Gratitude and Depression

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 sarathlete@hotmail.com. I’d love to connect with you!

Sarathlete

Creative Co-working

I’m a proponent of exploring new places, having new experiences, meeting new people and learning new things. When I do something new, I grow because I gain new knowledge. I believe growth is movement forward in life. As I’m writing this post, I’m trying something new today—creative co-working.

I stumbled upon a new-to-me podcast called The Unmistakable Creative one year ago. The podcast host has a creative network that runs on an app called Mighty Networks. (Note: I’m a tech-dinosaur, so, if I have my titles or app names wrong, please contact me and let me know. You deserve credit, and you shouldn’t suffer because of my ignorance!)

I joined the Unmistakable Creative network three weeks ago. The network consists of a community of creative people who encourage each other, support each other’s work and ideas, and explore new ideas of how to be more creative. A community manager hosts a co-working group that meets on Saturday mornings with the purpose of doing one hour of creative work. I’ve signed up for this co-working session three times, and I backed out twice. Today, I joined the co-working event.

Here’s the format of the co-working event, in case you’re new to co-working, like me:

  1. Enter the room: I entered the virtual video chat room using the Zoom app via a link posted by the community manager in the Mighty Networks app.
  2. Introductions: At the beginning of the hour, there are introductions. Everyone in the group has a chance to state their name, where they’re from, and what creative project/goal they are going to be working on for that hour.
  3. Co-work: After introductions, the camera goes off, microphones are muted, and everyone starts working on their creative project.
  4. Final check-in: After the hour is over, there is a final check-in and everyone has a chance to state the progress they’ve made on their creative project and how they felt the session went for them.

Before I tried this co-working session, I needed to mediate to calm myself down. I was nervous. Meeting new people is difficult for me. While I was meditating my mind was simmering with questions and doubts:

  • Why am I placing my creative life in the background?
  • Why do I give the stress from my day job permission to be my excuse for putting my creativity in the corner?

Quieting my mind was not happening for me. So, I turned off the meditation app, got my iPad ready for blogging, and I connected to the video chat and used the audio-only option. I don’t look fabulous on Saturday morning!

While people were introducing themselves, I quickly wrote down my name, where I am from, and my creative goal for the hour on a sheet of paper. Writing down my thoughts helps me articulate what I want to express. I recited the words from my sheet of paper when my turn came:

  • My name is Sara.
  • I live in Northwest Indiana.
  • My goal for this hour is to create a blog post for my blog I abandoned 4 years ago.

(I get nervous around people I don’t know. When I get nervous, everything I know or want to say goes out the window, unless I have it written down.)

After the introductions, I wrote for an hour. I enjoyed getting my raw thoughts out of my head in an unedited format. I felt creative, productive, and more confident after my hour was over.

During the final check-in I wrote down and said the following:

  • I loved the experience.
  • I wrote about the co-working experience for my blog post during the hour.

I would publish the post later in the day after I’d had a chance to edit the post.

Some lessons I learned during my experience today:

  • There is a tribe of like-minded, creative people out there. I was letting fear of the unknown stand in my way of finding those people. I am not alone. I had to find the courage to reach out and join the tribe.
  • I accepted myself today. By joining the video chat in audio-only mode, I accepted my fear and knew that’s where I was at this morning. I didn’t let my fear conquer me. Although no one could see me, they could hear what I had to say.
  • I showed up and did the work. Showing up played a crucial key to my success. Showing up to do the work is the hardest step for me.
  • I had a positive experience. Having a positive experience with this group made me want to go back on the next Saturday and keep creating. Negative experiences create negative associations. Today was a positive experience and a positive association with creativity as the result.
  • I am accountable for my actions. I can’t blame anyone else but myself for not doing the creative work. Having a community of people, a tribe, is a helpful resource but it’s just a resource—not a substitute for getting the work done.

If you’re reading this post thinking to yourself, “I’m not creative” and “This post doesn’t apply to me”, then you are wrong. If creative work isn’t your skill, then there must be something else. Celebrate yourself and your skills. I dare you!

The podcast host of The Unmistakable Creative always asks people how they would define what makes someone unmistakably creative? I love that question. I want to know what is your unmistakable skill? I know you have one! Leave me a comment or drop me a line at sarathlete@hotmail.com. I’d love to hear from you! I’d love to connect with you and hear or read what you have to say! I’m an unmistakable listener! No one would mistake me for an unmistakable talker.

Keep moving, exploring, growing and learning!

Sarathlete