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I started Sad Runner with the commitment that, though I would share raw details of my depression, I would not let the site become a negative place.
Many Depression Blogs share what it’s like, and that’s great, but they often leave you feeling even more hopeless than when you started. I didn’t want that with Sad Runner. So I said no post on this website would ever end negative. We dive deep into the pain of mental illness, but we finish with motivation, action, and hope.
My biggest challenge with this site has been how to remain positive when I face so much negativity in my life. You see I could write to you each day and let you in on the immeasurable pain inside me. But I refuse to publish because there’s no way to end it on a positive note.
Throughout each awful day, pacing and crying and trying to survive this terrible pain, I’m searching for something good, something I can share with you that will better your fight with mental illness. Often, I fail to find anything worth sharing because the thoughts in my mind are all dark and way too painful.
I respect this challenge. I firmly believe that it’s necessary.
But I realized today that my constant search for something positive to share with you isn’t all there is. I have an underlying desire to find the good, the positivity in my crap pile called ‘life.’ No matter what I face.
Usually, my medication wakes me up around 3 AM, and I awaken ready to grab my todo list and run. But lately I wake up with no zest for life, no desire to live, I resent my todo list and the fact that I never get enough done.
Even worse, it takes me from 3 AM to about 8 AM to burn off enough depression to do something on my list or to at least get to my medicine. So for at least five hours each morning I pace with anxiety or lay down thriving in sorrow.
This morning I was in bed, as usual, trying to avoid the suicidal thoughts that often tempt me when I wake up. Suicidal thoughts are usually the easy ones. It’s the times my depression reminds me I suck, that I’m a loser and that there’s no value to my existence; those are the thoughts that sting. Thoughts of suicide are distinct, and I can often ‘change the channel’ in my mind. It’s the subtle ones that sneak in and take root in your psyche; those are the scary ones.
Like most days, I buried myself under the covers with my hoodie covering my eyes. A familiar sight in our home. I didn’t know how I was going to survive, but at that moment I was searching for something good. I was trying to find a lesson, something positive I could take from that time. I wanted to make the most of it.
Why, because this isn’t the end for me. Depression will not kill me, not without a fight. I won’t let it turn me into a bitter man. Depression takes so much from me, but I will not let it rob me of my positive attitude and my desire to get better as a result of my struggles.
You can hurt people like me and crush my spirit, and you can ultimately take my life. But you can’t beat someone like me. Until I die, I’ll work tirelessly to get stronger, get better, get tougher, and make an impact on others.
I know a lot of people with depression. They email me; they tell me their stories. But there’s also more than a few depressed people in my circle of friends and family. Many make things worse on themselves because they go negative. They become bitter because they only see the wrong in their life and so they stew in the filth of their despair.
They’re already down, but they make things worse by marinating in their pain. I don’t dwell on the pain; I search for relief. And that’s intentional. It’s because I don’t want this illness to make me bitter. I chose early on to use it to make me better.
So how do you do it? How do you intentionally and defiantly stay positive despite the crap hitting you in the face?
I believe it starts with a spirit of gratitude. Making a habit of thankfulness has been foundational in my recovery and I feel it keeps me from becoming bitter.
I’m searching for things to be thankful for, even in my darkest moments. I’m always on the hunt for something I can say ‘thank you’ to God for despite the pain.
The truth is, I have much to be grateful for in my life. I could publish something new I’m thankful for every day and not run out of things, and that’s true for you too.
Me, with depression, is still better off than the homeless men and women I serve through my ministry work. I know that. And I have family and friends who hold me up when I can’t stand on my own. That’s more than some of the Sad Runners in our community have. I’m tremendously blessed despite this burden in my life. I bet you are too.
Look at that photo again. The one above of me dealing with my depression this morning. I have plenty of blankets, a warm sweatshirt and I was on a comfortable bed inside a loving home free from the cold outside. I could go on.
You have to grow a spirit of gratitude in your life. You must make it a habit. That’s paramount to you staying positive despite your struggles.
If you’re a person of faith, this step becomes easy. You begin asking God to grow a spirit of gratitude inside you. Don’t worry, keep praying for it and he’ll take care of the rest. That’s how I started. I began praying for it, and God answered my request.
Still, you must make a habit of celebrating the little things and expressing gratitude for all you have no matter how small.
I have a dear friend who I adore, someone who cares for me deeply. But he’s just too negative. He has so much to be grateful for, but when I ask him how he’s doing, he just lists the problems. I recently asked him if he had a good holiday. His response was, no because of a, b, c, and d. He has a beautiful family, a 6-figure career, and he just bought his dream home. But to hear him talk you would think he was way worse off than me. He isn’t, it’s just in his head. I don’t know how to talk to someone like that, anymore.
Make it a habit today. Always search for things to be thankful for in your life. Never let up. Those little nuggets of positivity are drops of water to the thirsty; they’re crumbs of food to the starving. And, whether you believe me or not, you need to store up as much of those nuggets as possible. Trust me; they come in handy later.
After I’ve found some things to be grateful for, next I find wisdom. What lessons can I learn from the situation? No matter how painful my circumstances, I find a lesson I can learn. This quest is key to getting stronger and adapting to your illness. If you always look for ways to get better from the situation then, once again, you’re unbeatable.
The key here is to make these two practices a habit. Make them your default position in life. By ‘default position,’ I mean to make these two practices your first response.
When things get bad:
First, find things to be grateful for despite your circumstances. Exhaust your brain. Come up with as many things as you can until you get a headache.
Next, search for wisdom and lessons in your situation. Sometimes they aren’t easy to find. I often pray and ask God for help identifying them. That works for me, and I recommend it.
If your default position is to find something to be thankful for and then search for a lesson, I guarantee you will create more positivity in your life. You will get stronger; you will get smarter.
Even more, doing this will help you adapt to your illness and survive your attacks faster.
When your sadness subsides for a moment, and you can think clearly again, take a good hard look at yourself. Is your default position a positive one or a negative one?
Depression brings us so much pain that’s out of our control. But if we work to improve the areas we can control, it will ultimately make our lives better despite the illness we face.
Let’s stay grateful, stay positive, and we’ll all keep moving forward.