I went through a big round of depression in college (which continued over the next few years, though at the time I pretended it didn’t). I hoped that once I was out of it, I’d be done with the unspoken D-word forever. It was a shocker, but yeah…no. Not the case.
I’ve come to grips that it’s something I’ve got to keep a finger on. Maybe I’ll have to for the rest of my life, I don’t know. At least for now, the waves of depression lap at the edges some days. It still kind of scares me to consider capsizing again.
I was thinking about this after a recent rough 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?
Some things I came up with.
A huge thing: Remembering that 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 freakin’ 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 hot mess sometimes, that everyone probably has a day now and then when they wake up feeling rather shitty. 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 suck” thought spiral.
Another helpful thing: Don’t feed the beast.
When I start to experience the tiredness and crappy thought shit show, 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 the water starts coming in, if it’s at all possible in the day, I try to give myself permission to take a nap (and remind myself the kids will be just fine with an extra movie). 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 really help AT ALL and ultimately makes things worse). And sometimes the D-waves have started to kick up simply because I’m a little overtired, so rest really, really is what helps the most.
A third biggie: Take my medication.
Back in college, I took an antidepressant. These days, my medication comes in the form of my AM me time (aka self-care, which feels like jargon but seriously works better than medication for me these days). First thing in the morning, I do a few minutes of writing, another couple of exercise (whatever I can do that day, even if it seems like it’s too little or stupid), stretching, sitting still for a few minutes, and then making myself a smoothie.
It took several years to find a combination that worked. It’s now been over a year that I’ve done these things every day without missing a day. All I can say is that I began to see (like in my face see) that when I didn’t take the time for whatever reason, those days felt much harder and seemed so much worse. 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 (I’m seeing what triggers my waves of depression has changed over the years). 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.
For good measure, I’ll end with an extra reminder to myself: Yup, I’m human, and a flaming hot mess sometimes. And it’s all okay. Now go and take a nap.