Sunday, August 7, 2016

Opportunities to Teach

I am amazed how opportunities still come my way to use our family's trials to teach and help others. In July, I was given the opportunity to teach a lesson to the women of our church congregation. The topic "Finding Joy in the Journey." Before talking about joy I talked about depression and how hard it is for some to find joy.

Of course I was prompted by the lessons learned through my experiences with my late husband Mike. I printed a list of places people can go for help and wonderful resources. I had a handout on the 9 basic types of depression and some of their sub types. Of course being the teacher, I learned the most. I wasn't quite ready for the positive responses I received over the three weeks after the lesson.

I have learned that sharing our personal hardships, help us to see each other as the humans we are. We tend to think everyone is perfect while we struggle and that is not the case. I am glad that I was guided to say the things that these women needed to hear. Even more surprising to me was being asked to share the lesson again but this time with the men of our congregation.

I feel strongly about keeping the men and women separate because they might open up more and ask questions with less hesitation. Eventually a mixed group would be the next step. I am so glad that our church is talking more about depression. My late husband said it would be a plague of the last days that would affect the righteous as well as the wicked. Eight years ago before his death it was still a secret killer that no one really liked to talk about.

So today I taught the men. I started by sharing the wonderful and normal things about Mike. Then I talked about his secret dark side that was sometimes even hard for me to deal with. One in four suffer from some type of mental illness. That meant that out of the 50+ men there at least 1/4 dealt with or will deal with depression themselves or within their family. This will touch all of us. Different types of depression need different things. Some just need talk therapy and some types need medications. Men, don't be afraid to ask for help and keep a loving eye out for your spouses too.

One of the men asked, "if your husband was always praying, serving, and reading his scriptures plus getting the medical help he needed, what else could you have done to save him?"  Good question. So here are some tools that might help:

  • Eat healthy and less sugar
  • Exercise daily and that means a good hard aerobic heart elevating exercise at least 5 times a week
  • Spend some time outdoors in the fresh air
  • Try and go to bed at normal times and get a good nights sleep
  • Deep breathing and meditation
  • Spend time with family, don't go into isolation
My oldest daughter who suffers from depression wrote this:

"Make a working list of little things that bring a smile to your face. Little things that warm your heart. I say working list because it will change over time. My list started with a hot cocoa and pumpkin scone from Starbucks. It also included specific songs and little interactions with my son. Over time I realized the most important thing to me in life, as well as the thing that brings me the most happiness and joy, is family. 
I encourage all of us to look inside ourselves and ask, what are some things that make me smile? What are some things that bring me joy? It doesn't matter how small or big they are. Write them down and the next time your're feeling down take that list out and try one or two of those things. One of my all-time favorite quotes from Gordon B. Hinckley says, "Life is to be enjoyed, not just endured."

Next post: a list of helpful articles and places to go to for help.

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