How to Ignite a Song of Hope When the Whistling Stops

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs . . . who isn’t familiar with those jolly dwarfs whistling while they worked? I still remember the clink-clank of their mining tools, the whistling as they walked home.

disney-world
(Image from Pixabay)

The magic of those old Disney movies stay with us.

But what happens when there is no movie-magic, no joy? What happens when the whistling stops?

I recently saw hanging on a wall in a mental health facility a picture of Disney’s seven dwarfs. As I stepped closer to it, the seven singing dwarfs appeared anything but happy.

Each was drawn offering a visual portrayal of seven symptoms most common to depression. As one of the leading “invisible” disabilities, depression is often mislabeled and misunderstood.

Because I struggle with episodic depression, I’ve been on the receiving end of biting remarks and cutting criticism.

My desire in sharing these seven symptoms of those who struggle with depression is to inform and encourage our Christian communities to become Christlike in caring for others.

Christ didn’t label; He listened. Christ didn’t criticize; He cultivated relationships that brought hope and healing. I urge you to learn from, listen to, and love on those who are struggling.

Helping Those Who Struggle

Here are seven common symptoms and suggestions for helping those who struggle:

1. Spacy

Symptoms:

  • Disoriented
  • Distracted
  • Numb
  • Confused
  • Unable to focus
  • Weak
  • Divorce
  • Loss
  • Stress
  • Disease
  • Mental health/brain compromise
  • Seizures
  • Virus
  • Inability to metabolize vitamins

Support: Offer assurance of your love and commitment, help him or her to prioritize tasks, go with him or her to meetings with doctors or attorneys and take notes, help to arrange family needs such as carpools and meals.

2. and 3. Lonely and Empty

Symptoms:

  • Crying
  • Isolation
  • Disinterest in hobbies or priorities
  • Self-harming
  • Depression
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Withdrawal
  • Weight changes
  • Irritability

Support: Help those who have lost a loved one. Make a memory book together, plan events in the near future, listen, plan to exercise or get outside together, be a companion by being present, find humor and laugh together, provide a journal.

4. Guilty

Guilty

(Image from Pixabay)

Symptoms:

  • Unaccepted loss
  • Perfectionism
  • Shame
  • Belief that one can earn acceptance by achievement and accomplishment
  • Faulty or dysfunctional cognitive processing
  • Unfounded negative self-beliefs

Support: Help harness his or her imagination, offer truths to distorted beliefs, help find a cognitive behavioral therapist, remind this person of his or her strengths and how he or she got through past struggles.

Call to mind that guilt is an emotion and not a truth or fact, listen, affirm his or her honesty or vulnerability, remind the person it was not his or her fault if something traumatic happened in the past.

5. Worry

Symptoms:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Lack of sleep or insomnia
  • Unrelenting fear
  • Paranoia
  • Feeling incompetent
  • Digestive and autoimmune issues
  • Migraines
  • Vision problems
  • Hypervigilance
  • Hyper-focus
  • Acting demanding
  • Panic attacks
  • Hormone imbalance
  • Shaking
  • Dizzy
  • Dry mouth
  • Obsessive behavior
  • Body dysmorphic issues
  • Neurotransmitter malfunction
  • Poor metabolism of vitamins

Support: Create a safe environment; help find a trauma treatment therapist; attend appointments as a support; affirm strengths that got him or her through abuse/trauma; find support for genetic, metabolic, hormonal, and bodily functions.

Suggest he or she consider taking medication as prescribed by a healthcare professional; put a chronological narrative together by listening and journaling with him or her; pray together; suggest a sleep study; seek to understand; ask how you can help.

6. Angry

Symptoms:

  • Unstable emotional control
  • Poor focus or hyper-focus
  • Excessive sweating
  • Outbursts of anger
  • Abusive
  • Resentful
  • Flushed or red in the face
  • Addictions
  • Poor problem-solving skills
  • Feeling stuck in a rut
  • Negative neuroplasticity—fixed neural pathways
  • Unmotivated
  • Victim mentality

Support: Acknowledge his or her anger, empathize with his or her anger when it’s a result of abuse or assault, affirm that change is possible, exercise together, encourage him or her to journal, cultivate healthy coping skills.

Clarify faulty or incongruent thinking and behavior, pray together, seek together the source of his or her anger (anger is a secondary response to hurt and/or pain), practice breathing and meditation techniques.

7. Gloomy

Symptoms:

  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Feelings of helplessness
  • Sadness
  • Negative thought patterns
  • Unresolved grief
  • Acting demanding
  • Being overly critical
  • Depressed
  • Unpredictable
  • Isolation
  • Lack of interest in life
  • Crying easily
  • Poor self-care
  • Distracted
  • Loses things easily

Support: Recognize the presence of sadness, offer empathy, sit with him or her, don’t try to fix, establish healthy boundaries, take up a hobby together, schedule fun events on the calendar, ask him or her to clarify statements.

Cultivate constructive thought patterns, affirm growth, develop positive life skills, don’t reinforce “pity-parties,” seek cognitive behavioral therapy, pray together, read a book together, get out as a companion for the day, offer to help with life’s demands.

Let Me Hear from You

Mental illness is a huge topic. My hope is that this blog offers a brief introduction to a few of the common struggles, symptoms to spot, and support that brings healing.

If you don’t struggle with mental health challenges, I would love to know how you have implemented these tools in order to help others. For those who do struggle (I’m with you), what area of need is most present for you today?

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

  • Judy Boyes

    My sister-in-law is suffering with paranoia and delusions. It’s heartbreaking; years ago we had to hospitalize my sister as a result of a mental illness, and since that time my family is still fractured. Now it looks like the same thing is happening in my husband’s family. But the difference is, this time there are young children involved who will likely be removed from the home. Hopefully you will join me in praying for a good outcome for all, and God’s protection for these innocent children.

    • Judy,
      Oh my goodness. I’m so, so sorry! I will join you in prayer and in any way I can help. I know of some excellent therapist and in-patient treatment places if she is willing to go. I don’t know how she is with the idea of medication but with that diagnosis, medication may be needed for a bit to get her stabilized. I had a very close friend years ago who took in three small kids as their mother was hospitalized and suicidial. As time passed and she was willing to get healthy, there was healing in the whole family. You know this to be true but I’ll say it anyways…mental health is a family systems issue, not just an individual issue. Not that everyone is unhealthy but everyone plays a part in the health of our family systems. Just as our physical bodies have various systems that don’t do well when one isn’t functioning as it’s supposed to; our family systems do the same thing. So I will pray for everyone involved. I also want to encourage you by saying my kids were in a very unhealthy system for years. Because we got out of the toxic, abusive environment and did years of mental health work, we couldn’t be closer. Their pain is part of their story and they reach people that many cannot because of their history. So who knows what the little ones will become from this experience. I pray that the Lord would wrap His arms of love and protection around them, that He would direct then to the support they need to grow in resiliency and strength, and in the years to come they will say it was God who led them through. I so believe in you and in your love for family…I’m praying right with you my friend. Colleen