Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue


Losing Yourself the Right Way

posted by Beyond Blue

Because I’m on vacation this week, I’ve decided to publish posts from the two-week test pilot of Beyond Blue back in October of 2006, two months before its initial launch in December 2006. We’ve come a long way!

Ghandi once wrote that “the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” The “happy doctors,” scholars who study the science of optimism rather than mental illness, say that charitable works win you greater self-esteem, and altruism can even increase your immune system.

They make it sound like if you worked for a homeless shelter you wouldn’t need meds. Which is what I thought for two months last fall.

After medication combination #17 didn’t work, I sought a holistic psychiatrist. Our plan was to wean me off my meds (even though I was still suicidal), and pump up my meditation, yoga, vitamins, and service work. Speaking from experience (he had endured a two-year depression that almost cost him his job and his marriage), this doctor claimed that his time at the soup kitchen on Saturday mornings is what ultimately pulled him out of the hole.

I signed up to tutor college students in writing. I contributed to food and clothing drives at church. And I lugged David and Katherine around to visit some elderly people in our neighborhood. But it wasn’t enough. I still wanted to die.

One evening Eric walked through the door from work to find me sobbing (no big surprise there), and holding the faucet for balance as my shaking hands tried to load the dishwasher.

“I need to volunteer for the homeless,” I said. “That will help. My problem is that I’m too self-absorbed. If I see people without shoes, I’ll stop shaking.”

“Bull,” he said. “Absorbing the world’s problems isn’t going to cure you. This isn’t about doing more good in the world. This is about an illness for which you need medication.”

“Service work pulled Dr. F out of his depression.”

“He doesn’t have the same chemistry as you.”

I finally gave in, not because I thought serving soup wasn’t beneficial, but because if I was still trembling, I couldn’t hold a ladle. Which is a good lesson for all depressives. Losing yourself in service is a way to find yourself. But make sure you have the balance to hold that ladle, or you won’t be of much help to anyone.

To read more Beyond Blue, go to www.beliefnet.com/beyondblue, and to get to Group Beyond Blue, a support group at Beliefnet Community, click here.



  • Larry Parker

    That wise sage Marshall Mathers — aka Eminem — actually said a lot of the same stuff in his hit Oscar-winning rap “Lose Yourself.”

  • ilibertyi

    Service is a wonderful thing – to give of yourself the gifts God has given you. But it won’t heal cancer and it won’t heal us. All of these doctors and preachers who talk about forgetting oneself to gain oneself…only works if your mind is in good health to begin with. Like Larry loves to quote that scene from “A Beautiful Mind” something like, “you can’t think this away….why not…..because your mind is the problem in the first place”. We need to get healthy and then share our health with others.

  • Anonymous

    Hhow wise your Eric was/is. I am SO glad he was able to put you back on the right path. Besides, T, I can’t think of too many individuals who give more to others than you do with your special gifts. Lots of folks can hold a ladle, but couldn’t BEGIN to provide the inspiration and solace you give to us daily.

  • Nancy

    Losing yourself in service is a way to find yourself. But make sure you have the balance to hold that ladle, or you won’t be of much help to anyone.
    I love that quote Theresa….I weekly send out inspirational quotes from different websites…do you mind if I include this one from you and give you the credit?
    Thanks…great thought for my Monday morning!!!
    Nan aka sixlittlekitties

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