Wednesday, February 28, 2007

All Stressed Out

A man went in to see his psychiatrist and he said, "Doc, I can't get any sleep. One night I dream that I'm a wigwam and the next night I dream that I'm a teepee. Then again, I dream that I'm a wigwam and then a teepee. Can you help me?" "Well," replied the doctor, "I know what your problem is. You're two tents."
Too Tense. Most all of us, at one time or another, have said, "I feel all stressed out." We know how stress feels, but we don't necessarily know what causes it. I have learned that there are some things that are regular stressors in my life, and other things that don't even faze me.

I now know that any type of sales job will put me over the edge. I've always been very skilled at sales, but after awhile it will break me down. My worst experience with this particular stressor was when I worked as a loan officer in Arizona. I had gone through some intensive training (no stress) and then had started work, but I didn't feel under pressure at all. The real problems began when we got a new District Manager. His managerial philosophy was that employees/salesmen need to be constantly pushed to meet their full potential.

The stress created by him was due to his unreasonable expectations. No matter how well you did (I wrote the largest loan in the office), he was never satisfied. He kept raising the bar, which meant that your performance was never adequate. "Well, that's pretty good, but don't tell me what you did today, tell me what you are going to do tomorrow," he would say. The constant pressure to do more and more finally got to me, and I started going into a deep depression. It was the worst that I had ever experienced. Consequently, I had to resign, even though my local office manager tried everything to help me to stay.

The curious thing about stress is that it is highly personal. What is a stressor for one person may not bother another person at all. When Teresa and I lived in Hot Springs, we were startled one morning by a loud Craaash Baaang!!! When we looked outside, we saw that a car had wrecked in front of our house. We learned later that the teenager driving had been fleeing from the police. He hit a railroad track hump, flew into the air and wrapped his car like a fortune-cookie around a utility pole.

When I ran outside, there was another man there calling 911 on his cell phone. I worked my way down a deep ditch until I could reach the car and found a boy trapped in his vehicle. The car was doubled around the pole and the kid was entangled in the wreckage. He was screaming and crying, so I tried to keep him calm until the ambulance arrived. Every time he moved he was cutting himself on the glass and twisted steel. I kept talking to him, telling him that he would be alright, and held him as still as I could. When the police, firemen and paramedics arrived, I was sure that he would not live to get to the hospital (he did). I got out of their way and went back inside of my home. When I looked in a mirror, I saw that I was covered in his blood. By the time that I had cleaned up, the firemen had cut him out of the wreckage and taken him to the hospital.

The point of the story is that I wasn't stressed at all. I've learned that those types of events don't bother me. My personal stressors are deadlines, quotas, ethical conflicts, poor job performance (like my recent job), feelings of helplessness, unmet expectations, and an inability to keep up with and fulfill my responsibilities. Stress is like poison to my mental health.

My wife, like many, gets stressed out over Thanksgiving, Christmas, financial dilemmas, family tensions, moving and other things. Every person has their own personal list of stressors. Two websites that I would recommend are: (for a stress test) and (for information).

The goal for good mental health is not to avoid all stress, but simply avoid the "bad" stress. Whatever affects your well-being negatively is bad stress.
Stress Management

Picture yourself near a stream.
Birds are singing in the crisp, cool mountain air.
Nothing can bother you here.
No one knows this secret place.
You are in total seclusion from the rest of the world.
The soothing sound of a waterfall fills the air with a cascade of serenity.
The water is clear.
You can easily make out the face of the person whose head you are holding under the water.
There now, doesn't that make you feel much better?

"An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up (Proverbs 12:25)."

["I'm so low I could do a ten minute free-fall off the edge of a dime."]

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Hobby Happy

I've been pretty depressed the last few days. When I get that low, it's difficult for me to write. I wanted to share with you something that has given me a lot of pleasure, even on seemingly pleasureless days.

I have always been a lover of the arts, especially graphic arts. Unfortunately, I seemed to have been left out of that particular pool of creative talent. I wanted to draw, paint, or sculpt, but I wasn't able to. My appreciation for people who have those talents has grown as my exposure to wonderful artists has grown.

Still, I have had a desire to express myself creatively. Whenever my wife and I would travel, we would see some of God's awesome handiwork, and I would say, "You know, if I had a good camera, I could take an award-winning photo." She would just smile. This has gone on for years and years.

Then in December of 2005, I had a financial serendipity, and I took that opportunity to purchase my first (only) digital camera. I didn't' spend a lot. The Internet purchase price was only about $250. Then I spent another $50 on photo editing software. At last, I had the tools to be creative.

It didn't take me long to read everything that the library had to offer on photography. I devoured magazines and surfed many of the websites available. As my knowledge grew, so did my enthusiasm for photography. I had delusions of grandeur.

One day, I received notice from a competition website that I had won an award. I couldn't wait to tell Teresa, "I've taken an award-winning photograph." Again the smile. I actually believe that she thought it was a fluke. Then a second award came my way, and others. I waived those award notices under her nose and beat her into submission with my success. "HA!!! and HA!! again, I said." Finally, I had someone to validate my efforts and creative vision.

I once worked with a preacher who said, "He that tooteth not his own horn, never gets tooted." That's not my intent. What I wanted to demonstrate is that people who are depressed are still capable of getting outside of themselves. We can be freed from our gray world, even if only for minutes or hours. I discovered that I could and would go on a photography "safari", even when depressed. Photography got me out of bed and out of the house. When I was unable to speak to people, I could still speak to the camera.

Photography may not be an instrument of joy for you. Your enthusiasm may be for something else. I truly believe that finding an activity/hobby, that we are capable of continuing while we are ill, can be another important factor in our recovery. Even now, as the bitter cold releases its hold on Arkansas, I am beginning to dream of new heights to climb.

For those of you who are interested in Photography, let me share some of my findings. (1) A digital camera is a must. You can view your photos right away, and thin out the ones that are less than "award-winning (thousands)." (2) Buy some photo-editing software, such as Photoshop Elements. This can usually be bought for about $50 on the net. Editing will be an additional interest, almost as much fun as shooting photos. (3) Try a few of the competition sites. You will learn from the other photographers, and their critique will help you grow. I recommend (4) At some point, you may want sell some of your better photos through a microstock agency. I've had pretty fair success on (5) Finally, take your camera with you everywhere. "If you don't tote it, you can't take it."

If you have already found your own Hobby Happiness, let the rest of us know. I would certainly be interested in your discoveries.

"A joyful heart makes a cheerful face (Proverbs 15:13)." As Alan Bryan used to say, "If we're happy, some of us need to notify our face."

I love and appreciate you all. Your encouragement means a lot to me.

["I'm so low I could do a ten minute free-fall off the edge of a dime."]

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Shoulda Hada V-8

Of all the forms of irrational thinking that Dr. Burns mentions in his book, the ones that I believe get the most work are the "Should Syndrome" and Overgeneralizing. Maybe I'm only speaking from my own perspective, but these are the ones that I've struggled with more frequently than the others.

"Should" statements take a lot of forms. Some examples are: "You have need ought must..." and maybe more that I can't think of right now. What I have noticed about should statements is that they are most often used by someone who is trying to subtly manipulate you to do what they think is best. I don't know that they are always consciously trying to manipulate, but that's what it amounts to, in my opinion.

To me, they are saying, "I know what is the best course of action for you to take or the best decision to make. So therefore, this is what you should do." Actually, it usually means that "this is what I WANT you to do." There is a controlling factor at work here. That's why people who use should statements regarding someone else, get a little (maybe a lot) peeved when their "advice" isn't taken. I wonder if any of us are in a position to decide what anyone else should do?

If someone asks me what I think they ought to do in any situation, I try to help them explore the options available to them. I want them to decide what they should do, not me. If I'm really pushed though, I might respond by saying, "If I were in your position, I would..., but what may be right for me may not be right for you. That's why you have to make your own decisions."

I've been very careful to avoid telling my grown children what I think they should do. I may have an opinion about it, but I don't think it's really any of my business. They have to live with their own actions and decisions. Now, if they ask for my advice, I give it. But only if they ask.

The other form of irrational thinking that lights my fuse is Overgeneralizing. We've all heard "You one...everyone...not anyone...all, etc.." Most of us have not only been the recipient, but also the giver of overgeneralizing statements. We not only use them against other people, but we use them against ourselves. "I never...I always."

I try not to use these statements in reference to other people, and I usually don't allow others to use them against me. I assertively (had to learn this) say, "Now, do you want to rethink that statement? Does anyone ever "always" do anything? Every single time? I believe that you are exaggerating the situation. Now, what is the truth?"

How many of us have heard, "You never put the butter up," or "You never do your work projects on time."? I just have to respond, "Do you really mean that I've never...? Not even once? Are you sure? Do you want to rethink that?"

You see, I believe that words like "never...always...everyone....not any one" eat away at truth. They eat away at reality. It doesn't matter if they are directed toward us by other people, or they are self-directed. Any time that truth and reality are eroded, for whatever reason, our personal world is diminished. Our mental and emotional well-being are put at risk. Our patterns of thinking become irrational and unrealistic. Therefore, our view of ourselves and the world around us becomes unhealthy and can easily lead to psychological depression.

["I'm so low I could do a ten minute free-fall off the edge of a dime."]

Monday, February 19, 2007

Stinkin' Thinkin'

Thinking, for someone who is depressed, is like running a marathon in lead shoes. You put out the same effort as everyone else, but you just don't get anywhere. The mere effort of cognitive functioning is fatiguing. The inability to focus, concentrate or perform normal, usually effortless, decision-making is beyond your reach. Speaking for myself, this is one of the most frustrating things about depression. Although my measured I.Q. is high, you wouldn't be able to tell it because of the difficulties I have with thinking clearly.

I tried to explain it to a friend recently. I told him that it was like having a car with an eight cylinder 440 cubic inch engine that only runs on two cylinders. It doesn't make any difference how powerful the engine (brain) is if it doesn't operate properly. You would be better off driving a four cylinder economy sedan. The disability of a dysfunctional brain is a very real one, yet many people do not understand it that way.

When I speak of Stinkin' Thinkin' though, I am not talking about the way our brain functions, but rather about the way that we use our brain. Having problems with thinking is not the same thing as having thinking problems. Thinking problems result from the development of irrational patterns of thought. Dr. Albert Ellis, the originator of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, expressed it this way. "REBT is a comprehensive approach to psychological treatment that deals not only with the emotional and behavioral aspects of human disturbance, but places a great deal of stress on its thinking component."

Dr. Ellis holds that most of our emotional and cognitive problems arise from a certain core of irrational ideas. This, I believe, is at the root of what I have described as Psychological Depression. None of us, not even Bibilical heroes/heroines of great faith, are immune from life-long patterns of irrational thinking. This is why I think that if we only address the physical, circumstantial or spiritual factors in depression, we will not be completely depression free. Successful treatment has to take all of these possible sources of depression into account. Irrational thinking is at the root of many of our problems with depression. That has certainly been my experience.

The first time that depression forced me to stop preaching, I moved from New Mexico back to Tulsa, Oklahoma. I spoke with a Christian psychologist who suggested that I read The Feeling Good Handbook by Dr. David Burns. Even though Dr. Burns doesn't write from a Christian perspective, I found that most of his ideas corresponded with Biblical teaching. In fact, it was his book that prompted me to do an in-depth study of King David's life and writings.

In his book, Dr. Burns lists Ten Forms of Twisted Thinking. They are: (1) All-or-nothing thinking (if a situation falls short of perfect, you see it as a total failure) (2) Overgeneralizing (you see a single negative event as being a never-ending pattern of defeat) (3) Mental filter (you pick out a single negative detail and dwell on it exclusively) (4) Discounting the positive (a rejection of positive experiences by insisting that they don't count) (5) Jumping to conclusions (you interpret things negatively when there are no facts to support your conclusion) (6) Magnification (you exaggerate the importance of your problems or shortcomings) (7) Emotional reasoning (you assume that your negative emotions reflect the way things really are) (8) "Should" statements (you tell yourself that things "should" be the way you hoped) (9) Labeling (an extreme form of all-or-nothing thinking, i.e., "I'm a loser") and (10) Personalization (holding yourself responsible for something that isn't in your control).

This book, along with the Bible, has revolutionized the way that I think. I was amazed at the forms of "twisted thinking" that had developed in the way that I saw the world. Much of the change was brought about by being able to recognize when my thoughts were becoming negative and irrational. I still have a long way to go. I recommend Dr. Burns book to everyone, not just those of us who have cognitive problems. It may be a life-changer for you, and lead to healthier and happier thinking.

["I'm so low I could do a ten minute free-fall off the edge of a dime."]

Friday, February 16, 2007

What To Say To Someone Who Is Depressed

Whenever someone dies, I always struggle with finding the right words to give encouragement to the family. It seems that whatever you say is inadequate. I wonder, are words always the best way to support someone who is having a bad time?

When my parents died, there were many things said to me that I forgot within minutes. I can't recall a single encouraging word. I do remember the hugs, pats and hand holding. I do remember the people who brought food, and the people who sat all night with my Dad in his final days. I do remember the people who drove for hundreds of miles just to be there with me.

That said, words are important. Words are complementary to our physical expression of love and caring. I have preached sermons for Christians and non-Christians alike. I believe that the things I said brought some encouragement to the families, if only for a brief time. One practice that I thought would ease their pain in the days ahead was to write my eulogies. Even though I never write out my sermons, I found that people greatly appreciated the copies of the funeral sermons that I made for the family members. I know that some have kept those for years, so that they can read them over and over again.

Words have their greatest impact when they are heard or written time and time again. That is why I think that what we say to someone who is depressed should be said more than once. Those who have attended my teacher training classes have heard me say, "The key to learning is repetition, repetition, repetition." It is not enough to say to someone who is struggling, "I'm thinking of you," and then to go away feeling as though we have "done our duty." The greater the pain that someone is in, the more frequently we should give encouragement.

It's sad that insults and criticisms stick in our mind like cockleburrs, but kindnesses are quickly forgotten. Perhaps that fact should remind those of us who so desperately need to be encouraged that we also have some responsibility in preserving the memory of gentle words.

Good Things To Say

01-"No matter how you feel, God is still on your side."

02-"I love you!" (with a sincere hug)

03-"I'm sorry that you are having a difficult time. I will help you get through it."

04-"You are not alone."

05-"Have you shared this with your doctor? I would be glad to go with you."

06-"I really don't know how you feel, but I do care."

07-"I'm sorry that you are in so much pain. You must feel lonely sometimes."

08-"I can't fully understand what you are going through. Could we talk about it?"

09-"It must be difficult to pray or read your Bible. I'll be praying for you."

10-"Many strong and faithful Christians have had to struggle with depression."

11-"Can I buy you some coffee and pie? Then, if you want to , we can talk."

12-"God is on your side. He still loves you. God is on your side. He still loves you."

"An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up (Proverbs 12:25)."

["I'm so low I could do a ten minute free-fall off the edge of a dime."]

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Stones And Bones

I must not have been more than five years old when I came to my mother for some help. Someone had hurt my feelings. They had called me names. That was the first time that my mother ever gave me bad advice.

Her remedy was for me to say to my tormentors, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." It sounds good, because it rhymes, but in practice it just doesn't provide the comfort that's intended.

The truth is that words do hurt. They hurt when you are five and they hurt when you are fifty-five. Words will probably hurt when you are ninety-five. That is, if you can still hear them. So why is it that mothers and others offer the empty wisdom of "Stones and Bones?" Why deny the reality of how injurious the things that we say can be?

This morning a woman told me she just didn't know what to say to someone who is depressed. I told her that there are things NOT to say, and there are encouraging words that will help.

What Not To Say To Someone Who Is Depressed
(a compilation of my ideas and those of others)

01-"Stormy, you don't look crazy." (my personal favorite)

02-"You have it so good, why aren't you happy?"

03-"Christians with strong faith just don't get depressed."

04-"Stop feeling sorry for yourself."

05-"I thought that you were stronger than that."

06-"You don't look depressed."

07-"I would never believe that could happen to you."

08-"You shouldn't spend all of your time in bed. Get out and do something!"

09-"You would never catch me seeing a shrink."

10-"I know how you feel. I was depressed once for several days."

11-"Just pull yourself up and get on with life."

12-"If you are depressed, you must be guilty of some sin."

13-"I would just keep quiet about it. Don't embarrass your family."

14-etc., etc.

"Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing (Proverbs 12:18)."
["I'm so low I could do a ten minute free-fall off the edge of a dime."]

Monday, February 12, 2007

I Stopped Praying

"Two weeks ago, I stopped praying." One evening, I brought a church group to complete silence with that statement. I wanted their attention and I got it. They looked surprised, puzzled and even shocked by my declaration. After a moment, I explained to them what I meant when I said, "...I stopped praying." Actually, this statement was an expression of a spiritual breakthrough that changed the way that I prayed and the things that I prayed for.

Some people think of prayer in a pragmatic way. To them, prayer either "works" or it doesn't, depending on what they have personally experienced. Frankly, I have struggled with the idea that prayer "works." It seems to me that we most often say something like that when God has given us the answer that we wanted and even expected. When the Lord says, "Yes" to our requests, we rejoice. But what about those times when He says, "No?" I think that we usually go away disappointed in Him and His response to our prayers. Prayer is no longer "working" for us.

I'm afraid that a desire to manipulate God is at the root of our dissatisfaction. He is treated like some magical genii who must grant us our three wishes. If He cuts us one wish short, then we lose our belief in His power and even perhaps in His wisdom.

One of my great disappointments has been in my inability to continue preaching. For years, I had been serving churches, reaching disillusioned people, and helping others to walk faithfully with God. My personal identity was wrapped up in this role that Jesus had given me. The Lord had granted me my desire to preach and teach His Word. Nothing has ever given me greater satisfaction than to do that.

That's why I was heartbroken by my loss of that ability. That's why I agonized over the question of what I was now to do with my life. I can't adequately express how lost and disoriented I felt. This was especially true when people would say to me, "Stormy, I know God wants you to be preaching and teaching."

There was one couple in Colorado who repeatedly told me that they prayed for me every day, asking God to heal me of my depression. I believed then and now that the Lord has the power to heal. Sometimes, He also has the will to heal, but not every time that we ask Him to.

One day, as I lay in my bed with a migraine, there was a new thought that occurred to me. A statement made by the apostle Paul began to change my thinking. From what he wrote in 2 Corinthians, it is obvious that he had been suffering from some health issue that greatly affected his ability to serve as a preacher. He described his problem as a "thorn in the flesh, " something which tormented him.

Paul recounted his plea in this way: "Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me." When I read these words, I remembered the thousands of times that I had begged God to heal my depression. I was impressed by the fact that Paul only asked three times for relief. And then the Lord's answer to the apostle changed my life. "My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness."

Understanding swept through my mind like a clean Spring breeze. Now I knew that God had other plans for my life. No longer would I fill the role of a preacher. No longer would I lead a church. No longer would I struggle with His will or the answer to my prayers. His "No" is a "Yes" to other things.

It was embarrassing to realize that He had been giving me the answer to my prayers for years and years, but I hadn't heard it. Now it was obvious to me that for a long time I had been resisting His plan for my life. And then I remembered Jesus, who had taught His disciples that He "did not come to be served, but to serve." Even in the face of excruciating torture and death, He humbly submitted to God saying, "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done."

Like Him, I truly want the will of God to be done in my life. Now, I understand that I must be willing to yield to His wishes and wisdom, even when He answers my prayers with "No." Even if that means that I must be depressed for the rest of my life.

That is why I have stopped praying...for healing, and have begun to pray that His will be worked out through my weakness, so that His power will be manifested by the things that I am unable to do...not by the things that I can do.

["I'm so low I could do a ten minute free-fall off the edge of a dime."]

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Hurts Too Bad To Laugh

In 1858, the Illinois legislature, using an obscure statute, sent Stephen A Douglas to the U.S. Senate instead of Abraham Lincoln, even though Lincoln had won the popular vote. When a friend asked the future President how he felt, he responded, "Like the boy who stubbed his toe: I am too big to cry and too badly hurt to laugh."

The numerous political disappointments that Abraham Lincoln experienced are legendary. It was his personal disappointments, though, that darkened his perspective on life. At one time, he told a fellow legislator and friend that he was so overcome with mental depression that when he was by himself he never dared carry a pocket knife. That was his life-long practice.

This week I had another disappointment. If I had a dollar for every time that I had been disappointed or had disappointed someone else, I could buy a huge ranch in New Mexico. Webster defines disappointment as failing to come up to an expectation or hope.

Hope, in a secular sense, is a desire with expectation of or belief in fulfillment. The optimist who has a depression disorder still gets out of bed with the hope of a better day. He ventures into unknown or difficult circumstances because he clings to his dreams, in spite of all of his life's disappointments. He expects things to get better, but when they don't he falls back into that pit of despair. For people who have a mental illness, it takes a long time to recover. Maybe, they will never allow hope to build up in their heart again. Disappointment hurts. So, how many times can you be hurt and still get out of bed?

As many of you know, I began a new full-time job about two months ago. I was feeling pretty good and I was given the opportunity to try to function well enough to perform the duties of employment. Tuesday, I had to give notice to my employer that I would be unable to continue working. I am beginning to be deeply depressed.

It seemed as though it happened almost over night. Last Friday, I began to notice some familiar symptoms, such as lethargy, fatigue, difficulty thinking and focusing, as well as procrastination. When I can't think or understand, I put off (even hide) things that confuse me. By Tuesday, I was unable to count money or perform my duties or even talk. After discussing the problem with my wife, I called my employer to tell him that I would need to resign. He was disappointed. I was disappointed. My wife was disappointed. One more in a long list of disappointments.

If I had a race horse, I might name him "Disappointment." Of course, his race record would probably be disappointing. (Just a little "disappointment" humor. Disappointing isn't it?) I'm getting silly now.

Which brings us back to this. People have to have something to hope for, and I'm not talking about the things that we wish for. One of my clearest memories of my childhood is the time (s) that my Dad and I sat out on the porch and looked at the stars. He pointed out the evening star and taught me to say, "Starlight, star bright, first star I see tonight. I wish I may, I wish I might, have the wish I wish tonight."

The hope talked about in the Bible is not a "wish I may, wish I might" kind of experience. It isn't "maybe so, maybe not." This word in the first century Koine Greek language has the technical meaning of "a joyful and confident expectation of good to come." Confident is the key word here. Wishful thinking doesn't carry the power of Biblical hope. Our confidence in difficult and disappointing times is not in ourselves or in good luck, but it rests on the faithfulness of God and our relationship with Him. The good to come may be temporal or it may be eternal, but it is assured to those who love the Lord. It might be summed up in a word. Heaven.

Now, if I had no hope of heaven, that would really be disappointing.

["I'm so low I could do a ten minute free-fall off the edge of a dime."]

Saturday, February 03, 2007


Have you ever noticed the difference in the way men and women sneeze? My wife sneezes like a mouse. An ever so soft "aachoo." I tell her, "If I wasn't going to sneeze more than that, I would just give it up." She says, "If mine were like yours, I would blow my brains out." I'll admit that my nose expulsion is just like that of the Ward men before me. It's loud enough to bring the Home Land Security boys down on my home. When I was a child, my Dad would sneeze and I would say, "That scared me, Daddy." His reply was always the same. "It scared me too!!"

Yesterday, a sniffling co-worker of mine was in my office when she called her boyfriend. In a couple of minutes, she said goodbye to her "honey." I then quoted one of my favorite boyhood poems. I said, "Toni, you should learn this poem. If you're out with your honey, and your nose is kind of runny, you might think it's funny, but it's snot." Not having heard all of my old material, she thought that bit of doggerel was original with me. Hey, if people want to give me credit for fine poetry, who am I to object?

We're now coming into the cold season. It's my least favorite time of the year. If I get a bad head cold, I'm ready to die. Hasn't happened yet, but you never know. The real problem with a head cold is that you are not sick enough to stay home, but you're too sick to go to work. That's why I much prefer to have the flu. Everyone knows that the flu is serious enough to disable you, keep you in bed for a few days, force you to read your favorite books and to watch some awful television programming. That's why I'll take the flu over a bad head cold anytime.

There is a type of depression that is similar to having a killer cold. It's called Dysthymia, and like the bad cold, it doesn't totally incapacitate you, it may not be all that noticeable to other people, but it makes you feel miserable all over. Dysthymia may be one of the most under diagnosed forms of depression, simply because it's not serious enough to capture any one's attention.

This illness masquerades as a grumpy disposition, fatigue, sleepiness (or insomnia) and a diminished interest in things formerly enjoyed. You are just not "up to snuff," as my father would say. It's not a black condition, but it does have some ugly shades of gray. Although a person only needs to be mildly depressed for two years to qualify for a diagnosis of dysthymia, many people have had this illness for years. They, and the people who know them, just accept the disease as a normal part of their presenting personality. If that's all that you have ever known, it's all you ever know.

Personally, I believe that many of my "good" days are dysthymic. If you are frequently deeply depressed as I am, then a period of moderate chronic Dysthymia is seen as a time of blessing. You are happy to see it come, because it is so much better than what you usually experience. People who live with this illness are high-functioning. They go to work, love their spouses, play with their kids, and visit with their friends, but every facet of life is diminished. It's like living in cloudy Alaska where sunny days are as rare as beautiful boxers.

The good news is that Dysthymia is much easier to treat and bring under control than most of the other forms of depression. Your quality of life will probably be much improved with proper treatment. That's why you or someone who cares about you should explore this possibility with a medical professional. It's just not necessary for you to go through life with "bad cold" depression.

Don't be fooled by Dysthymia. "Even in laughter, the heart may ache...(Proverbs 14:10)."

["I'm so low I could do a ten minute free-fall off the edge of a dime."]