I want to start this post by saying I’m not often depressed these days. Most days I walk around feeling light and happy, laughing and smiling to myself as I walk to work. Most of the time I’m full of gratitude and hilarity. In fact sometimes what happens is I get ‘too happy and forget I’ve ever been depressed in the first place’. When it hits me, it hits me pretty hard. The post below came from a recent ‘dark spell’
Depression kind of sneaks up on me. Like a shadow that follows me around, I don’t always know it’s there until the light starts to dim.
I can be feeling fine, In fact better than fine. Everything’s going well and I think I’m cured. I’ve almost forgotten what those immense lows feel like.
Then all of a sudden it’ll hit me. I haven’t been paying attention, looking after myself and it seems to come out of nowhere. Knocking me down like a body shot that catches me unaware. Straight to the solar plexes, taking the breathe right from me
I feel floored. Actually that’s a lie. I’m not floored because I have the type of depression where I’m wired at the same time. I wish I could sleep it off or just stay in bed but that completely goes against my over achieving type A personality. Doing nothing is so fucking terrifying that I continue to function. I have to keep going. To do something. Maybe it’s my boxer mentality that makes me fight it. I refuse to stay down.
I hate feeling like this. I would do anything to escape it. I feel panic rising in my chest as I feel myself being engulfed by the dark mist. I’m clawing blinding trying to climb out. The thing with mist is, you have to just sit and let it clear otherwise you’ll go deeper into it.
The thing I hate the most is the guilt that goes with it. How dare I feel like this? My life is so fucking good. Nothing really bad has happened to me. I have no right. Get it together Kat’. But I can’t focus. I’m can’t get anything done. The voice in my head starts telling me I’m useless, lazy. What the fucks wrong with me? I can’t even get out of my head for long enough to write an email. I am wasting time, the most precious commodity we have, and here I am sitting doing nothing. I should be writing, I should be productive, I should be helping people…..
Today I can’t even help myself. My self care has gone out the window. The thought of cooking or looking after myself is all too much. People say go for a walk. Get your hair done. Do something nice for yourself. Are you fucking kidding me? I want to escape my head, not spend more time in it.
I call a friend and who comforts me. I hate doing this but I desperately want someone to help me, to take this away. Before I used to have someone who did that for me. But he left. Was in my fault? Was it because I’m like this? My internal dialogue runs riot with me on this one. ‘Of course it’s your fault you needy cow. No one wants to be around you when your like this’
I’m grateful I’ve built up a network of amazing friends who convince me otherwise. Friends I know love me no matter how low, teary or ridiculous I might be behaving.
Before I had friends I used to hurt myself. Physical pain to escape the mental anguish. It wasn’t the best strategy but it got me my first experience of therapy. From there it’s been an on-going learning process of how to manage my mental health and accept that this is part of me. It’s prob not going to go away. Each time it hits me, I learn a little bit more about myself and a learn how to cope a little bit better. And each time I recover I feel even more strongly that it’s my purpose to help other people who struggle with mental illness, with self worth, with believing they are enough
Here are some of the things I’ve learned that work for me. I hope this is in some way helpful to anyone else who struggles
Get off the punchline. Ok actually this one prob doesn’t apply because if you’re reading this you’ve probably already been hit. But for future reference. This means know your triggers and move away from them. Don’t stand on the punchline waiting for them to hit you. Easier said than done. We all forget, we think we can handle it. For me, I know that if I party too much, train too much or do things that raise my energy too high, I will come crashing down. It sucks because I like being high but it’s really important that I keep myself in balance
Get physical This is proper brain science stuff. You have to interrupt the pattern. Your brain thinks its in some kind of danger, it’s triggered your amygdala (see I know big words) which has basically issued a state of emergency. All systems are on high alert waiting for attack. You need to force another part of the brain to work. It’s kinda like tricking your brain by giving it a task. A lot of people swear by yoga or meditation. Again, ‘Are you fucking kidding me?’ My brain is running at 200 miles an hour, focusing on my breath is not going to cut it for me. There is def a place for this but right now I need something more extreme. For me, I box, I lift heavy weights. I do something that if I don’t give it my full attention I will get punched the face or drop a heavy weight on my foot. Movement also works to get you present again. Depression, anxiety occur in the future or in the past. Practising a movement skill where you have to focus on picking up an object or co-ordinating arms and legs brings you back to what is happening right now. Even better do this in a safe environment with people you trust. Which leads me into my next point
Get Connected Let go of the fucking guilt and let people help you. Another brain science fact: The brain is always seeking safety. What makes it feel safe? When we feel truly connected. We are pack animals. All that man up and just get on with it goes against how we are wired. We need connection. So I say don’t man up. I say lets talk and have a good bloody cry. (I can hear all the men in my gym cringing at this)
But seriously find people who accept you for who you are. Trust them when they say they are there for you. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable is one of the scariest and bravest things you can do. And you know what? It’s really powerful. I’ve made some of my closest connections because I wear my heart on my sleeve and show my vulnerabilities. In a world ruled by social media that only shows the highlights, people appreciate authenticity.
Be kind to yourself
Something I still struggle with. My go to pattern is to beat myself up. Why do I feel like this? Why can’t I get it together? Why can’t I cope like other people?
If those words sound familiar. Recognise this. Its a pattern, thats all it is. A skill you’ve developed and become very good at.
Believe me I am bloody good at beating myself up. I’d go as far as to say I have mastered it to black belt level. The good news is you can become skilled at anything you practice enough
Self love is a skill you can develop too. The thing is you don’t learn a skill when you’re in the midst of a catastrophe. Imagine you’re confronted by a gang of armed gunmen. Hold on a min while I learn some martial arts techniques to side kick one in the head while I grab his gun….do you fuck. You get the hell out of there. You run, that is if your lucky enough to be able to move your legs. And prob piss yourself in the process. Survival patterns. My rather long winded point is, you have to practice the skill when your NOT under threat. Rehearse it will you’re feeling good. Create rituals to build it into your life and then, when you’re feeling dark and you need it, you’ve conditioned your brain to run a different programme
Trust the universe and just hang in there and believe that everything is happening exactly as it’s supposed to. At one particular point of darkness, this is something a really good friend once said this to me and it stuck. Believe in your own greatness. Believe that there is nothing you need to say, do or achieve. You are perfect just as you are.
Here is something I believe: Us nutters who struggle with the darkness, with highs and lows and extreme moods and the craziness, we are some of the most gifted, beautiful and loving people around. We feel things deeply, we give freely, we love fiercely. It may feel like we’re in hell at the time but on the other side we get the rainbows, we get the stars and the magic. We get to experience a level of high that other people don’t understand. When we allow ourselves to shine, we glow. Our light is so bright it’s blinding. We bring comfort, safety and warmth to those who need it with our smile, with our understanding, with a hug. What could be more powerful than the ability to change how someone feels?
For anyone who needs this, myself included, Next time you find yourself in the darkness – don’t be in so much of a hurry to escape it. Hang out there for a little while longer and be grateful for it
As Brene Brown so eloquently puts it
‘Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light’