Dear Older Me Letter… Tool to Help with Depression, Anxiety, or Addiction Relapse

About a year ago I was dealing with another bout of depression and anxiety.  It was one of the toughest I have dealt with.  It was a very difficult situation and a painful one for my wife.  I had lots of suicidal thoughts, and really was not in a good spot at all.  I didn’t think there was going to be an end to how I was feeling.  I felt completely useless, and overwhelmed with how I would ever get out of the darkness I was feeling.

Fortunately, I was able to get through it with God’s help, and the help of my wife, other loved ones, and professional counselors.  Because of this experience we were able to look at my specific episodes over the past 15 years, and with the help of a counselor who encouraged us to consider a different perspective on my anxiety filled, depressive episodes that appeared to come and go out of no where, we were able to change our perspective on it as well as take a different approach that over this past year has been a HUGE blessing and help in avoiding depression, and anxiety.

As part of the proactive approach, we found a therapist that I could visit with on a regular basis (even when I was feeling healthy and like my true self).  I have met with her at least monthly over this past year, and sometimes more often as a check in to be able to take time out and review how things have been going since we last met and discuss where I was at mentally, physically, and emotionally.  My therapist has a husband that has dealt with depression for most of their marriage, so she came from a place of experience.  I was able to understand my wife more because of her insights.  This has been a life saver, and a big part of my recovery and healing for myself, as well as my relationship with my wife.

Through therapy and taking a proactive approach to “check-in” and better understand my triggers, I have been able to identify things that have caused my depression to come on, and by knowing this, I am better able to handle my triggers at the time they come, or at the sign of going “down that path.”

One exercise that I wanted to share today was an exercise my therapist suggested.  She asked me, as homework from one of our sessions, to write myself a recovery letter.  The letter was to be used when, or if, a relapse occurred.  It was important that I wrote it when I had a healthy mind, and not when I was in my depression… because that would not be much help and my perspective during a time of depression is warped.

Well, I like to listen to Christian music and there was a song that came on from a band called “Mercy Me.” The song is called, “Dear Younger Me.”  It is a good song, and it a song written to oneself in the past to give advice to the older you from the lessons you have learned in life.  Well, as I was listening to the song, and thought about my “homework assignment”, I came to the conclusion that I would do the same… but write a letter to the future me and give myself advice from the lessons I have learned.  So, I sat down one morning and started to write my letter.

After a few days I was done.  This is a personal letter that relates to me and my situation.  It helps me maintain a good perspective and, again, check-in with myself and measure how I am doing, as well as a reminder of the things I can do to help me stay healthy.

I recommend that you write a letter to yourself.  Give it a try.  What do you have to lose?  Your letter is going to be different from mine.  You may use parts of mine, or completely write something totally different.  But, I did want to encourage you to do this exercise and read your letter on a regular basis (I read my monthly).  When times or good, or in times of crisis, this letter can be a valuable resource to help you in your bouts with depression, anxiety, addiction, etc…

 


Dear Older Me—Reality Check

If you are reading this it means that you are experiencing another bout with depression, anxiety, or a relapse with addiction.  Trust me, and trust them, when we say “It will pass.”  Right now your perspective is warped and your thinking isn’t accurate.  Remember, it is distorted.  Right now you are likely believing some lie that Satan wants you to believe…  Something has triggered you, and you did not process it well, or at all.  Take the time to reflect on what it was that got you where you are, and what it is you are currently believing about yourself and your situation.  The more you know and understand about where you are (and make sure you sanity check it for accuracy with someone else), the better off you will be in your return to feeling normal.

LET GO AND LET GOD:  You can’t fix it alone.  Remember, you have tried that many times and have experienced failure by trying to do it your way… by yourself.  There is only one that can truly fix it… and that is God.  Remember, He has been there before, and has healed you.  Turn to Him in prayer and in journaling…. ask Him questions and write down the answers you feel.  Give up your frustrations, depression, anxieties to Him.  Christ has already suffered for you and for your sins, pain, heartache, negative beliefs, and the despair you may feel.  Let go and let God… the best way to ensure this is to do your dailies.  No matter what.  Whatever it takes.  Connect with God through prayer, scripture/gospel study, journaling, and meditation.

CONNECT:  Life is very good!  There are many good people around you, that like you, and enjoy being connected with you.  Connect with them.  Your wife is an amazing woman.  She is talented and gifted in discerning the lessons life teaches us.  Believe her.  She has the closest perspective of you and the way you operate, and what you have done to get where you are.  She loves you and cares you deeply, and about your healing and recovery.  Remember, she may be triggered by this experience because it is similar to what she experienced throughout your marriage when addiction, depression or anxiety hit, and the disconnection was there.  She is trying to process it herself, and as you and her both struggle with codependency it can be a hard thing of her to deal with, and it is ok for her to struggle along your side.  Don’t read into her struggles as disappointment in you.  She loves you, cares about you, and wants to be connected.

REACH OUT:  Remember Brad Wilcox analogy of the quicksand?  You don’t sink and die… you get stuck and die over time if you are alone from exposure.  Right now, you are stuck.  Survival depends on reaching out… no matter how hard, or how much you don’t feel like it.  The longer you stay stuck alone, the harder the struggle will be and the more desperate you will feel.  Accept assistance, reach out, and don’t isolate yourself.

EXERCISE:  It is likely that you have not been getting adequate exercise for those endorphins.  It is critical that you get out and go for walks.  Your wife loves walking.  It does feel good, and becomes even better the more you do it.  You like exercising and the benefits you receive from it.  Start small and be okay with reaching minimum goals.  Success comes from small efforts each and every day.  Get up and get out the door first thing in the morning… don’t sit in bed.

THINGS THAT HELP ME CONNECT & IMPROVE HEALTH:

  • Go on walk with wife
  • Go on walks with Kids
  • Play the piano – learn how to play a new song
  • Play the guitar – learn a new song
  • Read something uplifting
  • Watch Mormon Messages
  • Write in your journal
  • Write letters of appreciation for loved ones and friends in my life
  • Look through pictures from the past – reminders of life in normalcy
  • Go through “memories” and “keepsakes” box
  • Play a game with the kids
  • Build something… use your creativity
  • Draw or paint

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Share Your Letter

Anonymity is highly encouraged on this website.  I would love you to take from it what you can, and contribute your experiences so that others can learn from your experiences and receive hope to help them in their journey.  If you would like to contribute, I recommend that before you submit your letter that you change any names that are in your letter to maintain anonymity.

Give yourself to The Captain of Your Soul and receive the blessings that are constantly being offered to you, and see the tender mercies He places in your life each and every day.

-From A loving brother

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