Excerpt of Chapter 2 The Invisible Pain – Depression and Mental Health
Here is the 3rd Installment from the book – Your Life Matters!
The Invisible Pain of Depression/Mental Health
Depression and mental health issues are rampant in our world today. I see it in my work as a counselor and in my capacity as founder of a veteran’s homeless shelter. I live it every day.
As a pastor, I used to run a small group that focused on mental health, and it was the most widely group in the church. Statistics from the psychiatry.org website show that depression is an epidemic. About 17% of people walking around at any given time are suffering from depression
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) statistics showing that up to 25% of the world population suffers from a recognized anxiety disorder and yet, only about one-third of those are seeking any sort of treatment
When we are depressed, we feel like doing nothing. Or worse, we may feel like taking our own lives. We may feel like our lives are over or it will never get any better. We feel like our lives do not matter, but that is a lie.
There have been points in my life when I have struggled with depression. Sometimes it seemed so dark, I didn’t know the way out. One day, in particular, a friend checked on me and I told her I was struggling.
She told me “Get out of the house. It’s too beautiful a day to stay inside.”
I wasn’t sure what I was going to do but I went outside while we talked.
“Cliff, now drive to Wal Mart. When you get there buy a fall plant, in a planter and give it to someone–anyone you see that might benefit from a little brightness in their day.”
“Are you serious? You want me to go and buy a plant or flowers for someone I don’t know and give it to them? They are going to think I’m crazy. They’ll think I’m a stalker and just weird.”
“Go and do it,” she insisted.
Reluctantly, I got in my car and deliberately drove past the Wal Mart near my home to a grocery store across town, hoping to avoid seeing anyone I knew. They’d certainly think I had lost my mind.
I took a deep breath and plodded inside. A beautiful display of fall plants greeted me near the entrance. At $10 each, I could do this. I looked over the plants and grabbed the first one I saw that looked decent and headed for the checkout.
After I paid for the plant and headed out the exit door, I stood to the right and watched the people coming and going. How strange that no one looked at anyone else. Even stranger that I stood there with an eye for giving something away to a perfect stranger.
Where do I begin? How do I choose? Some people were dressed up and others dressed down. Then I spotted an elderly lady coming out of the store. She took short deliberate steps with her cart of groceries, focused on the asphalt in front of her. She pushed as if she were using all her strength to push a sled uphill.
I walked to her, smiled. “Hi, my name is Cliff, and I would like to give you this plant for your home and maybe if you would let me, help you to your car with these groceries.”
She looked at me with a hint of a smile along with questions on her face. When she saw the plant in my hand, she lit up like a Christmas tree. “That’s the nicest thing anyone ever offered to do for me.”
I unloaded the groceries into her car and placed the plant in the seat next to her.
She gave me the biggest hug I had received in a long time and told me, “You absolutely made my day. Thank you so much.”
For the first time in a while, a smile crept over my face. I told her, “You made a difference in my life too.”
She tilted her head a little sideways with a question in her eyes, and then waved it off and thanked me again.
I’m not sure why I didn’t tell her why I came and bought a gift for a stranger. Somehow it seemed like it might dim the beauty of the moment. It was enough for me to know that I had made a difference in someone’s life. At that moment, that mattered more to me than I have words to express.
The depression that weighed me down, evaporated. That was a miracle to me. In fact, it felt so good, that I went back into the store and did it again and it was just as awesome the second time. I still do that from time to time.
By the way, I ended up marrying that friend who recommended it, but we’ll get back to that later.
I have learned that when you do something for someone else who cannot repay you, it’s as much a gift to you as it is to them.
This is all tied to a psychological theory called “Positive Psychology.” We discuss this at length in the tool kit section of this book. Feel free to skip ahead and read it. It’s important stuff.
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