Making Peace with My Emotions
I SAT IN my office, tears gathering in my eyes. "Not again," I said aloud to myself. "Not here." I blinked back the wetness in my eyes and tried to focus on my computer project. No luck. More tears. With a deep breath I headed for the ladies room, trying to keep my composure until I was safe within the privacy of a stall. Once inside I let the tears spill, dabbing them carefully with toilet paper. Sadness welled up from deep inside, snuffing out my normally upbeat personality. Why can't I keep my emotions under control? I wondered in frustration and embarrassment.
This scenario had become all too familiar in the last several months. I'd be enjoying a perfectly fine day only to be unexpectedly overtaken by sadness or hopelessness. Some days I even awoke feeling sad. These emotions usually overwhelmed me when I was alone—in my car, in my office, in my bed as I tried to fall asleep. While I'd always been an emotional person, this was different. I couldn't find any apparent cause for these emotions—which only made me feel worse. After all, I had a good job, dear friends, a nice apartment, a wonderful church. Nothing seemed wrong. Why was I crying so frequently?
WHEN THE CRYING first started, I tried some practical remedies. I drove around in the sunshine during my lunch hour, listening to fun '50s music or uplifting Christian songs. When I read dehydration could lead to sluggishness, I began drinking more water. I tried to eat balanced meals when I learned certain vitamin or protein deficiencies could affect moods. And I cried out to God to restore my usual joy in life. Yet no matter what I tried, my sadness persisted.
Finally, when I explained my chronic sadness to my mother over the phone, Mom begged me to do whatever I needed to do to get better.
I made an appointment with a Christian counselor I'd seen a few years before to help me with a strained relationship. As I sat on my counselor's couch, I revealed how I'd leave the office under the auspices of "running errands" only to drive around crying through my lunch hour. Sure, there was stress at work. Sure, there were days when being single was a drag. Sure, we were having a dreary spring. But I'd never responded to these kinds of stressors this way before.
I'd be enjoying a perfectly fine day,
then be overtaken by
sadness or hopelessness.
When my counselor first mentioned the word depression, it sounded so serious. Wasn't that something people who were alcoholic or suicidal suffered from? I wasn't that bad off! But I had to admit, some of its symptoms fit: hopelessness, crying, feeling emotionally empty and lonely.