Taking care of yourself when everything in you is done.
I had a phone call with my psychiatrist recently. I told him my woes about how I was finding it difficult to get out of bed and do everyday tasks. His simple and seemingly obvious response wasn’t so obvious to me, but a light went on behind my eyes when he said it.
“The more inactive you are, the more lethargic you will feel. Even a little bit of activity will give you more energy and increase your motivation.”
This then reminded me of something one of my professions shared during a lesson while I was in college. He said, “Sometimes the best advice for depression is to just get up and do the damn thing you're dreading.”
It dawned on me that depression, rather than a battle of will is instead a battle of the mind. It’s a battle of thought and effort.
For anyone who has felt depression or experiences it as a symptom of an illness; you know the feeling. You wake up, dreading the day feeling like you might have even lost energy through sleep. The days can seem directionless, far too challenging and generally heavy. I often use to describe depression with the analogy that it can feel like there's a cinderblock weighted on your shoulders. As you go about your day, you carry this block around with you. It can make every task, even mundane ones seem exhausting.
In the weeks following my appointment with my psych, I’ve been trying to get up out of bed and keep my days occupied. It has been working and so I thought I would share a few tips on what has helped me during this time.
With any mental health condition, the sickness is in the mind and therefore with our thoughts. Our brain lies to us and sometimes we don’t even realize it. My brain will tell me things like:
- Doing the thing is not worth it
- You’re no good at the thing
- What is even the point of the thing
The thing could be anything from washing my face to sitting down to write an article. I’ve noticed, that when I allow those thoughts to take up space in my brain without making a rebuttal those thoughts can turn into feelings and add to the weight of the cinderblock. Instead of accepting the thought for what it offers, I have been trying to manage my mindset and train my brain. So I might respond to these thoughts by saying to myself,
- I don’t know if the thing is worth it until I at least try
- I don’t need to be good at the thing to do it
- The point is the experience and who knows it might even feel good
I might have written about this before but often when I’m in a low space I will tell myself and others, “I am like a package that is delicate. I need to be handled with special care.” This is not to say that it is always the case but I try to go in with the mindset that for the time being I need to be extra gentle with myself. Which is perfectly okay.
What this looks like for me is doing the things that make me feel nurtured at a pace that is comfortable with me.
These things may include:
- Taking a bath with the lights off
- Guided heart meditation
- Switching up coffee for tea
- Treating myself to some tasty food instead of instant noodles
- Sitting in the sun
- Writing out positive affirmations
- Revamping my vision board
- Connecting with an old friend
- Cuddling my cat
- Drinking some water
- Doing some restorative stretching
- Listening to a book
The idea is to do these little activities that by the time you're finished with them you feel you have added to your energy and well-being, instead of it being taken away.
The last thing I will mention is that we are not meant to live life in isolation. This is very paradoxical, considering the way we are living through this unpredictable and emotional pandemic. It can be easy to believe that if no one is reaching out to you, that nobody cares. I promise this is a dark lie of the depression monster and not true at all. You are loved. There are people around you that will make space in their chaos to make room for yours. Maybe it’s an internet friend, maybe it's a distant family member, maybe it's someone in your support circle. The people around you would rather hear about the challenges you are facing rather than the devastation that would come if you weren’t around. We are stronger together.
I recently picked up a bike. On a day where I was feeling particularly crummy. I asked my brother to come with me, even though I wasn’t really feeling it, I wanted to get it checked off my list. I walked to his house and was met with a massive embrace and a cup of iced coffee. We scooted to the bike shop and found a beautiful little bike that is perfect for me. When we left he turned to me and said, “You know, I wasn’t feeling it today but I’m glad you came. I don’t know if I would have gotten out otherwise.”
And to that, I said, “Me either.”
If you are struggling with any aspect of depression, it doesn’t have to be the end of the road. You don’t have to stay stuck there. The feelings might not leave but there are baby steps we can take to comfort our aching hearts.
With Love and Kindness,