I woke up feeling as gray as the day itself. Heavy, soggy, misty.
The weight stayed on me through coffee, through my morning work, through lunch when my eyes began raining for no reason at all.
It seemed like it might turn into a wasted day.
Browsing my email listlessly, I came across a story about a local effort to collect suitcases for foster kids. So that when they move from one place to another, they don’t have to carry their belongings in a trash bag.
Foster kids around here are almost all children of meth addicts. Imagine being in first grade, your parents are in jail or drug rehab, and you have to schlep your stuff from your messed-up home to a foster home in a trash bag.
Imagine how much that makes you feel like you are garbage.
And you’re six years old. So you will never forget feeling like garbage.
I went downstairs to look for a suitcase I could donate, and asked Tom to look for one he could donate too.
I thanked the universe for this reminder of what I learned a long time ago: When you’re sad or depressed, do something for somebody else.
It breaks the iron grip of that black mood. Gets you out of your head. Gives you perspective.
I’m struggling a lot these days. But I’m not a six-year-old being taken away from my meth addict parents.
Here’s the key: You can’t just dwell on the sad story – you have to DO something.
Taking action is another way to get out of the black hole. Doing even a little thing, like finding a suitcase to donate, kicks the inertia away.
Once you’ve moved a little, it’s easier to get out a little more.
Right after that story, I got an email from the local caregivers support group, which I joined when Tom had his stroke. The people in this group are under incredible strain – taking care of spouses for years on end, often with terrible financial burdens. This group is literally the only support that some of them have.
The woman who runs it wrote to the group, “I don’t have the energy to do a formal survey, but I hope that you will let me know if the location, time, day, etc. of the meetings are preventing you from attending.”
Heck. I can put together a survey in 10 minutes using Google Forms. I wrote to her and offered.
She was thrilled. It was easy for me, and solved a problem for her. Maybe a few more caregivers will get the support they need because the meeting time is better.
The dark spell was broken.
I took care of four other tasks that had been hanging over my head like gray clouds.
I went outside and noticed it wasn’t that cold. The rain was just a soft drizzle.
I pulled my swimming gear together and went to water aerobics.
I got out.
Today’s penny is a 1973, when I taught catechism to a developmentally disabled girl named Annie. I was 14, and it was the first time I learned the power of volunteer work to keep depression at bay.