Today’s food for thought is around depression, recovery, and staying upright:
I went through a big round of depression in college (which I see now started towards the end of high school and then continued over the next few years out of college, though at the time I pretended it didn’t). I hoped that once I was out of the official “I’ve been diagnosed with depression” period, I’d be done with the D-word forever, that I’d never again experience a moment when I felt down and off. It was a shocker, but yeah…no. Not the case.
I was thinking about this after a recent challenging day. Though the waves did rock my boat, I didn’t capsize and wasn’t in grave danger by any stretch. And if I look back over the past chunk of years, I haven’t ever fully capsized again. Why? What is it that keeps me anchored, tethered, ultimately upright when the potential for depression lapped at the sides
Three things I’ve found helpful:
1) Remembering that life is messy and everyone is a hot mess sometimes. Everyone.
Some days I wake up with water dripping over the sides of my proverbial boat. My head will start in: I’m tired and can’t get enough done. What’s my problem? I probably don’t know what I’m doing. Why can’t I deal better? I’m falling apart again. The feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, and I suck-ness creep in. They are terrible. Then all I feel like I can do is keep focusing on this revving up shit show, this potential train wreck I can’t not watch. And then I feel like I should try harder not to watch, that I need to be better about getting my mind on something else. BUT, it’s so hard to do. I then take my inability to do so as a reinforcement of my failure as a human being.
On and on it could go. Left alone, this could end with my boat going down.
However, I’m getting better at reminding myself (a million and a half times) that everyone is a mess sometimes, that everyone has a day now and then when they wake up feeling off. However, this alone DOES NOT mean I’m a failure, broken, or whatever. It just means I’m human (and maybe a little tired or needing to change up something I’m doing up). Remembering that I’m human helps to slow down the “I’m broken and failing” thought spiral.
2) Don’t feed the beast.
When I start to experience the tiredness and crappy thought spiral, it’s really hard for me to simply think my way out of it (though I do try!). I’m not too reasonable in this state. So into Plan B: shut off my head (i.e., try and reset my brain).
So when I notice the spiral kicking up, if it’s at all possible in the day, I give myself permission to take a nap and/or cancel an outside engagement that can wait. My brain doesn’t spin as fast when I’m resting. I’m not snacking if I’m resting (which is something I feel a strong urge to “must do!!” when going down the crap spiral, though it doesn’t actually help and ultimately makes things worse). And sometimes the D-waves have started to kick up simply because I’m a little overtired, so rest is what I need most.
3) Take my medication.
Back in college, I took an antidepressant. These days, my medication comes in the form of my AM time (aka self-care, which feels like jargon but works better than medication for me these days). First thing in the morning, I do about 20 minutes of exercise (whatever feels doable), a few minutes of stretching, 5 or so minutes of meditation, and then I make a smoothie.
It took several years of trying different things in the morning to find a combination that worked for me. It’s now been a few years that I’ve done these things every day without missing a day. All I can say is that when I began to see that when I didn’t take the time for whatever reason, those days felt much harder and seemed so much worse. And if I skipped multiple days in a row? I began to sink faster and faster. So now I take the time. Every day. It helps that much.
These specific things may not work as well for someone else dealing with depression. We’re all individuals; I’d bet what works for each person may be a little different. However, I’d guess others who have found out how to not capsize have a similar list. Maybe this list won’t work forever, and that’s okay. However, it’s my gold for now. And when it doesn’t work as well? I’ll take a look at what new gold might be out there and then use that. Yes, there are things I can do to help keep me anchored. And that knowledge and ability to choose what I do is powerful.