I’ve read articles that a quality of mentally strong individuals is resiliency. To be able to look hardships in the face and move beyond them. Bounce back if you will…
Resiliency is a tough quality to employ when you suffer from depression. Remember in the early days of cartoons, the coyote would try to light a fuse on fire to release the anvil that would fall on the head of the road runner at just the right moment? Then the fuse would die out and the coyote would run back and relight it. This may have happened one or two more times until finally the fuse would catch rather suddenly and BOOM right in the coyote’s face!
This is as good of a description as any when it comes to trying to embody resiliency with depression. I’m not saying I’m always living on the edge of a deep depression but it’s there. It’s a slippery slope and I’m very aware of this. Recently, there have been several bumps in the road and it is definitely testing me. Like the stupid coyote, when each thing happens, it lights the fuse. At this point, I’m working hard to NOT allow the big BOOM to happen and get sucked down into the dark side.
I will absolutely admit, last year’s major bout of depression was one of the worst I’ve every experienced. I don’t feel it’s on that level again. Instead I feel on the brink of, “wow, my life sucks right now and I don’t see how it can get better”. Part of the issue is that the hits are coming from all aspects of my life. There isn’t any one area where I can feel confident and hang my hat on, “well at least this is going well”.
Most of the mini-crises are happening on the personal realm, however, running is also being affected. Is it the end of the world? Of course not. Do I know I can get better? I’m almost positive I can. But it’s annoying and frustrating so it adds to the chipping away of my resiliency.
Recently, I read two things I liked. The first one is a buzzfeed list of what it’s like to have depression:
The next one is a meme I saw:
What I’ve decided is to go ahead and wallow in the craptastic life happenings right now. I’m just going to accept it. Oh and I’m going to lower my expectations. I am going to give doing one thing different every day (or as close to this as possible) a shot. And like George Costanza, I’m going to go against my instincts when it comes time to make decisions. I don’t believe this is going to make things any better but maybe it will make things less difficult? Or more interesting?
Let it be known, this post isn’t intended to garner any, “you’re great!” comments. As I’ve mentioned before, I think it’s important for me to get more comfortable with talking about my depression. I worked so hard for so long to ignore it and this certainly made things worse.
What do you do when you are faced with several hard knocks at once?
I hope yesterday’s post wasn’t too debbie downer. I typically feel extremely guilty when I can’t/don’t feel as joyous as it seems everyone else is around me. My hope is by putting it out there it helps me and others accept it and work with it rather than fighting it.
I figure my action plan for not succumbing to holiday depression is going to be ever-changing. It dawned on me there is no way I am going to be able to know how I will feel 5, 10 or 15 days from now. Typically, I like to face things as they come BUT I thought I would give having an outline a shot. Kind of like running, you know?
1. I organized a cookie exchange at work. So far there are 12 or 13 of my co-workers participating! I’m looking forward to getting some new recipes and doing a bit of baking.
2. I’m avoiding the holiday weight gain freak out – well to the best of my ability. In a completely unscientific science experiment, I weighed myself the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. Then I weighed myself on Sunday. Guess what? I didn’t gain an ounce. I definitely fall into the hype of “don’t gain weight during the holidays” and start to panic followed quickly by guilt and then their bestie self-loathing shows up. Sounds super healthy, right? How am I going to do this? Stick with my training for Dopey, keep eating normally, putting the scale away again and giving swimming and Jillian Michaels a shot. Oh and I am going to try not to eat all of my feelings! I also refuse to let holiday goodies have power over me – if I want a cookie, then I will eat a cookie.
3. Christmas isn’t the end all be all. I hope this doesn’t sound harsh but I have the Dopey Challenge to look forward to in Jan! Last year it was also a trip to WDW and the year before it was a trip to New York. I think having something planned for January is a good thing for me.
4. Heading back to WA to visit the fam. Can’t wait! Slumber parties, coffee, lots of laughs – it will be a grand ol’ time!
5. Purging more stuff and moving other items to storage. My apt is too chaotic.
6. I’m making a few fun Christmas presents this year. I’m excited for them – pictures right after Christmas!
7. Keep in mind a bad day doesn’t mean a bad life.
8. I’m not going to set myself up for failure. This means no plans to make cookies for everyone I work with and their extended family, or collect all the supplies to decorate my apt with homemade pinterest-y things or say I’m going to do the runstreak when I know I won’t be able to stick to it. Looking at all of the supplies for cookies or decorations or tweets about the runstreak just reinforces how I didn’t get it done. Basically, I don’t want to make promises to myself I don’t intend to keep.
9. Watch a ridiculous amount of Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Love Actually, Easy A, Pitch Perfect – whatever movies make me laugh and I really enjoy.
10. Ummm… hmmm… what else? Basically, I’m going to take it easy and simplify my holiday. A good chunk of shopping is already finished, I’ve been careful about committing myself to extra activities and I’ve carved out time for myself.
Overall, I like this action plan. I want to add other fun items but don’t want to make an all out “bucket list”. These fun things will include going to the Hobbit when I get home with my family, celebrating my friend’s birthday this weekend, meeting my friend’s new baby and who knows what else. Whatever it is, I am determined to put things in perspective that may be challenging and enjoy what the season brings.
The following isn’t a grinchy outlook on holidays. I just wanted to put that out there so my message isn’t lost
Yesterday I read a post about how to avoid the holiday season blues. While I liked the article and it had some good points/advice I felt the advice was a bit… plucky. Maybe the advice was quality for a case of the “blues” but not so much for those of us who have dealt/deal with depression.
This got me thinking about my own experiences of struggling during the holidays. It usually starts out with Halloween and the fact that my job has turned it from a holiday I used to enjoy to one I now fear. Halloween is just a mixer for alcohol at this point and it results in some debauchery and late night emergency calls for yours truly.
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday as I’ve already professed. Since I don’t have family close by, I always take the shift for work since others do. It’s not so bad but it does mean most years I spend the holiday on my own. I cook a big meal because that is “Thanksgiving” for me but then I eat alone.
Then Christmas. The Christmas season is lovely albeit the horrific Kay jewelery commercials that play from now until Valentine’s day. However, it will be two years on Dec. 16th that my mom passed away so the holiday has changed for me a bit.
Essentially, this is NOT a recipe for a lighthearted and fun holiday atmosphere. The last two years were pretty rough due to my mother’s passing and I really want to avoid my all-out feelings of despair this year since it takes a lot to recover from. So, here are my suggestions/plans of actions for this year. Maybe it will help others who don’t feel so jolly when it seems like the rest of the world is.
1. Lower the expectations: this was suggested in the other article but taking it one step further is important in my case. Of course lowering the expectation for “the most fantastic holiday season EVER!” is there. But even more important lower the expectations of yourself to feel you have to go all in simply because it seems everyone else is. Don’t feel bad if the stockings aren’t hung on the chimney with care or you don’t have elf ears on to go caroling around the neighborhood. Instead, do something you really enjoy. I want to bake some cookies for a cookie exchange and make some Christmas gifts. I don’t want to decorate my apt or get a tree. I need to avoid any guilt associated with this.
2. Do you what you need and want to do: okay, so this sounds pretty selfish but let me put it in context. Does going to holiday parties make you feel more alone if you are single? Does going shopping on Thanksgiving eve/Black Friday make you feel guilty? What about buying your own presents rather than spending money on others? Well, skip the party, go shopping and buy yourself something – IF THIS IS WHAT YOU WANT. There are some obligations that are meant to be kept and others can be politely declined.
3. Be wary of being a hermit: I’m very good at being a hermit. Being able to spend time alone is a healthy quality however, I take it to the next level at times. So, this year, I am working on forcing myself out and about during the craziness of the season. But I am being selective about how I’m doing it. I’m choosing to spend time with people who make me laugh. I’m also fighting (seriously, with every fiber of my being) NOT to cancel plans once it’s time to leave. I do this. A lot. Why? Because I want to stay home in my sweatpants and avoid all of the anxiety (real and imagined) that’s wrapped up in being out and about. Most times I have a great time!
4. Exercise: this was also one listed in the other article and I know it’s true. Even when I don’t feel like heading outside I need to force myself to go. Fresh air is good for you, or so they tell me, and I need to keep sickness, headaches and low self-esteem away. Exercise can help with all of these.
5. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbors’ goods: or the fact they have a spouse, or a baby, or a dishwasher or a washer/dryer. Whatever it is that friends and family members have that seems like it would make life easier or better, try not to let it over shadow what you do have. I’m terrible about this. All of those things I mentioned are things I want and feel could make the holiday season more fun (and functional!) but it’s not in the cards for me YET. I need to remember the YET part rather than getting trapped in the “it won’t be for me EVER” downward spiral. So far this year, I’ve accomplished this by buying myself lots of stuff since I don’t have to spend it on anyone else. Sort of a silver lining but it could also lead to buyer’s remorse later so I need more tools in my toolbox to help with this. Definitely in progress.
6. Feeling unsettled or out of sorts: currently I feel the need to rid myself of ALL THE THINGS (yes, I know this goes against my buying of all the things but I can’t always help what goes on in my brain). I want to purge my spare bedroom of the clutter that I no longer use. It comes from my feelings of restlessness during the holidays and I’m going to take advantage of it. The stuff I’m not using is bogging me down. The stuff I did purchase is actually useful – it’s a nice change. The other part is, I know I will feel out of sorts and I need to accept it. But I don’t need to over analyze it. Easier said then done but I’m working on it.
7. Avoid some of the holiday movies… like the plague: Hallmark channel and ABC Family air these incredibly dripping with love and holiday cheer movies constantly during this time of year. DON’T WATCH THEM! They are completely unrealistic and there is no way in hell I’m going to fall on my ass ice skating and some ridiculously hot guy is going to help me up and three days later propose to me… While it’s snowing fat fluffy snowflakes with children singing the song from the Grinch. Even though I know this in my mind, my heart starts to feel badly because maybe if I were better _________ then it would happen! Lame. Not to mention, when the movies focus on a generic meaning of the “true spirit of Christmas” and this doesn’t hold true for you, it can be depressing. And lonely.
The thing is, there aren’t a whole lot of ways to completely avoid feelings of stress, loneliness, sadness or whatever during the holiday season. And I think this may apply to everyone at some point during this stretch. What am I going to do about it? I’ve mostly listed the issues above and now I need to think of an action plan to help keep negative nellies at bay.
I’ll post the list this week as it’s still in progress and I would love to hear some input from all of you! How do you uplift your spirits during the holidays if feeling down or anxious?
Oh great scott – how is it only Wednesday?! For the last two days first year students and their families took over campus. It’s a really exciting time and I would greet it with open arms if it weren’t for the month of training that happens prior. At this point I greeted them with limp-y arms and a big smile. That’s what exhaustion looks like:
When I was hanging out with friends on Saturday, one of them remarked how I seem much happier than I have in a long time. It was so nice to hear. I am feeling happier! The stress (rashes, teeth grinding, eating) isn’t pleasant but it doesn’t always denote unhappiness. For at least the last year however, the stress and unhappiness have gone hand in hand. Which of course, created more stress, more unhappiness and more anxiety.
I’ve been feeling happier for a little over a month now. Honestly, this feels kind of odd to talk about but it’s true. I bounce back from grumpy moods faster, don’t descend into “pits of dispair” and no longer consider getting out of bed to be my biggest accomplishment of the day. Yay!
The interesting thing about being happier is realizing a) how unhappy I was b) that there was something I could do about it and c) that some of my current behavior is habitual.
a) My unhappiness was deep. It was one of those where even when I was having happy moments it couldn’t out-feel the sadness inside. A lot of it had to do with my mom and healing/time have played a role in this journey of “recovery”.
b) I didn’t know my epilepsy meds were effecting me so much. Now that I am 6 months into the med switch, I’ve noticed a HUGE difference! Being on the old meds, along with my own brain chemicals (depression/anxiety) were a combo that I couldn’t fight.
c) So yay! Happier! Now, I need to get back to routines I had before that were uplifting. As I started drowning the following started happening – afternoon (2 hour naps) everyday, calling in sick for work due to depression and sickness, avoiding friends, increased anxiety, staying up really late, watching endless hours of tv, poor eating habits, no energy to run – there are more but I can’t think of them. The problem is, some of these have become habitual. I need to break up with the bad habits and now that I’m feeling better I’m working to make it happen.
I like feeling happier. I got used to feeling crappy so I am not even sure what to do with myself. It’s like when I had gallstones. I was sick for a year and half and would get gallbladder attacks (seriously, I thought my body would explode) every couple of months. I assumed the-always-sick feeling was just me. After the surgery, I felt AMAZING! I didn’t even know I could feel that good. It’s like that now.
I do think my personality/person has been changed on a permanent level. I don’t think it’s a bad thing. I am more introverted and more accepting of myself. I can admit I have anxiety and ADD. And I’m learning to work with all of these. It’s kind of liberating and I am happy I am making changes in myself because I want to and not because someone else wants me too. Hmm – that’s good. I’m going to put that on a pillow!