As I have found in the past, when life gets really uncomfortable I am often driven to experiment with ways to combat depression that I had previously dismissed as completely impractical and possibly even ridiculous.
A few days ago a friend said something that sparked in me an idea for an experiment. It was something I had heard before but I had never given it a chance. Boy am I glad I finally did!
Have you ever been told in an attempt to make you feel better: “Well it could be worse?” or “There is always someone worse off than you are”?
If you are anything like me those statements are beyond infuriating. To me it implies that somehow I’m overreacting to my situation which only makes me feel worse because my pain is being underestimated. It feels like the person is saying that my suffering doesn’t count because it doesn’t look big enough to them.
Often the person goes on to say something about how helping someone who is worse off than you will somehow magically cure you of your depression. At this point I usually tune them out. I mean seriously?! I can barely get my arse out of bed and drag myself through the day and they expect me to help someone else?! They MUST be kidding! Why doesn’t someone help me?!
As we are going into the Christmas season it becomes time for the Operation Christmas Child Shoe Box Campaign to swing into full gear. I have often looked skeptically upon such an organization. I believe it is my conspiracy theory loving parents that brought out this wonderful trait in me. This year I found myself uncharacteristically wanting to participate in the campaign. I had been toying with the idea for a while but thought that I couldn’t really afford to, and I wasn’t sure if the child who received my gift would really want what I gave them anyway.
I’d been having a particularly rough week, my finances had very quickly become very unpredictable and I was doing a wonderful job of feeling sorry for myself. I was desperate enough to try something unusual to make me feel better. Today when I woke up I decided that, “hey, I may be broke but when I’m already broke what’s another $20 missing out of what I don’t have?”.
My experiment was to imagine a little girl, the inevitable recipient of my shoe box, and to spend time lovingly picking out things for that specific girl.
I went to the Dollar Store and I spent over an hour just imagining this girl in my head, imagining what she would like. Amazingly it was the most peaceful and fulfilling hour I have experienced in a very long time. I felt like somehow I had made a loving connection in the universe even though I will never know who gets my shoe box (or for the conspiracy theorists out there, if ANYONE will ever get the shoe box). It was a peace like I have never experienced before.
“Hold up!” you say… “What’s your point?”
My point is this: Maybe I have been looking at this all wrong. Maybe we all have.
Sure… Picking out a shoe box full of things didn’t cure me of my depression forever. A shoe box full of things will definitely not solve that little child’s problems either.
However, what is life but a series of moments? That child will have a moment of happiness when they open the box. I certainly had a moment of happiness filling it.
Maybe there is no “cure” for my depression, maybe I just have to learn to manage the ups and downs of a mental illness. But for one simple hour I felt a peace and joy and happiness that I never would have found if I hadn’t taken that time to experiment.
Maybe doing something for someone else, whether they have it “worse” than you or not, stops you from noticing your pain for just a little while and that makes it worth the time. I mean even if things are only a “little” better for a “little” while that’s still better right?? I’ll take that over “worse” any day!
If you want to try your hand at filling a shoe box you still have time! You can find a location here!
If filling shoe boxes is not for you tell me of an unexpected experiment you tried by leaving a comment!