I am Depressed.
There I said it. Like the big fat elephant in the room, so be my big fat cloud of depression. Here it is, it follows and stalks me every year once a year for a few months between October-December. I thought for sure this year was going to be different. I felt it coming, I was ready. But, no. When the first leaves begin to fall down, with them slowly comes down my mood and motivation too. One by one all of the tools, all of the progress and all of the self-improvement steps I’ve made throughout the year slowly begin to fizzle out from my routine, only to return again when the sun comes out and the flowers begin to bloom.
“I’m not depressed any more.”
“I know what depression is and this can’t be it. I’m just really tired.”
“I can’t be depressed… I’m doing so well mentally these days.”
“I can’t be depressed, I’m OK now”
“This doesn’t feel like THAT time I was depressed.”
“I’m supposed to help people who are depressed, I’m supposed to be healed.”
(Lies… all lies!)
We’ll get into the general myths we tell ourselves in another post but lets talk about how this right here, these particular myths, in terms of depression is such dangerous thinking. First, If you want to get better at anything as they say “you have to first be able to admit it.”
You may be familiar with the signs and symptoms like myself having dealt with it many times before. In fact I’d say it’s just as much a part of me second only to “my” anxiety (“my” because it really constitutes as a whole other being in my book). But you have to be able to admit that the signs exist! Each and every time it comes creeping its ugly monster head back in uninvited. You have to be truthful with yourself and find the courage to say “you know what, no. I’m NOT ok right now.”
And you know what?
That’s perfectly, OK.
I used to think that with each passing year, with the knowledge and tools I had acquired over the years about trauma and mental health reading books, going to therapy and changing different lifestyle routines that I would get better and better each year when the seasons would begin to change. No steps back, only steps forward. But I’ve realized putting such pressure on my healing and such unrealistic expectations can actually do way more harm than good. Many people suffer with SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder. It is a type of depression that usually comes and goes with the seasons and typically starts around the fall to early winter and usually dissipates by the Spring. The symptoms can vary, but for me, here are some of the symptoms I experience:
* Low energy
* Sleep problems (too much or too little, in my case too much.)
* Weight fluctuation (usually gain some)
* Feeling sluggish/agitated
* Difficulty concentrating
* Overeating/skipping meals
* Social Isolation (I call it my hibernation season)
* Negative thoughts and emotions
* Feeling uninterested and disconnected from things you once enjoyed
It is not known what actually causes SAD. However, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, there are some biological factors such as the over production of melatonin in the body or the lack of Vitamin D in the body.
For me personally, I know that with each coming Fall comes a time in my life that was extremely traumatizing. So to prepare for this time, as my therapist would say; my body and my mind literally begin to prepare for war by kicking into survival mode in a sort of “winter is coming…” pre-conceived battle that never actually comes. But having experienced the trauma around this time and having post-traumatic stress from it is enough for my body and my mind to unconsciously react. This reaction is human by nature. Our natural flight or flight responses date back thousands of years. The innate feeling of “there must be a bear behind every tree and I need to be prepared” is normal. To me, with every coming cold season, that bear is real and ready to eat me alive.
So how do I survive? Well, I do just that. I survive. For me, when I am depressed the best things I could be doing to help my depression are often the hardest things to do. But you must be patient with yourself. Giving yourself the time you need to feel these feelings is important. Not pressuring yourself to get up or feel better is also extremely important. As my therapist would say, “STOP SH——ING ON YOURSELF!” No not that word………
“Stop shoulding on yourself!” meaning stop telling yourself what you SHOULD be doing or what you SHOULD be feeling. Ride the wave and as I said be honest with your emotions. There is no right or wrong way to get through your depression but here are some things I do that can help:
* Tell a friend – if you have ONE really close friend that you trust that goes a really long way. Tell them how you feel, be open to their support. Depression is a heavy weight to bare alone.
* Meditate (when I can) — it’s much easier to keep up a meditation routine when I am not depressed but when I am, I try to make it a goal to do so at least 2x a week for at least 5 minutes opposed to the regular 15 minutes every morning.
* Listen to anxiety reducing music/Youtube Encouraging Videos like spa music, jazz, instrumentals or zen/meditation style music on Spotify, in the car, youtube or apple music.
* Go to therapy Therapy is not weakness. Therapy is a very brave and courageous act one makes in order to improve themselves. Simply talking with somebody who can help dissect, analyze, process and/or challenge your thoughts in a professional manner goes a really long way when you find somebody right for you. Don’t be afraid to try many before you find your match. This is totally in YOUR control. I can’t even count how many therapists I’ve had in the last few years. But thankfully have since found my match.
*Read a self-help or inspirational book (recommendations to come)
* Write in Journal Writing down your thoughts helps process them, especially as a visual learner
* Protect your energy Say no when you want or need to. Do not “overbook” or take on too many tasks or engagements at once. Spend time with self.
* Be active (in some way)
–We have been dog sitting for some time this season so walking the dog a few times up and down the street; walking up and down the stairs; coaching athletics at local schools/organizations.
-My cousins recently came in from Germany so it forced me to get out of the house a bit and tour the town.
-Go to the gym or in my case work out at home (I prefer a light workout at home)
* Spend time in Nature even just 5 minutes, go outside. Breathe the fresh air.
* Do small tasks Do small things that make you feel accomplished throughout your day. Wash the dishes, make your bed, fold/do the laundry, rake the leaves, sweep the floor, run an errand.
*Challenge Negative Thoughts When negative thoughts arise, you must recognize and challenge them by asking is this fact? Am I assuming and only seeing the worst possible outcome? Release any judgements you may have of yourself and others and practice gratitude. Replacing negative thoughts with gratitude and positive affirmations can drown out negative thoughts by allowing you to stay in touch with what is “real” and well in your life.
Be aware and be honest. Since admitting to myself that indeed I am depressed right now, I have felt a lot better about actually being depressed. It’s a weight lifted from my shoulders that is unnecessary to bare. I have learned that it is ok to not be ok (even when you’re supposed be ok). I have also learned that I do not have to be afraid of this depression because I am stronger than it makes me think and like every year, the sun always returns.
Photo Credit: Tina Leu Fotos