*CW: mention of suicidal ideation in lesson 3*
So I am back with another series of lessons, I have previously discussed what I have learned from therapy and mania. Today it’s what I have learned from experiencing recurrent depression and low moods. Please remember these lessons are what I personally have learned, are an individual experience and not representative of other people’s experiences. If you have any questions for me, please ask away!
1. How to rest
This is absolutely the key lesson I have learned and it took a long time to learn. I started experiencing depression at 15 years old, quite severely so, after a few months I was placed on a medication to help ease the symptoms and at the time it didn’t, it would take another 8 years before I found the correct combination for myself. Under mental health teams I was always advised to rest. But it wasn’t until the last 18 months to two years that I really learned my long term ability in resting well in a way that helps me. I originally started out by sleeping all day, as I couldn’t sleep at night. I would binge watch and binge eat to pass time. That became my life at many points.
It’s common knowledge, especially to those who have done CBT, that not doing anything when in low moods can exacerbate the already present depression. In 2018, I knew these unhealthy coping mechanisms had to change. I had to change my own habits. So my idea of what rest meant to me changed. I started getting into routines, I would make my bed, on low days I would have one goal, one activity to accomplish. Resting would be reading a book, or creative writing, not just mindlessly watching films and shows that made me feel worse.
Rest for each individual is as different as people and for me finding a moment of contentment in meditation, reading or other activities that give me time for a state of flow is restful.
2. The joy of DOG days
I can’t remember when I came up with this concept, I believe it was early 2019. I felt I was missing joy in my days and wanted a day dedicated to goodness and joy. And thus, days of goodness were created. At first I would have one day a week for nothing other than activities I enjoyed like reading, yoga and meditating amongst other activities. Nothing that “should” be done was completed, not housework or university work. I felt like I had something to look forward to each week. Whilst I don’t have DOG days as often now, they still remain a part of my wellbeing toolbox and often act as a reset for me. They help clear the fog of my brain.
This lesson is a no-brainer. We never learn the true potential of our strength than in hard times. Or in my case quite often, so low I thought of suicide every second of every day quite actively. I just do not care when depressed, I can grow quite sick of living when low. But I have always, like many others, had people around me who need me to carry on. And so I did, so I do now. I was not at all stable 2 years ago but I had a fierce determination that felt quite unique to me to see this life through. I am glad I found that strength.
This was a very subtle quality I learned during therapy and when I was depressed. Curiosity. Curiosity about my brain, my mind, the future, what could be. It kept me going. I guess being a self-proclaimed lifelong learner, the curiosity in growth and knowledge has helped me to keep pushing forwards and learn more and more about myself.
5. To be truly appreciative of the good days
I believe I have mentioned this before. I have always loved my good days, but would take it too far and end up burned out. But gosh, aren’t the good days great? Now more than ever has depression taught me to be grateful when life just doesn’t suck. Thankfully, I am maintaining a positive recovery so the positive days FAR outnumber any negative times. I am eternally grateful for every good day I get to experience.
In the future I will be explaining lessons I have learned from experiencing mood swings and experiencing anger.