117. I am feeling lonely, depressed and miserable. What can I do?
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Dear Dr. Smith

The holiday season is on and I am feeling lonely, depressed and miserable. Why is this so, what can I do?

Feeling Depressed.

Dear Feeling Depressed,

I wish you had given me more information on what is happening to you. That would have been more helpful in providing you with a direct and straightforward answer. With this lack of information, let me give you some general insights into the problem. There are several factors that could cause you to feel depress, lonely and miserable at this time of the year. Factors such as; painful memories, loss of a job, not enough money to take care of holiday expenses, lack of true friendship, divorce, separation, or sickness. Feeling lonely and miserable could be symptoms of your depressive feeling.

Depression is one of the greatest problems and killers of our time, it is estimated that about 18.8 million American adults suffer from depression each year. Worst of all, of this number, 15% will literally carry out suicide. It is also a know fact that during the winter months and the Christmas season more people seek psychotherapy than in any other given time. So there seems to be a strong correlation between the festive holidays and depression.

Feeling depressed is not as bad as being depressed. Feeling depressed is generally the first stage of depression; it is just a mild stage of depression. The death of a loved one, separation from family or friend, the loss of a job or excessive spending are examples of situations that can trigger feelings of depression. Mild depression, however, can become moderate and moderate can become severe. One’s capacity to arrest the “feeling” will determine whether or not the depression moves from mild to severe.

Understand the myth behind depression:
1.  It will go away. Most people feeling depressed, tell themselves that the feeling will go away without doing anything about it. However, this may only deepen the depression. Rather than ignoring your feeling, confront it, and deal with what is feeding the feeling.
2.  I’m just tired. This is a form of denial. You know you are not supposed to be tired, so why are you telling yourself that? What have you done to be so tired? Basically, weren’t they the same things you have been doing all year round and you were not that tired? So, why now? Don’t cover up your reality face it.
3.  I should be able to deal with this myself. It is possible that maybe you should be able to deal with this yourself, but the reality is, if you are not coping effectively, then you should get the necessary help. Sometimes talking to a friend or family member might help you get out of the depressive feeling. However, if this does not work, then you should seek pastoral and or professional help.
4.  Nothing will help, so why bother. This is like saying the medication wont help so why bother going to the doctor. It is called self-fulfilling prophecy. You can never know the outcome until you try. Therefore, rather that predicting the result, try and experience the treatment.

Here are some practical guides that can help you get out of your depressive feeling.

•    Spend within your means
•    Don’t be overwhelmed with the festive season. Just remember the reason for the season   
•    Accept that you are O.K. even if your were not invited to any function
•    Understand that feelings of depression are not externally caused but internally.
•    Seek to find meaningful events for your self and not just the ones offered by society
•    Do not be trapped in learned helplessness. Take control of your life
•    Visit a friend or relative
•    If possible, volunteer to do some community service
•    Exercise, exercise, exercise and drink lots of water
•    Treat yourself to dinner at a nice restaurant and or buy yourself a lovely gift
•    Identify the signs of depression and the factors that trigger them
•    Replace negative thinking with positive realistic ones
•    Go to church and participate in worship
•    Have your private devotion and spend time on your knees talking to God
•    Never let go of hope, keep courage and trust in God.

If you start doing some of these things, you may sense that in the midst of your sadness there is joy, in the midst of your loneliness there is friendship, in the midst of your miserableness there is contentment, and in the midst of your depression there is delight. May God help you to enjoy the season for He is the reason.

Be blessed.

Dr. Smith
For more information about Dr. Smith's services go to www.familyfixers.org