The Ebb and Flow of Depression – Depression Check-up
It’s been a while since I wrote about my depression and I think I know why. I’ve been feeling better a lot in the past weeks and it’s difficult to write about depression when you’re not necessarily depressed. You feel good and you don’t want to remember the down days. You are rockin’ and rollin’ and life is hunky dory for a change. Why would you want to revisit those days when you didn’t want to get out of bed, when the anger has subsided, and when the smiles come easily? But, today I’m not going to talk about just the good days because I’m experiencing the ebb and flow of depression and I’m having a down day…or down week, I guess.
This week, Howard had a doctor’s appointment for a knee injury and one of the things that irrationally annoy me is waiting at the doctor’s office. We arrived 15 minutes early to fill out paperwork and after the time of our appointment passed, we were told that we would have to wait another 45 minutes to see the doctor. I was working on my phone for most of the time so it was not as big of a deal until we got back to the room where we would see the doctor. I put my phone away and just stared at the walls. Howard made a remark that I didn’t have to look annoyed at all times about everything and then I realized it.
I’m in a depression again.
I don’t think it’s bad enough that I need to see my doctor about changing medication, but it’s definitely bad enough that I’m not sleeping well, tired all the time, in tears for almost everything, and the anger (oh, the anger…) is back. I could probably list a few reasons for the depression being back, but I’m not here to count my woes and tell you about how horrible my life is behind the scenes. I just wanted to talk about how I’m feeling right now, in the moment, while it’s still fresh on my mind.
During my “happy moments” I am able to do laundry and clean house. I play with my child. I laugh with my family. I get work done quickly and happily. During my “down moments” I want to sleep. I don’t want to be at work. I get angry at the smallest things. I wonder sometimes if I’m not eating right or not sleeping enough. Maybe I’m just down because of the weather (rain) or maybe this is just a natural ebb and flow of depression.
In any case, this is where I am. I’m down and I don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel just yet. I do not feel helpless or hopeless, but I do feel tired and lazy and just plain blah.
I suffered with depression for years. Then I was on medication for more years. Now that’s all behind me.
While medication and therapy and support are necessary in the beginning, none of those are ever going to make you healthy.
YOU have to do it, which sucks, is scary, can be overwhelming, and is just not convenient! Of course your doctor won’t tell you that. Healthcare is a for-profit commodity in this country. If you don’t figure it out, they’ll just keep upping your meds, and you will become a permanent patient.
Who has time to take care of herself?
YOU DO! Not for you, of course. You certainly wouldn’t want to be so selfish as to do something for you, right? Do it for your family and friends, and what you can ultimately contribute to the world.
Here’s how to start to take control of your mental health:
1. DO NOT STOP TAKING YOUR MEDS. I’m not a doctor, but I play one on the internet. Drink a full glass of water, take meds and VITAMINS. Do all of this before you fully wake up, because if you think about it, you will talk yourself out of it.
2. Follow this daily morning routine, 7 days a week, 30 minutes a day, 365 days a year.
a. Get a humane alarm clock FOR YOU ONLY. Something you set to wake you up before dawn 365 days a year. It could even be a Fitbit, or other fitness monitor that has an alarm feature. The point is to take control of YOUR time, first thing in the morning.
b. Don’t bother taking a shower, brushing your teeth, or combing your hair, but put on your walking shoes and comfy clothes and GET OUTSIDE AND WALK AROUND THE BLOCK WHILE THE COFFEE IS BREWING AND SUN IS RISING. This should take no more than 20 minutes. If you have a fitness monitor, or Run Keeper app on your phone, use that to track your progress.
c. Reward yourself with coffee, family, home and breakfast AFTER your morning ritual.
What it does: You get out of your comfort zone, you connect with nature, you exercise your body creating endorphins, you will lose weight (you now walk about 3-4 miles more than you did before you started this routine), you will have more energy, your moods and perspective will improve, you will have time to think, you have given yourself the gift of me-time.
Now the negotiating begins. That would be you negotiating with you about why you can’t / don’t / won’t do it. (That’s your evil addict/friend depression talking to you) You already don’t do it, and you know that’s not helping, right? Oh, and don’t forget the EVERY DAY part – that’s the best part, the non-negotiable part, the part that is your promise to yourself that you matter, that you come first, that you are loved by you. The EVERY DAY part is the piece you have to defend to protect and strengthen you, so you can be the best you for your family.
TODAY, go buy an alarm or fitness wristband with a HUMANE way of waking you up just before sunrise every day.
TODAY, lay out your clothes you will wear in the morning; walking shoes, socks, a shirt and shorts.
TODAY, set that alarm and make the last thing you think about tonight is your plan to walk at sunrise.
If you’re successful in developing this habit, you may eventually find you don’t need meds. Discuss it with your doctor MONTHS from now. In the mean time, the immediate benefits will become evident within the first week. Energy and mood will improve the second week, and weight loss will show up the third week. Keep going!