By: Paul P. Jesep*/TRT Columnist—
Depression is not something I’d wish on my worst enemy. It’s been a companion of mine for much of my life. If not properly managed, it can negatively impact your career, platonic and romantic relationships, and the ability to experience the many joys life offers. Sometimes you need to recognize it as another form of energy that must be channeled into something positive.
Many of us have ongoing depression at some degree of severity. Others may experience it intermittently after a jarring event such as a divorce, romantic breakup, bad coming out experience, or an unexpected death of someone very dear. Depression directly impacts physical health. You can lose interest in exercise, healthy diet, or the joy of a walk on a crisp, beautiful autumn day.
Suicide, eating disorders, and substance abuse can be caused by anxiety and extreme depression, or a combination of both, if not treated or managed.
Depression can be chemically-based stemming from an imbalance in the brain. It can be fueled by childhood demons in the subconscious. It may be the ongoing stigma the LGBTQ community faces in society.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, “LGBTQ individuals are almost 3 times more likely than others to experience a mental health condition such as major depression or generalized anxiety disorder.” Surprisingly, mental health is not discussed often enough within the LGBTQ community.
“LGBTQ teens,” according to the Alliance, “are six times more likely to experience symptoms of depression than the general population.” Any teen reading this column has a great resource in The Trevor Project. They have a 24/7 hotline (866-488-7386). Don’t be afraid to call them.
If you’re an adult feeling overwhelmed, consider finding an LGBTQ-friendly mental health specialist through the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association’s Provider Directory. There’s also the Association of LGBTQ Psychiatrists and the Association for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Issues in Counseling. Also, the National LGBT Health Education Center – A Program of the Fenway Institute is based in New England.
Regular readers of this column may recall I’ve sometimes written about integrating, “mind, body, and spirit.” Mind deals with mental wellness. Body addresses physical needs like good diet, exercise, and managing high blood pressure. Spirit is about the soul or inner wellbeing.
All three are equally important. Don’t be limited in how you approach your inner wellbeing. You don’t have to be a believer, for example, in God (defined gender neutral) to pray. Nor does prayer have to be to anyone specific like Jesus.
Prayer can be an ongoing private, grounding conversation with the unfolding cosmos. It can be regular experiences with the majesty and awesomeness of natural beauty like hikes in the White, Green, or Berkshire Mountains.
Prayer requires discipline. What you take from it is what you put into it. Hence, it should be part of a regular routine.
Nurturing the soul may also involve quieting the mind. Or it can include filling it with positive energy or thoughts when it’s difficult to reduce the brain’s rapid pace.
It can involve experiencing the arts. Opera, especially that of Richard Wagner, is cathartic for me. It enters through the eyes and ears and touches the deep recesses of my soul like almost nothing else. It usually soothes me like a spiritual balm.
I’ve used some form of the word “experience” multiple times in this month’s column. It’s meant to emphasize its importance. Savor and nurse, don’t drink or gulp, a good glass of wine. Enjoy the journey leading up to a well-earned vacation. Don’t take for granted the spring flowers now bursting into your life in public spaces or on a neighbor’s lawn. Stop what you’re doing to watch the graceful elegance of a bird fly.
Discipline yourself to be present and experience every moment.
*Paul is a corporate chaplain, seminary trained priest, and lawyer in greater Albany, NY. He’s also author of “Lost Sense of Self & the Ethics Crisis.”