Dealing with chronic mental illness is hard. A few months ago I finished TMS to treat my depression and anxiety and it helped but I still struggle. I have a friend who is in AA who talks about working the program…doing the steps you continually need to do to stay healthy…and I realized how much I relate to that right now.
TMS gave me a reset button but I still have bad days. I still feel myself dip back into that dark place. I have more tools now than ever and that helps but sometimes the only thing that I accomplish in a day is just surviving. It’s both an amazing achievement while also tinged with shame as you see others who seem to whiz past you as you barely tread water. Maybe they’re treading water too. You can’t tell. You’re just trying to breathe.
Today is one of those days for me. I think it’s the weather. It’s dreary and rainy and my joints hurt and it makes me not want to get out even though my doctor prescribed walking 30 minutes a day to keep my depression at bay. It’s part of my program. Today I took Hailey to school and then I went back to bed and stayed there until noon. I didn’t enjoy it. People without depression won’t understand that, but the fatigue of mental illness makes your very body a prison. The bed smelled sour. I couldn’t concentrate on reading. Victor is out of town so I have no one to make me get up.
But I have to work the program. So I got up. I walked in the cold for 10 minutes. Then I did another 10. Then I hit 30. I brushed my teeth and took a shower. I brought my light therapy lamp out of storage. I wrote this post.
This is a good day. As far as mental illness is concerned, that is. I got out of bed. That in itself is pretty amazing. It doesn’t always happen. But today it did and I’m proud of that. I will continue to work my program.
It’s a program I add to all the time, finding tools that work for me. I share them with others. Others share them with me. We get along. Together. And alone.
So today I’m sharing some of my steps. I’m not sharp enough to think of them all but for now I’m writing them down to remind myself that I’m worth following them. If you have steps that help you please share them.
- Follow your doctors orders. For me that means antidepressants and behavioral therapy.
- Exercise 30 minutes a day, 6 days a week.
- Get sunlight, or if you can’t, use light therapy. Do not over use even though you want to.
- Treat yourself like you would your favorite pet. Plenty of fresh water, lots of rest, snuggles as needed, allow yourself naps.
- Avoid negativity. That means the news, people, movies. It will all be there when you’re healthy again. The world will get on without you seeing it.
- Forgive yourself. For being broken. For being you. For thinking those are thing that you need forgiveness for.
- Those terrible things you tell yourself? Can you imagine if the person you love most was telling themselves those things? You’d think they were crazy. And wrong. They think the same about you. Those negative things you are thinking are not rational. Remember that depression lies and your brain is not trustworthy.
- Give yourself permission to recover. I’m lucky that I can work odd hours and take mental health days but I still feel shitty for taking them. Realize that sometimes these slow days are necessary and healthy and utterly responsible.
- Watch Doctor Who.
- Love on an animal. Go adopt a rescue or if you can’t go to the shelter and just snuggle a kitten. Then realize that that same little kitten that you’re cradling isn’t going to accomplish shit but is still wonderful and lovely and so important. You are that kitten.
- Get up. Go brush your teeth. Go take a hot shower. If you do nothing else today just change into a new pair of pajamas. It helps.
- Remember that you are not alone. There are crisis lines filled with people who want to help. There are people who love you more than you know. There are people who can’t wait to meet you because you will teach them how unalone they are. You are so worthy of happiness and it will come.
One day when I’m in a better place I will come back to this and fix the typos and add all the things I’ve forgotten but today I know that if I don’t publish it I will delete it and hate myself for not finishing it. So I’m publishing it. And I suppose that’s another step. Trust in your words, even when you second-guess them.
Sorry this is so rambly. It’s the best I can do.