How I Beat Depression When It Shows Its Ugly Face
My head is trying to squeeze through a narrow space, or at least that’s what the looming depression feels like it as I sip my coffee. I close my eyes and see it coming at me like a slow-moving train.
It’s not coming quick, but I can see that it’s coming, and now that it’s in motion, it will crush whatever is in its path, and I am tied to the tracks.
I have maybe hours or a few days before I will cry over the littlest of things, before the memories of every tragedy my life has bestowed on me comes flooding back.
The weight of the days will be colossal, pressing my shoulders into the floor. The to-do list will care nothing for my need for comfort, for thick heavy blankets or spacing out for thirty minutes at a time over hot beverages.
My responsibilities will still need to be met even though I feel like a helpless child floundering in the deep end of the pool before I have learned to swim.
I will need to smile at my family, do my college coursework, and carry on.
When it gets like this, where I can feel the depression coming, I want to hide in bed. I want to sleep and get out of bed only for food or check if it has passed. I have learned that this makes matters worse.
If I hide in bed, the things my life needs me to tend to will go undone, will pile up. Then, the list of things gone undone will become so big that I will be overwhelmed by it. That kind of overwhelm can keep me in bed in a depression for weeks, afraid to come out and face the mess I’ve made of things.
I’ve been living with depression for twenty-six years. I learned to kick depression’s ass seven years ago when tragedy struck my life. I lost two daughters and overnight my world turned upside down. I had to learn how to fight for my mind.
For me, a big part of my depression is seasonal. Each October it comes around like clockwork. I’ve learned to know how my body feels when depression is approaching so that I can kick my self-care plan into gear straight away.
I have lived for seven years without any suicidal ideations, no trips to the mental hospital, and a life that is manageable and enjoyable, despite being diagnosed with manic-depressive disorder.
I am living proof that not only can you survive a mental illness, but you can also thrive with it. It takes paying attention to yourself, your patterns, and being willing to get proactive about your care.
The only cure for my depression I know is the self-care formula I’ve learned over many years of trial and error.
First, I must continue to take my prescribed medication on time.
Second, I must not skip meals.
I will use a light therapy light at my desk while I work and get out into the sunshine whenever I can. I take hefty extra doses of vitamin B complex and vitamin D-3. (Please consult your own physician regarding the use of any vitamins or supplements.)
I will have to add in yoga or some other kind of exercise each day — a thing I seldom do but must in order to save my ass here.
I’ll keep a gratitude list to remind me of what I love about my life, and like today, I will force myself to the keyboard to write, even though I don’t “feel like it.”
This carries over to whatever work I need to get done. The “do it whether I feel like it or not” attitude carries me a long way in the battle against depression.
I’ll face my to-do list, fighting the urge to procrastinate, with my internal dialogue kicking and screaming about how she “doesn’t wanna” and “just wants to go back to bed.”
One mustn’t bargain with the depression voice. If you give it anything it wants, it will barge in and take over. There’s nothing to do but ignore it like a child in the store whining for a sugary treat.
The most important thing to remember in all of this is that I practice self-love.
I must care for myself deeply with tasty creamers in my coffee, bubble baths, an hour of Netflix after my work is done, calls to friends, maybe even get a massage.
Treasuring my life deeply with care and gratitude is the antidote to depression; it is so vastly opposite of the neglect and self-loathing depression pours into my life. Self-care and gratitude are the blinding white lights that shine through the darkness of depression, wrapping my spirit like a hug and whispering that I too can escape this madness.