Today’s piece of writing has been housed in a file on my computer for more than a month now, and it might have stayed there inevitably if it wasn’t for my friend Michelle Beebs.
She inspired me without knowing it, after posting a vulnerable message on Facebook about how she manages her dark days. I figure, if she’s brave enough to share her truth, then I will be too. After all, I’ve written an entire book on the subject that I’m currently working to get published. So there’s no better time than the present to start getting real about my mental health.
Meanwhile, I’m grateful for friends like Michelle who speak openly about the hard stuff and about self-care. I have a tendency to show the world my sparkly, shiny, happy self. Sharing my deeper, darker, emotional self is much more challenging.
I mean, really: do we look like two gals who struggle with mental health issues?
That’s the thing, though. Depression doesn’t have a ‘look.’ Anxiety has no face. And bi-polar disorder hides among smiles.
Before reading what’s to come, I need you to know that I’m not in this headspace anymore. Writing, among other healing practices like exercising, meditating and clean eating, helped me move through the depressive episode.
I’m feeling good again, but I’ve chosen to share this blog to help people understand what depression feels like, when someone is in the throws of it…
It’s Day 3. Three Days In The Dark.
I’ve said, time and time again, that healing isn’t linear. In the same breath, I’ve prided myself on “having my depression under control.” On the fact that, “I haven’t had a depressive episode in years.” The latter is no longer true.
I knew that the black hole could resurface. I knew that it was possible I’d come back to this place, but perhaps I was in denial about it – thinking I’d given depression a beat down, and I’d won the battle. But I now know that depression can always brush itself off and come back for another round.
Depression is a disease that can’t be seen. And even though I’ve been open about my diagnosis for many years now, it can still catch me by surprise, and it’s still something that even those closest to me don’t understand. The healthy mind says, “there’s much to be happy about, and life is too short to wallow in your sadness.” The depressed mind says, “I don’t give a fuck about your reasoning.”
Depression is just as much physical for me as it is mental. It’s heavy. It makes my face break out. Tears come fast and furious – but only when I’m alone because I learned years ago not to break down in front of people. Sometimes, I don’t even know what my triggers are. “Snapping out of it” isn’t an option. Ultimately, it feels like a virus that has to run its course.
When I feel this way, I want to shut off from the world. I want to hide – even from my best friends, husband and family. I don’t want to work, exercise, eat, clean or be productive. In this head space, I’m more sensitive to things like loud noises, violence on TV, and interruptions from my day that creep up without warning (a knock on the door by someone delivering a package, for example).
And it’s a struggle because then I become angry about not being able to control it. I’ve been crying on and off for three days straight, and intellectually, I know there’s no real reason why. It’s the chemical imbalance in my brain, and it doesn’t reason.
It’s not just negative thinking, either. It’s a feeling that takes over my entire body. I try to write it out of me. It’s something that I’ve been doing since I was a kid, and it does help.
It’s easy to show the versions of ourselves that we want the world to see – the pretty pictures, the big smiles, the happy lives…. Social media in and of itself is a giant filter. It’s a misrepresentation of reality and we all play the game.
I can distract myself though, and I have tools to manage my depression. Focusing on a creative task – like making jewelry – that helps. I also know I need Vitamin D when I feel this way. So I’ll force myself to get out in the sun, go to the beach, or for a walk. Because even if I don’t want to do these things, I know I’ll feel better afterwards. Healthy foods help too.
It will pass, and I’m not experiencing feelings of self-harm. If that ever happens again, I have a trusted doctor and I know what to do. I’m not on medication and I haven’t been for years – but I’m also not opposed to taking medicine again if my depression becomes too much.
It’s not my intention to scare anyone with this post or to seek sympathy. It is my intention to create space for understanding, awareness and compassion. Someone you love might be suffering in a way that can’t been seen, in a way that maybe you can’t relate to. Just know that the smallest acts of kindness can make a world of difference.
In closing, I’ll leave you with Michelle’s words – which inspired me to muster up the courage to share my own today…
By Michelle Beebs:
If anyone is having a rough day mentally, just know you’re never alone. We’ve all been through a lot in our own lives on top of what we’ve been living through collectively for 2 years. As I was reminded through a friends post today…. Rest is not a reward for work. It is neccesary- especially now. Never feel guilty for taking time to yourself. I often times have anxiety about not getting back to people right away or answering an email within an hour but thats just a feeling and pressure I’m creating. Theres no law that says you HAVE to communicate with everyone demanding your attention. These days I find more solitude in my alone time and create more space for it because I need me and at the end of the day I’m all I’ve got. If you can’t create peace inside your own mind, it becomes harder to deal with anything coming your way “good” or “bad”. How do you create peace inside? I don’t have all of the answers but I can share some things that really help me to reach that space.
☀️ in a place thats sunny ☀️
- laying outside while taking slow and steady deep breathes- 5 count in- 5 count hold- 5 count breath release. Try this for 5 min and work your way up to 15 min or more each time you try this technique.
☁️ no ☀️ ☁️
-lay on the floor in the most silent place you can access. Do the same breathing technique. A dark quiet room is one of my favorite spaces as it reminds me of a float tank and helps me tap into that silent space.
💦 FLOAT TANK (sensory deprivation) 💦
Try a float tank! This helped me tremendously in finding where the silence in my brain could exist. Its almost like a cheat code to mediation. The science is to deprivate all of your senses- forcing your brain into a natural meditative state. You will still need to practice you breathing while inside. Especially your first time as this is a new experience for your whole being. (Note: I’m claustrophobic but I do not get that feeling inside of the tank- which is pretty cool!)
😴 SLEEP 😴
Getting proper rest so you can hit deep R.E.M sleep is crucial to your mental health. I try to remind myself- if I’m feeling depressed that means I need Deep Rest.
🍏 FOOD/JUICING 🍓
Eating clean food ( avoid processed sugar or mass amounts of preservatives and other things you can’t pronounce).
The easier you make it for your body to digest the more energy your body has for other functions. I also try to juice as much as possible and if thats something you’re into trying, this is my favorite recipe:
4 green apples
1 bunch celery
✋ CREATE BOUNDRIES ✋
This is something that took me a long time to be ok with and is a constant work in progress as I never want to dissapoint anyone- to the point where I would over commit- only to my own detriment. IT’S OK TO SAY NO and possible without having guilt. Only YOU are IN CONTROL of your micro verse and the better you get at stating boundaries, the more energy you have for all of the things you enjoy. Stay true to who you are and never feel like you HAVE to do something you don’t want to do even if that means politely backing out of commitments for your own wellness.
🧿 CREATE NEW NEURAL PATHWAYS 🧿
“how the f*ck do you do that?!” You may be asking yourself right about now. The simplest way I’ve found is to stay committed to changing my perspective. Instead of saying “I HAVE TO GO DO….” Say “I GET TO DO…..”.
When past traumas come in a situation, try to be aware and recognize that it may be more that the current situation thats triggering you. Becoming aware in the moment or even afterwards also helps set your boundries moving forward.
💜✨ REMEMBER ✨💜
We are perfect in our imperfections- thats what being human is all about. Learning, relating, applying, adapting. You can only experience the moment you are RIGHT NOW. Everything is temporary including our experience as a human being. Whatever moment you are in right now is a gift – celebrate it. 🌻
P.S – life gets rough- make sure the friends you have right now would also be there on off day. Don’t be afraid to reach out when you’re feeing shitty. Your burdens are yours and won’t instantly transfer to someone else just because share your thoughts with them. It can be uncomfortable being vulnerable but it always feels better to not hold it all in. No point in having friends around if they can’t relate and embrace our humanity. 😘