Many of us have faced depression, struggled with low self-esteem, and other debilitating mental health challenges. My own journey with depression was a result of growing up with a rare blood disorder and being told I could never have children of my own. This completely changed my dreams of what family and life meant. Years later I suffered with a rare soft tissue sarcoma, yet, baffling the best of doctors, I survived. I’m a tough nut to crack!
My book, Falling into Faith, A Journey to Freedom, is a candid and honest account of my journey. I detail the struggles of living with constant pain and disease, and the power associated with learning to forgive and break free from the heavy chains that encumber and prevent us from moving forward.
No one gets through this life without pain and suffering. The key is to use those challenges toward growth and success. Little did I know the many children God planned to bless us with. The setback I suffered proved to be just a wee wiggle in my journey to family. My husband and I have been mom and dad to forty-nine young people, and we are now proud grandparents. I’m healthy, happy, and free from depression!
The family God gave us faced painful and emotional battles. Some suffered with depression, bipolar, eating disorders, learning disabilities, etc. My own struggles gave me the ability to help our family and others. It’s also the reason I became a Cognitive Behavioral Therapist, Motivational Speaker, Author, Comedian, and Chaplain.
As a mental health professional, I’ve seen painful and debilitating effects caused from depression and other mental health disorders, but there is hope! I’m joy-filled proof change and mental stability is possible. To all who know and love me, stop laughing!
A positive change began for me when I embraced faith. I went on a quest to discover what I believe and why. I questioned everything that effected my thoughts and behaviors. Along my sojourn, I discovered a destructive habit I developed over the years. My focus seemed fixated on the ever-present negative circumstances, instead of the positive day-to-day joys.
To experience genuine and authentic results in your personal and professional growth, a person must be willing to self-evaluate and stand up to the giants in their life. Then comes the challenging part: A purposeful decision to change your thinking and actually choose to do something about it! It’s not a journey for the faint of heart. Breaking free from long-standing habits that hinder progress is filled with obstacles and uncertainty. Take a step of faith and refuse to give up. As you begin seeing positive results, defeat and negativity will no longer dominate and control your existence.
One of my certifications is in Rational Living Therapy (RLT). It is a form of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and is highly effective when helping a client with depression and other mental health challenges. RLT is a motivational therapy. It effects positive change and utilizes empirical research in the areas of linguistics, cognitive development, learning theory, general semantics, neuro functioning, social psychology and perceptions, and linguistics.
Utilizing this method, we will analyze three common viewpoints on the subject of depression shared by mental health experts. Understanding is important in the healing process.
Common Viewpoints Concerning Depression Shared by Mental Health Experts
I. The causes of depression are not fully known; however, studies show it is most likely a combination of the following:
A. Genetic and Biological: Some types of depression tend to run in families, suggesting a genetic link; however, depression can occur in anyone. What often appears to be inherited is a susceptibility toward depression.
B. Medical Causes: Diseases affecting the brain, such as, Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis, Dementia and Alzheimer’s. Chronic pain or disability can trigger depression. Particularly when physical problems cause major changes to someone’s lifestyle. Depression is often common in diseases affecting the immune system, such as, Lupus. Also hormonal imbalances contributes to depressed moods and fatigue.
C. Lifestyle Factors: There are three major lifestyle factors usually common in those diagnosed with depression: Lack of exercise, poor diet, and substance abuse.
D. Environmental Factors: Life stressors, such as: relationship issues, finances, death of a loved one, or illness can cause depression. Environmental factors encompass actual physical surroundings, along with cultural and social background situations.
II. Thinking is a common pathway to depression. Learning to control your thought life or what some experts call, pathway of thinking, is a powerful tool in preventing the onset of depression.
III. There is no one answer for what causes depression, yet there appears to be four main pathways: Physiology, Stress, Learning, and Thinking.
Now that we understand what mental health experts agree on in regards to depression, let’s turn our focus on application and how to overcome the strongholds preventing healing.
Depression is a battle! It focuses on all things negative and destructive. When someone is suffering with depression, they may be living and breathing but they do not feel truly alive. One of my patients described it this way; “I felt invisible, as though I barely existed; however, I watched other people living their lives.”
Proverbs 18:21 became a powerful tool for me while fighting depression: “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” I realized the first thing I needed to change was my mouth. I began to watch and weigh the words I spoke. My words affected my choices, and this ultimately perpetuated a positive and lasting change.
Let me save you $150 an hour therapy bill and share some key things that are vital in starting your journey to a healthy mind. Grab pin and paper. Your work is about to begin.
- As you read through each point about depression, list every one that applies to you.
- After you have completed your list, then start a new page and write a statement of faith. For example; What do you believe and why? Do you believe there is a Higher Power? If so, how does that belief affect your thinking and decisions. Spirituality cannot be overlooked when tackling mental health issues.
- What about your speech, (your words), how you think? Do you automatically go to the negative? Write down those negative thoughts. Leave spaces in between each one, then go back and write a positive and productive thought.
- What about your surroundings? What needs to change? List them and make a plan to create change. You may fall on your face throughout the process, but don’t stay down. Get up, put a band aid on the booboos, and try again. It’s in the falling and getting back up we realize just how tough we really are!
There is no shame in seeking help. Talk to someone you trust. Our brain is an amazing organ but just like other organs in our body, it can become sick and in need of healing.
You have value and worth. Go forth boldly and become all you are meant to be!
About Dr. Donna Grant Wilcox, MTH, CBT, PhD
Dr. Wilcox is a cognitive behavioral therapist with a Ph.D. in Christian counseling with certifications in cognitive behavioral therapy and rational living therapy and a non-denominational interfaith licensed chaplain with a masters in theology who is self-employed under Donna Wilcox Ministries. She recently released her entertaining and inspirational memoir, “Falling into Faith: A Journey to Freedom” and works as a hospice chaplain with Namaste Hospice and as a counselor and motivational speaker for Heartbeat of a Woman, located in Colorado. Also, a Christian comedian known as “Southern Sass Florabama,” Dr. Wilcox volunteers her time weekly in nursing homes and assisted living homes, providing music therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy tools for patients with Alzheimer’s and dementia and serves her community as a volunteer counselor for victims of sexual abuse, at-risk youth, marriage and family, and mental health disorders. For more information about Dr. Wilcox and her new book, please visit www.donnagrantwilcox.com.
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