Speaking from experience, the winter is a rough time for Ohioans who struggle with depression.
I know, I know, you're like, "but, hey, it's not winter yet!" Well, we've had two legit snows this season already. So, I'm just going to make the call.
I have found that there are two lovely things that keep me happy and sane in during the winter months. These things are both good, yet they are completely disproportionate in hierarchy.
The Holy Mass and Caffeinated Coffee. I know, can you get any more sacrilegious?
I’ll start with coffee. I say “caffeinated” because, recently, I’ve been trying to give up caffeine. I don’t really know why. I guess it’s because I think I should. Caffeine is apparently bad for you. And for some, I’ve read that it increases anxiety and depression. Considering my history with mental illness, I thought that I myself was counted among the statistics.
But, I love coffee. I love everything about it: the smell, the taste (creamer or no creamer), the way I can see the steam rising up in the sunlight, the routine of waking up and making it in the morning, the communal-conversational aspect, the different kinds and flavors, the way it warms me up, the way it brings me simple joy, and the boost of energy.
I’ve been trying different teas and decaf coffees since this summer. But there was just something about them that didn’t do it for me. It is probably all in my head, but, hey, after all I’ve been through, I respect the power of the head. During this experimental process, I regretfully found myself slipping further and further into discouragement, and scarily, depression.
I didn’t realize what was happening until recently. And by recently, I mean this morning.
One day last week, my sister, who I consider to possess saintly temperance accompanied by meritous stubbornness, questioned my decision. She said, “Don’t give it [coffee] up if it causes you anxiety”. Her point didn’t really click until now.
Anxiety is a worse enemy compared to caffeine.
Yes, caffeine may be the cause of some people’s anxiety. And crazy amounts of the stuff, I admit, are not good for anyone. However, for me, the giving up of coffee affects me more negatively than the effects a cup or two of caffeine has on my body.
Being dependent on coffee, doesn’t bring me down. In fact, it reminds me that I am completely dependent on God. (How’s that for a segue?!) I can do nothing on my own. Yet, through HIM, I can do anything. If it wasn’t for God, my life would be meaningless. And if it wasn’t for Jesus, my suffering would be in vain.
I need God. I express that need by going to daily Mass when I can throughout the week. Even if I can necessarily “feel” it, the graces received from Jesus in the Eucharist are my true source of sustenance.
My anxiety and depression keep me from going to the Sacred Liturgy every day. Interestingly, I can see a positive difference on the days that I go, and on the days that I don’t, I feel the lack or void. I believe that this reality is caused by my desire to have a purpose.
I’m pretty hard on myself. I beat myself up for my faults, failures, imperfections, and even things I can control. I long to feel worthy, deserving, and accepted. I feel like I have to prove it to myself, the world, or whomever, that I am good enough, that I am deserving of the skin I’m living in. Since I can’t keep a job, I am tempted to feel like my life has no importance – that my day to day workings are meaningless.
It helps me to remember my ultimate goal. My purpose in life is to get to Heaven and to bring my husband with me. That is the most important mission. Everything else is bonus.
When I am at Mass, I know that I am wanted. I know that God wants me there to pray. I know, because of the Catechism and the lives of the Saints, that the Holy Mass is the single greatest thing we can do here on earth. So, when I go to Mass, I am 100% convinced that I am doing God’s will. You cannot buy that kind of motivation.
Waking up to a cup of coffee and then going the Mass (don’t worry, the proper fasting time required is observed J), I get the chance to start the day on a positive note, which, for me, makes all the difference.
Starting your morning off on a good note will help you have a good day overall. And it is worth saying that just because you have a bad morning, doesn’t mean the rest of your day will be bad. There is something to be said for working through things you can’t change, like a bad morning.
However, if you are struggling with depression, or the need to find purpose and motivation in your life, figure out what simple things can positively impact your day. I say “simple” but I really mean “daily”. Find something that you can do daily or at least regularly, because, in our nature, is the need to be constantly reminded of our value and self-worth.
Make these small changes and watch how much more nourishing your life will become.