In January 2019, I was laid off from my day job. My manager said the company’s intention was to rehire me if their workload picked up again. I had no return-to-work date. Being rehired was not a guarantee. I felt very low.
(Disclosure: While this post contains information about my experience with mental illness, this post is not intended to be medical advice. I am not a licensed, certified or trained medical professional. If you suffer from mental illness, I encourage you to seek help from licensed, certified medical professional.)
In 2004, I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder by my doctor. Job losses, for me, trigger depressive episodes. During a depressive episode, negative thoughts arise which impact my behavior. When I’m feeling stable, activities such as getting out of bed and leaving the house every day are easy. Depressive episodes make those activities into hurdles difficult for me to leap over.
But no matter how I’m feeling, I enjoy listening to podcasts. Podcasts encourage my creativity and lift my spirits. After the layoff, I listened to a podcast host speak about the benefits of having a daily gratitude practice and how having a gratitude buddy helps with accountability to the practice. The podcast host was offering to match listeners with an email gratitude buddy with the intention of helping the audience cultivate their own daily gratitude practice. The rules—every day, email your gratitude buddy three things you are grateful for, and the buddy would reciprocate.
My inner voice said, “Sara, you need a gratitude buddy.” I listened to my inner voice.
Now I find that practicing gratitude every night allows me to reflect on the good parts of my day. I cannot be negative with gratitude, so I have to find the positive within the negative.
During low points, like being unemployed, my gratitude lists looked like this:
- Grateful I got out of bed today.
- Grateful I left the house today.
- Grateful I went to the library to read some magazines.
These small acts feel like huge triumphs. I was jumping over previously difficult hurdles.
In March 2019, I received a re-hire offer from my then former employer. I accepted the offer. When I returned to work, my confidence rose and my negative thoughts subsided. My gratitude lists developed and now look more like this:
- Grateful I got a good workout in at the gym.
- Grateful I went to the opera with my mom.
- Grateful I stayed in bed today for a chance to recharge and relax.
- Grateful for my job.
- Grateful for my gratitude buddy emailing me every day.
I learned how to shift my perspective from negative thoughts to positive ones while I was going through a bad situation. I continued practicing gratitude during the good times, and that practice developed a daily habit. That daily habit is a new skill I can add to my arsenal to continue living with my depression. Stressful situations have arisen since the layoff, and I keep going with my gratitude practice. I keep showing up and finding the good within the bad.
I take medication for my depression in addition to my gratitude practice. I’ve taken medication much longer than I’ve been practicing gratitude. Medication and gratitude, in my opinion, are not cures for depression. Medication helps my moods stay stable. Gratitude helps me deal with thoughts. My gratitude practice helps me find light when I feel like I’m in darkness and the medication helps me stay in that positive zone. Medication and gratitude are a good combination for me.
If you are reading this, I’d like you to know I’m grateful for you, dear reader! Thank you for reading my blog posts.
You can always connect with me, ask me questions, or tell me about you at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to connect with you!