Strategies for when things feel hard
Depression is the thing I thought I’d buried. But Instead it lingers, somewhere below. Germinating in dark soil, grasping for air, towards the light at the surface.
For years, since college, I’ve managed my dark days with a small capsule, swallowed once a day. Most days, a low dose of SSRI is enough. It slips down my throat, slows the synapses. Reminds me to slip out from bed and into the light. Smooths the grooves worn into my brain, and quiets the voice. The one that says I’m not enough. That everyone would be better off if I just quit.
Sometimes this voice bears a passing resemblance to someone from my past. To the ones on the playground, or sitting behind me in fourth grade. To my parents, or husband, or sisters. To my children in fits of anger, to friends, to kids we used to know and work with, or someone else I’ve disappointed. To myself, mostly.
But mostly, depression just lingers like sweet melancholy. Bent into my voice and days, but never twisting them completely off course.
Other days I am the one buried while the dark emerges. Dirt in my mouth, clouding my eyes. On these days, getting out of bed looms monumental. There is a lapse of several days in refilling my prescription, and it’s enough to throw me off course.
I don’t like writing about this, I’m reminded that people dont like too many downer posts in a row, that folks will tire of me complaining. Especially when, in reality, I have absolutely nothing to complain about.
But this is the truth. And I am hopeful that light shed on darkness will continue to lead more people to freedom and away from stigma. That mental health will be recognized as important and self-care as valuable, not a weakness so much as one facet of a person, all of whom are complicated.
And so today, I am asking myself what are small things I can do to treat myself with great love? How can I allow tenderness to mark my gaze in the mirror in ways that teach and demonstrate for my children the importance of hope and love.
Some things that help when I feel dark (these are obviously not prescriptive, and I also take medication. But they help too).
-A quick yoga practice. Even just 15-20 minutes to slow my breathing and stretch my limbs towards the earth and the heavens helps. My bed beckons, and instead I step onto the mat.
-Lighting a candle (Jayci’s are my favorites obviously). This reminds me that there is light. To pray. To still my heart before Jesus, even for just a few quiet moments.
-Going outside. Walking or just sitting in the sunshine. This is especially effective today, because here in Atlanta the sun is shining a steady mid-seventy degrees.
-Eating simple meals and drinking water. When darkness is threatening, I find it hard to remember to feed myself or care for my body in gentle ways. I might grab a granola bar or reach for candy, or skip meals altogether. It helps tremendously if I instead can remember to make myself some eggs on toast with avocado, which is about as fancy as I can muster.
-Taking a shower
- Making a check-list of 3 (really) easy-to-complete tasks and then doing them.
-Reading a book (but not one that’s too dark or about hard things) Get lost in a light-hearted story instead.
-Putting the kids to bed and then enlisting the teenager in the backroom to babysit so you can sneak a date with your husband. Preferably for Mexican food.