Monday, August 24, 2015

The Life Raft of Love

I Began to Inch My Way Out
. . . of Depression
What Do You Love?
Love can be a life raft to hold us afloat while we heal.
What do you love? Who do you love? What makes you happy? What makes you smile?
During depression, love is off our radar—given and received. Happiness is off our radar. Smiling is off our radar. At such times, we need reminders that we love certain people and things. We need reminders of what makes us happy and makes us smile.
In the months following my separation in 2003, I was recovering from Lyme disease and trying to make my way as a single parent of three children, two of them teenagers. Finances were difficult. I faced all the challenges of those navigating separation and divorce. In spite of having compromised health, I didn’t have the option to stay in bed because I had a family to support.
A dear friend put out her hand and held me so I didn’t fall into the pits of depression. As I bemoaned everything that was wrong with my life, one day she suggested that I consider whether I loved anything, whether anything made me happy or smile. She told me to write those down where I could see them every day. So I did.
I had a new box of colored pencils—the high-quality ones—and I used my cherished Waterman fountain pen to write words of love, happiness, rejuvenation on a large sheet of paper. I then colored each one. I kept the poster where I saw it daily and it encouraged me. It reminded me of everything that made me happy, the reasons I enjoyed living, what gave me joy.
As I read the words, visuals came to mind: gentian sage, no blue in nature matches its deep hues. The black flowing ink and the scritch, scritch as the nib of my Waterman fountain pen moves across paper calms me, reminds me to create, to share. Rainbows from the prism hanging in my window came alive with the morning sun and danced across my room. Words about feeling salt water drying on my skin after an ocean swim on a summer day made me feel that warmth, taste that salt on my body. The names my children made me think of how much I love each of them. Hummingbird on the paper presented a visual of blurred wings hovering over a flower and pointed beaks sipping nectar.
Words are tossed and spun and used in our culture with little thought of their meaning or impact. We are often advised to choose our words wisely because in spite of that tossing, they do have meaning, they do have impact. We can use words to our advantage to lift us, to hold us when we’re sad, to bring laughter, joy, and love into our lives. When I used a visual of words, I had a daily reminder of laughter, joy, and love, and it changed how I viewed the world.
When I returned to Florida years later, I packed my poster of words in a box. Just days ago, while cleaning a closet, I found it. I unfolded it and read each word and was reminded once again of what I love, what I cherish. My poster will not go back in a box to languish unseen and unheeded. It’s going on my wall where I will see it, where I will consider just what I love, what makes me smile, what brings me joy.
In my expanding awareness of what I love, I might make another poster. More love is always an inch toward a happier, healthier life.
To keep ourselves healthy, to keep ourselves away from dark days that befall far too many of us, it helps to hold close the people and things you love. If they aren’t nearby, make your own poster and put it where you can see it every day. A simple visual reminder of what we hold dear, what makes us laugh, what brings us joy, will bring that love, laughter, and joy to us. Knowing what we love and being reminded to love that which bring us joy can, indeed, assist us as we inch our way out of depression.
* * * *
I am not a therapist, so if you or someone you love suffers depression, reach out; get help. However, I do believe we can do some simple things to help ourselves. My own continuing counsel about inching away from depression follows:
Ask yourself: What do you love?
Loving anchors us in the real world and gives meaning and depth to our lives. Focusing on who and what we love is not part of a magic potion to drive away the demons of depression. Love, however, can be a life raft to hold us afloat while we heal.

An article I saw on Facebook during my recent depression helped immensely. I was not ready to give up, but I was darker than I have been in years. Please read the article and if you are having dark days of your own, take the suggestions to heart.
The original can be downloaded in printable form at the following URL:

Love and our awareness of it and how it brings light to our dark days is the last post in my series on depression. From time to time, I may continue to share inspirational and helpful steps you and I can take to inch away from depression.

Note: I welcome comments, even private ones, especially because depression is not something we want everyone to know we experience. If you would like to speak further about this subject, please feel free to contact me at and we can communicate by e-mail or I will share my phone number. Be well. ~ Chris

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