Carmen stepped in to the classroom and asked, “Pam, I’m headed off to lunch. You about ready?”
“I’ll just be a few minutes. Meet you down there,” Pam responded, shuffling through a stack of papers on her desk. She wanted to make sure everything was set when her 6th grade class returned from lunch and recess.
True to her word, after a few minutes, Pam was satisfied and headed toward the lunchroom. As she backed out into the hall to shut the door, she took one last look at her classroom. Her classroom—that felt so good.
At forty-six years old, Pam was a first year teacher. She’d started out her career as a social worker but after almost twenty years, realized her job was wearing her down. She saw the kids after they were already in trouble and in “the system.” She felt her ability to help at that point was limited and the frustration of the job became a drag on her optimism and her motivation. She had dreaded going to work each day.
After taking an extended vacation, Pam realized she did not wish to return. Instead, she decided to go back to school for her teaching certificate. She wanted to work with older elementary kids. She wanted to make a difference in their lives earlier than she’d been able to before. She had served twenty years as a social worker and figured, after schooling, she’d have just about as much time as a teacher.
Pam loved being a teacher. She took everything she’d learned—both the good and the bad—from her social work experience, and was using it to be the best teacher she could be. It wasn’t so much that she was starting over as it was that she was expanding.
This job is so rewarding, Pam thought as she caught the smells from the kitchen, it almost makes up for cafeteria food.
Why Do You Spend Your Time As You Do?
Making changes in your life requires a certain level of creativity. Creativity requires a certain level of optimism. If you find it difficult to be optimistic and creative, consider working with a caring professional, friend, or spiritual counselor.
Often times, when the process of evaluating your life activities is done with the help others, their vantage point offers perspectives you aren’t able to see. Borrow their optimism, hope, and joy until you are able to generate those refreshing, renewing feelings on your own.
Take time to explore what activities you are engaged in and why. Using these activities as a guide, think about your reasons for spending your time as you do.
- What do your activities say about you as a person?
- What are you hoping to accomplish through these activities?
- Are these activities how you really want to spend your time or are they dictated by someone else?
- Do you feel pressure to engage in these activities or do you do so willingly?
These questions will lead you toward hidden patterns and perceptions. Every time you uncover one of these patterns or perceptions, look at it. Examine how it may be shaping the pace of your life and your ability to weather the predicaments of life without letting them depress you. Make sure to be alert to positive patterns and perceptions that support your optimism, hope, and joy.
Write down five things you know about your life. Record anything that you have uncovered as a perception or pattern.
- Were these statements positive or negative?
- Look closely at the negative ones. Where did they come from? When did you start believing them? Who told you those were true?
If you haven’t written down any positive things, take some time and think of at least two. Write them down where you can see them. Keep them at the forefront of your mind. Allow them to refresh you.
Hopefully, you were able to come up with some positive statements about your life to use as your “moving forward” phrases. If not, consider using this one:
“My life is worth a strong foundation of optimism, hope and joy.”
Remember, the phrases you are writing down and memorizing are meant to help you move forward. These ideas and concepts are to propel you onward, to support you in your continuing journey of recovery, and assist you in living a life filled with meaning and purpose.
When the reason we do things come from negative, destructive patterns and perceptions, life no longer seems worth the effort. Often the breeding ground for negative pace, patterns, and perceptions of life come from our families growing up. They dash our optimism, hope, and joy, and complicate our recovery from depression, In the next section, we will look at the role past, present and future relationships play in overcoming depression.
2013 Gregory L. Jantz, Turning Your Down Into Up: A Realistic Plan For Healing From Depression, Waterbrook Press.