survivor is still a victim, an overcomer is a victor who understands it was just a lesson and you were meant to get through. Overcomers don't complain about the hardship forever because they leave it in the past.
5. Focus on gratitude. It doesn’t matter how bad things seem, they could be worse. There are always things to be grateful for. Sometimes it’s things you are grateful you don’t have as much as for what you do have. Count your blessings (especially the small ones) every day and you can’t slide into hopelessness as much. There is a greatGratitude Worksheet on my website you ought to try.
6. Keep your confidence, you are meant to overcome this. You are not in this place to fail or be crushed. You are here to grow and meant to find solutions, courage and strength to get through. The answers you need are around you somewhere, but they may require work and effort to find and only when your lesson is done. For now stay solution focused and ask for help from every resource and person that shows up in your path. Greg Thredgold suffered with depression for 40 years before finding a solution and climbing out. He has written a wonderful book called the "Depression Miracle," where he explains many ways to stay positive and optimistic.
We also highly recommend finding a coach or counselor whose approach works for you. You may have to try a few to find the right one. Don’t give up if the first one doesn’t click. Stay optimistic, because pessimism doesn’t help.
“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be achieved without hope and confidence” — Helen Keller.
You can do this.
Kimberly Giles is the president of claritypointcoaching.com and is a life coach, speaker and people skills expert. Kristena Eden is a coach with www.corelivingessentials.com
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Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional speaker. She was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly on local and national TV and Radio.