How (and Why) to Find Gratitude in the Midst of Misery

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“How often it is a small, almost unconscious event that makes a turning point.”
― Corrie ten Boom, The Hiding Place

I can pinpoint the exact moment my depression started to turn around. I was in a partial hospitalization program because my depression had gotten so bad that I just didn’t see the point in being alive anymore. One day in group session  I was feeling particularly out of control and despondent (well that was every day really but on this day something changed. Read on.) With tears streaming down my face (because, honestly, when weren’t they?) I told the therapist, in a voice so fragile it barely squeaked, that I just didn’t know how to go on. I didn’t know how to live another day. Too many awful things had happened to me and I was all used up.

Then the therapist said something very simple to me. She said “I know it all seems so overwhelming right now, and all you can see is the bad. But you don’t have to do this all at once. I’m going to challenge you to find just one positive thing you can do for yourself today.” Something about those words grabbed a hold of me. I felt a peace and a stirring in my soul. “I can do one thing”  I thought. “Yes! I can do this!”

Later that evening I opened my nightstand drawer to get something and there it was. A book my daughter-in-law had bought me about a year earlier.She said she read it and it was awesome and she thought it would help me. But, I was just too depressed to pick it up and read it. It seemed so heavy.

The book was One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp . I picked it up and decided that this would be my one thing. I would read just one page of the book. I could muster up that much energy. And before I knew it I had read a whole chapter! The author is a woman who has suffered just like me, and this book is about how finding gratitude in the small everyday things helped her overcome depression. She kept a journal and wrote down easily overlooked things that she was grateful for.

I was intrigued. I was energized. I was desperate to get better and this was something I could do! It was too much of a stretch at this point in my depression to be grateful for a lot of stuff that I’m grateful for now (all of which I’m certain will find its way into a future post), but I could be grateful for one tiny gift at a time.

Just like Ann Voskamp, I took out a notebook and started my own list. The sound of seagulls at the beach. The smell of coffee brewing in the morning. The softness of my husbands lips. The smell of pizza when you open the box. Chubby grandchild fingers. My list just kept growing!  The more I wrote things down, the more I started to see. There were good things all around me! So many things to be thankful for!

I kept writing in my gratitude journal daily and as my list grew I would read it and re-read it every time I added something new. And you know what? An amazing thing happened. Those tiny little nuggets of gratitude were like stones in David’s slingshot, each of them landing squarely on the head of my Goliath-sized depression and before you know it that monster was laying on the ground.Defeated.

My encouragement to you is this. If you are suffering with depression and you can’t see any good in yourself or in your life, don’t put your focus on the big stuff. Look around for those little every day moments that bring you even a sliver of joy . Write them down. Read them over and over again. Soon you’ll be on your way to slaying your monster too.

Oh– by the way –gratitude is a lifelong quest. It doesn’t end and that’s the good news because it makes everything so much better.I still make a conscious effort to notice the little joys of each day. Gotta be honest, I don’t usually write them down anymore. But I do still make mental note of them. Oh look, there goes one now. My cat just rubbed her fluffy head against my foot. Love her.

 Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

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