habits

One Thing at a Time

Good JobWhether you’re in the midst of a depressive episode, recovering from one, or trying to avoid one, chances are that there’s an area of your life that needs some work.

We’re eating or sleeping too much or too little, isolating ourselves, smoking or drinking too much, not exercising, our internal monologues are mean to us. For depressives, it can easily be all of the above, and it can feel like a freaking powerful posse ganging up on you.

So, as part of my ongoing battle against all-or-nothing thinking, I’m here to say that it’s ok to tackle only one thing at a time. They’re all interrelated and they all reinforce each other and you know what? It’s ok. It’s ok to just choose one.

Each of the above are big hurdles. They’re often biologically reinforced, and can be entrenched by years or decades of habit.

So I’m here to say something else too. I’m here to say that you don’t have to pick the most important one to do first. In fact, it might be best to pick the least important one, the easiest one, the one you already have half a handle on.

Start on the one that doesn’t fill you with dread, and measure small. If it’s your internal monologue you’re working on, don’t aim for an absence of critical thoughts, aim for a single positive one. A single positive thought about yourself every hour, or even every day. Get in the habit of it. And don’t expect to fix it entirely. Make some progress on it, work on maintaining that progress for a little while, then pick another one.

The second one will be easier because you tackled the first.

This stuff isn’t easy. And even thinking about starting is an accomplishment. Good job. 

Photo by Brendan Riley on Flickr.

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A Celebration of Therapy, In List Form

No treatment method is for everyone, but I think talk therapy gets an especially bad rap, considering the profound upsides.

So today – a little celebration of therapy, in list form:

1. It turns out that there are a lot of treatments out there that work really well and really quickly. EMDR can take as little as one session and can considerably lessen the excruciating feelings left by a traumatic event. Treatment for anxiety and panic has come very far too. Therapists with the right certifications might be able to ease your pain a lot more quickly and easily than you think.

Young at Heart Portrait2. Therapy can reduce your blind spots. There’s nothing like talking to the same person every week about your wellbeing to make you realize things about your wellbeing. And if you’re not seeing clearly when it comes to how you feel (and so many of us aren’t), then you’re working with a huge handicap when it comes to feeling better.

3. Even if you have a fantastic support system, chances are you need more support. Depression attacks the very things we need to see ourselves through the recovery process – motivation, energy, hope. Sometimes I think of therapists as expert advocates – trained professionals who have been through it before, who know the ropes and can help us navigate this crushing disease.

4. Let’s face it, talking helps. Being listened to helps. Having someone who won’t recoil at your dark thoughts, who won’t shun you your jealousies or be scared by your fears – it’s priceless. It allows you some space to have perspective, to welcome in the META THOUGHTS and learn some ways to cope with all. those. overwhelming. feelings.

Here’s to your health.

 

Photo by Nevil Zaveri on Flickr

The Benefits of Routine

Adolphe Borie: Girl Meditating

Adolphe Borie: Girl Meditating

I’m not a routine-y person. I’ve liked to think that I allow subtle differences in my mood or context to affect my actions instead of categorizing the situation and fitting a predetermined set of actions on top.

But.

During a recent visit to a friend with a one year old, I was struck by the benefits of routine, for parents, kids, and depressives. When it comes to recovering from depression, there seem to be two major upshots to routine. The first is that it reduces the amount of decision making energy you have to expend. (Check it out: New research implies that we tire of decision making and get worse at it throughout the day.)

Those of you who’ve been depressed have probably experienced this – even small decisions can be exhausting and completely deflating.

When I’m in my routine, I don’t have to worry about whether or not to eat or meditate. I make just one decision every morning – to do the thing I promised myself I’d do: stick to my routine.

The second cool thing about routines is that you get to perfect them over time. If you notice that you feel particularly tired on Tuesday afternoons, you can build in extra sleep on Monday nights. You get caught off guard less often because your routine includes all the really necessary activities like eating, sleeping, and resting.

The tricky thing, as with trying anything new while depressed, is the possibility of failure and the disproportionate disappointment that can come with. I recommend introducing just one activity at a time. Once you do that thing every day without struggle, introduce another. Try to be patient with yourself. You’re beautiful and complex, and this shit ain’t easy.

 

Photo by freeparking on Flickr

The Meta Thoughts

Bebop Sleeping

Bebop Sleeps

I was chilling on my back porch the other day with my adorable dog on my lap. Suddenly I was sure that the reason my doctor hadn’t called me back was that I have cancer and they don’t know how to break it to me. They know I’m depressed so they want me to come in in-person. I’m never going to have children and then for the rest of my life people will look at me and think, “How sad. She always wanted children.” A blow like this will sink me back into the worst of my depression. I’m never going to get better. That’s my future. I’m never getting better.

See that? Blink of an eye and I’m like four steps into my hypothetical, mourning my imagined losses, starting to panic.

This is the moment when therapy, or some other intentional recovery effort, does something. Before I started recovering, a turn like this would have landed me in bed, completely shut down and miserable. Now…

The Meta Thoughts

The Meta Thoughts

Enter: The META THOUGHTS

Instead of following the hypothetical, I realize that it’s just a hypothetical. I realize that I’m panicking, that I’m entering a tailspin. I realize that nothing bad has actually happened.

I got up, shook myself. Put a leash on my dog, went for a walk and called a friend.

After a bit of distraction and support from my friend, after I was able to calm down, I remembered that not every thought deserves its day in court (or its time in rumination-ville).

The appearance of the Meta Thoughts is new for me – the inkling that bad thoughts aren’t real events. If you don’t know what I’m talking about – I’m genuinely happy for you. If you do, try to remember, they’re there for you – those heroic Meta Thoughts.

 

Second photo by Lisa Cyr on Flickr.

God Wants You to be Happy

I’ve never believed in a higher power and I’ve never wanted to, except as a child when I thought my extended family believed I was going to hell. I’ve never had faith in Christ or heaven and I don’t want it.

book heartBut you don’t have to believe in magic to have respect for the sacred. You don’t have to be religious or spiritual to live a life of wonder or of meaning. In my life there’s never been anything as sacred, as wonderful, or as meaningful as love.

I find that if I replace the word “God” with the word “Love,” suddenly religious sentiments make sense to me.

I want to dedicate my life to love.

I’m moved by the idea of shaping myself into a vessel of love.

love and happinessSo when my aunt looked at me with love in her eyes and said that God wants me to be happy, it made perfect, profound, beautiful sense. It’s about permission. However you get there, whether it’s God telling you, or Love, or someone you deeply respect – it’s about permission to pursue your own happiness. Treating wellbeing as a valid goal – I’m not there yet, but I’m getting closer.

You’ve heard it before: God is love.

And you’ve felt it before: Love wants you to be happy.

Happy Dog

 

 

First photo by Marcelino Rapayla Jr. on Flickr

Second photo by Gustavo Jeronimo on Flickr

Final photo by Brit Selvitelle on Flickr