I go through dips in my mood pretty regularly. I’ll have a few days in a row that are absolute misery, and after that I’m fine. Right now I’m going into a dip and trying a new way to take my meds to counteract it. It’s making me a little sleepy. Luckily I don’t have much homework this weekend so I don’t have to push through the discomfort and get stuff done. I did have to par down my social schedule, but they understand.
I wanted to talk for a minute about the little things. Like, getting out of bed. If you’re in a depression, just waking up can be insanely difficult, more than people could imagine if they’ve never experienced the all encompassing mental and physical exhaustion that depression brings. Depression is more than just a mental illness: it has tremendous effects on the body, like the immune system etc. Defenses are weakened when you’re depressed, both mentally and physically. It affects appetite, energy, focus, pain levels, and more. So if you’re depressed and you’re reading this and you got out of bed today, GREAT JOB! That’s an accomplishment. Training the brain to reward positive experiences regardless of how major we might judge them to be is helpful because you can accrue positivity. Today it’s just getting out of bed. Tomorrow it might be responding to those e-mails that are building up, or a text message that you couldn’t handle. The important thing is to recognize that what you did was a positive action. The more of these actions you recognize, the more your brain will understand that you can function in a successful way. This is hard through chemical depressions, no doubt, but it does help. It’s all about training the brain (which is why CBT, or cognitive behavioral therapy, is so helpful for so many).
CBT is about recognizing that our thoughts affect the situations that we are in, so even when were are in a situation we cannot change, we can change how we think about it, which can drastically change how we feel. For instance, if I were having a really borderline moment, I would think that someone hated me if they said something like, “Hey I have to reschedule” or didn’t respond to a text. In that case, I could indulge the negative feeling and start to wallow in self-hatred or build up into anger or assume total abandonment. If I change the way I’m thinking, however, I can imagine that “Oh, that person must have had something come up,” or “maybe they don’t feel well” or “they’re probably just busy with something else, but it doesn’t reflect our relationship.” It’s very important to frame these thoughts in a way that pulls the onus off of you and puts a realistic spin on what is happening. This is not easy. I will never say it is. It takes time, practice, therapy, probably medication for many. But you can work a little bit on it every day and eventually build up the wise mind, positivity muscle that we all have lurking within us. I highly recommend meditation and gratitude journals for the same reason.
I’ll leave you with thoughts from a great man.