PAPAS: Lending a helping hand
By Rev. Paul N. Papas II
Thu Dec 04, 2008, 04:37 PM EST
This is the time of year when many people generally feel good about giving. We haven’t quite arrived at Christmas in July, even though many stores would like to see it happen. Giving is a tradition that can be traced way back in time.
When you combine the myth that we must keep up with the Jones’ with the failing economy, a recipe for disaster is born.
When you add to that mix people who have suffered personal, job other losses, or trauma this past year, you are in a potentially toxic environment.
The crippling hurt caused by the absence of a loved one or economic stability can cloud holiday gatherings and even dim the desire to celebrate.
Poet Ann Weems wrote: “Some of us walk into Advent tethered to our unresolved yesterdays, the pain still stabbing, the hurt still throbbing. It’s not that we don’t know better; it’s just that we can’t stand up anymore by ourselves. On the way to Bethlehem will you give us a hand?”
You have probably heard that we are to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. This seems especially needed during this time of year.
To say “get over it” shows a lack of understanding and can easily make matters worse.
The person you thought you would help with that statement already feels bad enough and now is made to feel more isolated and depressed. That “get over it” statement is really better directed at the one who made the unfeeling statement to avoid the issues.
Feeling down from time to time is a normal part of life. But when sadness takes hold and won’t go away, it may be depression.
More than just the temporary “blues,” the lows of depression make it tough to function and enjoy life like you once did. A person with severe depression has little or no interest in work or hobbies, and may even have trouble getting out of bed.
With treatment and help, you can feel better. Learning how to understand depression – including its signs, symptoms, and causes – is the first step to overcoming the problem.
What is depression?
It’s impossible to escape life’s ups and downs. Feeling unhappy or sad in response to disappointment, loss, frustration or a medical condition is normal.
Many people use the word “depression” to explain these kinds of feelings, but that is really situational depression, which is a normal reaction to events around us.
Clinical depression, though, overwhelms and engulfs your day-to-day life, interfering with your ability to work, study, eat, sleep, and have fun. It is unrelenting, with little if any relief.
There’s a vast difference between “feeling depressed” and suffering from clinical depression.
The despondency of clinical depression is unrelenting and overwhelming. Some people describe it as “living in a black hole” or having a feeling of impending doom.
They can’t escape their unhappiness and despair.
However, some people with depression don’t feel sad at all. Instead, they feel lifeless and empty.
In this apathetic state, they are unable to experience pleasure. Even when participating in activities they used to enjoy, they feel as if they’re just going through the motions.
The signs and symptoms vary from person to person, and they may wax and wane in severity over time.
Depression is a major risk factor for suicide. The deep despair and hopelessness that go along with depression can make suicide feel like the only way to make the pain go away.
Suicidal individuals often give warning signs or signals of their intentions.
The best way to prevent suicide is to know and watch for these warning signs and to get involved if you spot them.
If you believe that a friend or family member is suicidal, you can play a role in suicide prevention by pointing out the alternatives, showing that you care, and getting a professional involved.
Be a part of the solution. Observe and ask questions; don’t interrogate. Show compassion, come along side and learn from the one who is feeling bad.
This is not a time to be judgmental.
If you feel you are unable to lend a helping hand or if you feel your friend, relative or stranger is in danger of hurting themselves pick up the phone and call 911. If you feel like you are going to hurt yourself call 1-800-273-TALK now!
There are many causes of depression, unless you are a professional, don’t try to treat it.
Depression is treatable. Help is available.
There are many resources available for those who suffer from depression or other medical issues of mental illnesses, their families and friends. You can go on line to http://www.namigreaterframingham.org or call our helpline at 508-875-1544
Enjoy the holidays. Perhaps you can help someone enjoy the holidays; what a gift that would be!
The Rev Paul N. Papas II is a Pastoral Counselor with Narrow Path Ministries (located in MA and AZ) and current President of NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Greater Framingham. NAMI Greater Framingham has support groups for family and friends in Framingham and Uxbridge, support groups for consumers in Marlboro and Framingham , and various Education Meetings on the first Thursday evenings of the months from September through May http://www.narrowpathministries.org and http://www.namigreaterframingham.org