I try to be a pretty positive person. I do. I am even frequently referred to as an optimistic and uplifting person. I’m known for my boisterous laughter and smiling face. Honestly, I have a real desire to leave everyone I meet with good vibes, and to help people find truth and light in their lives. That’s part of what I try to accomplish on my blog. But I’ve struggled my whole life with the deepest darkest pit of despair that lives in the centre of my chest. And sometimes I just can’t shake the mean reds when they descend on me.
As I’ve gotten older, and found an amazing partner, I’ve been having a higher ratio of good days to bad. Sometimes I’m able to conjure and collect enough sunshine in my life to leave me on the winning side of my battle for months. But this week I’ve been losing. I feel a constriction around my heart and gut and it’s not going away. I feel on the verge of panic even though absolutely nothing in my life has changed since last week. I feel desperate for something I can’t name, everything is bleak and grey. At least this time I haven’t laid in bed all day. So there’s that. (That’s a positive.)
I used to think that I just got sad a lot. Maybe my sadness was due to being so sensitive. I used to think that everybody else’s problems were a lot worse than mine. I used to think that everything I felt was all my fault. That there was no way I could be depressed. I was just a failure, and a mess, and nothing would ever go right, and it was just because I was such a degenerate and loser. Sometimes I still believe that. I used to think that saying I suffered from depression was a cop out, another piece of proof that I wasn’t worth anyone’s time of day. Not because depression isn’t a real disease, or because I thought sufferers were weak, but rather because I believed that I was so weak I didn’t deserve any sort of legitimate reason for suffering. Somehow my suffering had to be boiled down to something I caused. This all might sound a bit dramatic, and it even feels a bit dramatic at the time. (Which leads to more feelings of guilt and self-loathing.) But this is part of my experience, my lows have often been fraught with a roller-coaster of negative emotions and spiralling dichotomies.
In fact, to be honest, I’m still not sure that I suffer from depression. I have just recently started to consider the idea that it’s possible. The materials that have been cropping up about depression lately, especially surrounding Robin Williams’ death, have made me realize that maybe my thought patterns and experiences when I’m on a low are indicative of depression. And I’m not even sure what to do with this possible revelation. I was hoping it would feel productive and maybe cathartic to write about my mean reds. Maybe someone will read this and feel a connection, like they’ve been here too. And I hope that helps them.
I’ve never successfully gotten help from any professionals, and I’m obviously not by any means certified in mental health consulting. Nevertheless, I’ve put together a list of things to try to help you pull through the mean reds. These are techniques I’ve been using this week.
1. Remind yourself that this too shall pass.
“I’ve been through rough patches before, and I’ll get through this one too.” While this reminder doesn’t really make me feel anything at all, I think it’s good practice to remind yourself of practical realities when you’re feeling desperate and irrational. It’s easy to lose touch with reality when things start spinning out of control, and this can work to keep you grounded.
2. Resist shirking responsibilities.
Working from home means my productivity takes a real hit when I feel like shit. I’m distracted, I find it hard to commit to the task at hand, I don’t really care about anything. But, another practical reality is that my deadlines aren’t going anywhere. So even though I may not start my day as early and need to take more or longer breaks, I try to continue to push through. Make lists of what you have to do and schedule things to allow yourself more time than usual to complete tasks.
3. Be social, or at least go outside.
Fresh air, like a good cuppa, makes everything in life a little easier to handle. But besides that, forcing yourself out of the house can help break the cycle of negative thoughts and feelings by interrupting your inner experience. Even going to a coffee shop or grocery shopping by yourself will provide an activity that puts you amongst people, and can help shift your focus. Yesterday, I worked on my laptop in a pub. Today, I’ll meet up with some friends for an hour.
Spend a little time on your outfit and yourself before you go out. There really is something to say about the affects putting some effort into your appearance before you leave the house can have on your experience. If you go out in the dirty sweats on your floor, you’re not going to feel as confident as if you like the outfit you’re wearing and have put effort into your hair or make-up. Just do whatever it is you need to do to feel more confident in the image you’re about to step out into the world in.
5. Cry, if you need to.
I’m a crier. I need a good dose of tears in my life to keep my emotions in balance. When I’m miserable, I like to watch a movie that’s going to make me cry. It’s a good release for pent up emotion. Sometimes it’s hard to feel anything but a negative cloud when you’re on a low, and a movie might just make you feel something. That said, even if the aim is to cry, pick something with a happy ending! If crying isn’t your thing, good stand-up comedy might be a decent alternative.
6. Exercise & eat right.
A little bit of exercise in the morning, a walk during the day, and a healthy dose of fruits, veggies, and protein. It’s not that hard. When you feel like nothing matters, these small things can keep you from plunging further into the black. Having the nutrients and vitamins you need are imperative to good mental health. Taking a B complex, a multivitamin, and vitamin D in the fall and winter can help you keep the right balance.
7. No binge drinking.
I used to binge drink at times like these, and while I have a few ridiculous stories that pair with these times, I assure you NOTHING good ever comes from it. For one, it’s the opposite of eating right. Your body feels like a landfill for the next day or two and life is always harder with a hangover. But also, it can put you on a bullet train to a complete breakdown. Not good. Avoid at all costs. If you know one glass of wine is going to turn into a bottle, then do yourself a favour and don’t start drinking.
8. Don’t push yourself too hard.
Yes, remaining responsible, being social, primping, and being good to your body can help you pull through your grey days sooner. And yes, anyone who’s suffered like us knows it’s all very hard work. Just don’t push yourself past your limits. Stop and take a breather when you need to. I personally, only did about a third of my yoga routine this morning, and I briefly left the house yesterday so I’m not leaving the house until I meet up with friends tonight. I’m working within my limits until I feel better. The key here is that even though you may not feel like you deserve any leniency, try to remain open to loving yourself and giving yourself what you need to get through this.
Everyone has their own inner demons and personal battles to fight. No matter what issues you are going through, you are strong enough to come out on the other side. Making an effort to stay open to the chance of positive forces and opportunities is most important when we don’t feel up to the task. If things get really bad and you just don’t know what to do, please reach out to someone close to you, or a helpline for support. You are not alone. There are people who experience similar things everyday. There are people who really understand. Don’t give up!
Please let me know if you find any of this helpful or if you have any tips you would like to add to my list. It would be great to know what you guys think.
Tender hearts, and Audrey Hepburn kisses,
Photos – Feature & Top: ohgoshCindy Middle: Breakfast at Tiffany’s