Sometimes the cloud doesn’t lift on its own. I keep waiting for it to. The diagnosis I prefer to lean towards is PMDD, because my symptoms are heavily influenced by my cycle. But when the depression lingers and lingers, when I can’t catch my breath between cycles, it’s hard to remember that it will ever lighten up.
It feels like swimming through molasses. I’m moving, but it’s arduous. And uncomfortable. And damn it, some days I am just ready to give up.
So I go down the checklist:
1. Am I physically tired? It’s nearly impossible to function properly when you’re sleep deprived. Did you know one of the most common reasons for wanting to commit suicide is “I’m just so tired”?And often, that’s literal exhaustion. The insomnia, trouble staying asleep, and trouble gathering energy are all depression side effects. So, do I need a nap? Have I been getting 4-5 hours a night instead of 7-8? Not getting enough sleep is my number one depression trigger.
2. Have I gotten any exercise? I work a pretty physical job, but it doesn’t put out the same endorphins that a solid workout, swim or hike does. It’s beyond difficult to find the energy to exercise when I feel like I am trudging through quicksand. But diet and exercise play a huge role in feeling better. Which brings me to…
3. Have I eaten, and have I made healthy choices? I have a tendency to eat my feelings, often in the forms of cheeseburgers and ice cream. Or I just don’t eat, because I don’t feel like it. Neither of these choices do me any favors. Forcing myself to eat more healthily when I am depressed is *hard*. If I feel like hell, I may as well eat the food that tastes best to me. Except when I’m depressed nothing tastes all that great, and I get the added bonus of struggling to lose weight after I make unhealthy food choices. Lose-lose.
4. What productive self care have I practiced? Have I showered? Have I knocked anything off of my to-do list? Sometimes self care isn’t indulgent. Sometimes it’s forcing yourself to go to the dentist, or get gas, or return the shirt that fit like crap. And the feeling of productiveness that comes along with this is a bonus.
5. What fun self care have I practiced? Reading a book, going to a movie, coloring, driving, singing- everyone has something. Making sure I do something enjoyable for myself is important. But it doesn’t help all that much if I’m tired, hungry, and blew off another responsibility to do something fun.
6. Have I talked to anyone? This can be a psychiatrist, therapist, family member, friend, or finding someone on an app like Talkspace. It’s incredibly important to have some sort of support system, especially in times of difficulty. Having someone you can vent to, complain to, lean on, and hold you accountable is crucial.
If I can make sure all 6 of these have been achieved in some way or another, I’m usually doing pretty well. But if I get to the end of the list, and I’ve checked them all off and I still feel like crap, it’s not the end of the world. Even when it feels like it is. I take a deep breath, and focus on a time when I felt worse. And then I focus on a time when I felt better. Reminding myself that I’ve gotten through it before helps me to believe that this really will pass.
It’s molasses, not cement. I will come out on the other side.