My Flu

You are worth being well.
~ Dr. John Delony

I have battled anxiety and depression most of my life. I call it my flu because it doesn’t stay. Like a virus, it has power. I respect it. And I realize that when it comes, it wants to destroy me. Today, at fifty-five years old, I’m comfortable with my flu, and it’s never been buried so deep. I haven’t been this healthy or happy since I was a child. Writing down the reasons for this helped me realize how intentional I have to be in order to be well.

Garbage in, garbage out – I identified destructive behaviors and I stopped doing them. Think of the alcoholic who avoids bars. I’m careful about what I read, listen to and watch. I’m intentional with my words and I shy away from negativity and gossip.

Necessary endings – Dr. Henry Cloud urges readers to move on from unsafe people. Yes, even family. Setting boundaries is extraordinarily difficult, but you can love and pray for people at a distance.

Help others – When you’re in the middle of hell, the natural reaction is to withdraw, to retreat into your own bubble. Resist this. Incredible blessings come when you turn your attention toward someone not in your mirror.

Medication/Herbs – I discovered an herb called St. John’s Wort. Lifesaver.

Health – Sleep. Eat right. Drink water. See your doctor regularly.

Ask for help – Many years ago, depression was taking a physical toll on me. I was working in my yard when suddenly my bones exploded in pain. I dropped to my knees and burst into tears. My parents stopped by unexpectedly to see the kids. They waved and went straight in the house. I thought to myself, “Mom, please help me,” but I never said a word. That was a mistake.

Connection – We were never designed to go through this thing called life alone. Find an ear. Not someone to fix you, but someone to hear you. Don’t make excuses about this. Wisdom and empathy are as near as your local assisted living facility.

Play! – I pop a lot more ibuprofen than I used to, but I play basketball and tennis. Exercise releases endorphins in the brain that trigger a positive feeling in the body similar to morphine.

Prayer/Meditation – Listen, the hills you climb are no surprise to God. Lean on faith.

Gratitude – Write down three to five things every day that you’re thankful for. You’ll be surprised how the list grows.

Forgive – Holding on to grudges is like burning down your house to kill a spider.

Sorry seems to be the hardest word – You cannot undo what’s been done, but apologizing is not a weakness; it’s a strength. Saying you’re sorry is both humbling and healing.

Laugh A LOT – Dance like a dork. Act the fool. Embarrass your kids. Make memories that will carry on far longer than the things that ail you.

Fall in love with your life – Hate your job? Quit. Hate your city? Move. If the season has changed, change with it. Love yourself enough to make new beginnings.

If I’m not intentional, I become a target of sickness. Not only am I living with my flu, but I am grateful for it. Without it, I would have little empathy. I would tell people to “man up” or “get over it.” But I know what it’s like to wake up and instantly cry for no reason. I know what the headaches feel like, the ones that come with more despair than pain, and I know what it’s like to try and fight this battle alone.

Michael J. Fox, who suffers with Parkinson’s disease once said that if God offered him a deal that he could be perfectly healthy again, but he’d have to go back to the person he was before, no way in hell would he do that deal. I feel the same way. My flu is mine. It’s a hot ember that lies dormant, and while I respect its power, I refuse to throw gasoline on it.

I am worth being well. And so are you.