As the darker hours grew longer, people of a long ago past would gather, light candles and bonfires, and call on spiritual guides and guardians to protect them against the forces of darkness.
Not a bad idea…whether you are looking to the Light for spiritual protection…or turning on full-spectrum lights to guard you against more organic threats such as the black depressions of Seasonal Affective Disorder …or calling on the light and support of community to help you through the overwhelm that can begin around this time, as projects pick up and the holiday crunch begins to loom.
Let’s be honest: too many of us On the Go Professional Women are facing workloads that seem crushing – taking care of responsibilities with jobs, children, lovers, parents, and civic organizations. When we’re feeling overworked and underappreciated….feeling we don’t have time to take care of ourselves…sometimes even our most basic needs, such as sleep or nutritious meals, get neglected…and the downward spiral begins. Feelings of martyrdom and victimhood may build into storms of hopelessness and desperation, or self-judgment at not being the perfect, ultra-capable Superwoman…
Or sometimes, it can take something that seems ridiculously small and trivial to start a meltdown…a broken dish, a lost contact, a misinterpreted email, a bounced check…
I was blessed – for me this spiral never led to thoughts of suicide. But for too many women, it does: according to Suicide Awareness Voices of Education , women are three times likelier than men to attempt to end their lives…and suicide rates for females are highest among those aged 45-54.
Even one human being choosing to end his or her life is too many…so what can we do to protect ourselves?
One of the most common reasons for suicidal desperation is going without for too long…without human love and support, without healthy nutrition, without sleep, without medical care, without mind/body/spirit support, without connection to Nature. So – make the time to take care of yourself in all these areas. If the inner judge’s voice tells you that you’re being selfish, remind yourself: you are saving your own life, so that you can be of service to others. You’re no use to the world when you’re gone.
But when the slide into suicidal depression can be so gradual that you’re at the bottom without realizing you’ve slid, how can you catch yourself? A friend who has fought her way back from suicidal depression describes some of the thoughts and feelings this way:
I know I have more than most people, but it doesn’t matter.
I am grateful I don’t live in Darfur, or Syria or Iraq, but it doesn’t matter.
I know I am smarter than the average person, then why am I struggling so hard?…
I know I am reasonably attractive and a nice person, then why is it that no man can love me?
Many times I feel like I just don’t belong in this time. I feel out of place, even with my own family.
If you feel yourself sliding toward emotional storms of deep depression and suicidal thoughts, prepare yourself against them, just as you would if you live in an area prone to hurricanes or tornadoes. Put together an Emergency Pack of all the things that help and support you before the crash comes…and just doing so may prevent its arrival.
Here are some suggestions:
- Set up a safety net – people you can call and who will be there for you at a moment’s notice. Sure, 911 is the worst-case answer, but also consider creating an ongoing connection with support networks like these:
- A psychologist or therapist can give you a listening ear and tools to fight your way out of the darkness.
- Emotions Anonymous , Workaholics Anonymous , CoDependents Anonymous , AlAnon or any of the other Recovery networks give ongoing support and a proven pathway to healthier living.
- Local therapists and hospitals often host support groups for people suffering from depression.
- Churches and spiritual groups can provide support and prayers at critical moments.
- Bodywork, such as massage, Reiki, and other modalities, can release pent-up stress and bottled emotions, besides providing crucial human touch.
- Some hospices offer ongoing bereavement support if you’re suffering after a loss.
- Prepare your pantry – just as you keep canned goods and nonperishables on hand in case the power goes out, keep some easy-to-prepare, high-energy, nutritious foods on hand against those times when you’re too tired or depressed to eat properly.
- Sleep – Rest is critical to fighting depression! From setting up your bedroom for sleep, to adjusting your evening routine, to taking nutritional supplements to support rest, there’s a host of tools and suggestions in my ebook you can use to help your body/mind replenish and heal in dreamtime. But be aware – too much sleep, sleep used as an escape, is a big sign of trouble.
- Make mind/body/spirit replenishment a priority – Whether you hike, do yoga, meditate, or attend religious ceremonies to connect to Spirit, block this into your calendar as an unbreakable appointment.
- Sweat out the stress – A good, strenuous workout activates endorphins, helping to stabilize your mood and making it easier to deal with daily frustrations. Do as much as your mind/body is capable of handling; if you have a trainer pushing to do more, it is OK to set your own boundaries!
- Create! –Studies indicate that creative activities, from poetry and art to dance and gardening, can be a significant help in preventing and healing depression by releasing energy through expression. If you’re feeling creatively blocked, try journaling, grown-up coloring books, singing along with the radio, dancing in your bedroom – all of these can be helpful.
- Keep a careful eye on the responsibilities you take on – It’s so easy to take on crushing amounts of work, whether out of Superwoman compulsions, the desire to be a good partner/mother/friend/coworker/volunteer/etc., or a need to numb out deeper issues. Before you take on yet another project, ask why? Are you the only person who can do this job? Where are you going to fit it in your schedule? If fitting it in demands that you sacrifice self-care (doing it late at night, or over mealtimes, for example), just say no.
- Marshal defenses against the inner judge – Your inner judge may try to convince you that you’re bad/unworthy/(fill in the blank) – that doesn’t mean you should surrender and agree! Put together lists of people who believe in you, achievements you’re proud of, affirmations that speak to your soul…all the things that fill your heart and lift your spirit. Keep them in your Emergency Pack.
Most important – don’t believe everything you think! No matter how rational the arguments may seem for choosing the darkness, they are not: they indicate that something needs healing, and that help is needed. Reach out. You are worthy, you are loved, and most important – you are not alone.