If you’ve been reading along, you know that I’ve recently gone through a nasty bout of depression. Because I was here writing, I got a glimpse into something I may not have noticed otherwise. And I’m so glad I did!
I believe that this is the crux of self-help, folks: paying attention to what you need. I’m convinced of it!
There were a succession of events that led up to the moment of realization. (If you don’t feel like clicking the link, I’m just gonna tell you that I realized I was not bored. I was actually depressed. I have been diagnosed with it before. Many times, in fact. I think it’s always in the background, waiting to pounce.)
- The time of year: weather. I love Autumn but hate winter. No, that’s not right. I don’t hate-it, hate-it, I just… get very tired of it very quickly. The overcast, heavier air makes my asthma worse, which means my oxygen levels go wonky and it gives me migraines, too. The painful kind, not the visual kind. Those come with bright sun on concrete and fluorescent lights. Both kinds of migraines are worsened by stress and anxiety. Just sayin’.
- The time of year: holidays. Christmas has become my least-favorite holiday. To me, it always meant family… and mine is far away. My husband and I try to make it as festive as possible but every-so-often (like this last year) we both crash and burn. Those are the years we do nothing. Nada. No lights, no tree, no movies or music. Zero. Bah humbug, indeed.
- Caffeine: should I or shouldn’t I? Here’s the thing. I love coffee. But I know it’s not good for me. So I try to quit. Over and over. I cut down, I give in and drink as much as I want. I make decaf, I make espresso. This also triggers migraines. And gets me hyped up and anxious. And then I crash (see above – it’s crashing season).
- Medication: should I or shouldn’t I? Here’s the thing. I hate medication. Except, evidently I need it. So I take it. And then I decide to go without some (or all) of it. This year, I give myself kudos for not going off all of it since I have hypertension and I could cause a stroke going off willy-nilly. But the antidepressants in particular – I HATE THEM. It pisses me off that I have to take them. I’ve tried to get off the blasted things at least three times in the last year. Late in the year, I was off for good. I mean zero. I was a friggin’ mess. I was dizzy. I felt like I was walking on air. So, I went back on them. I’m at 10mg a day. I should be on 20-30mg, or so my doctor and this stupid psychiatrist I saw said. But I’m staying at this dose. Damn the torpedos. (What does that even mean?) The point is, over the holidays, I was just getting back in the swing of taking them.
- Working: should I or shouldn’t I? Here’s the thing. I like working. Part-time. For myself, if possible. If not, I only ask for no stress. Ha! As if I, at nearly sixty, grey-haired and fat, can be picky. This is not to say I’m not talented because I am. For instance, I (for some reason) excel at sales. So, I was approached by a former boss about working for him. I gave it a lot of thought. Too much, I’m sure. This was in September/October, when the first of all of the above was occurring. Changing seasons, etc etc etc. I’d just left a job the month before. We really could use the money. I had ideas about working for myself but needed money to get them off the ground. Bottom line: I decided to go ahead and accept his offer. So, starting all over at a new place… new rules… new. What is that quote? “The Only Thing That Is Constant Is Change.” Heraclitus. I don’t even know who that is… but he’s right. Being adaptable is suppose to keep you young. Tell that to my hair.
- Exercise. There is no should I or shouldn’t I. I should. I wasn’t. At all. I sat so much my ass hurt from it. Three weeks ago, I joined a gym/club. Three times a week, I am not sitting on my ass, unless it’s to push weight with my arms. Not a bad trade off. They say exercise does all sorts of awesome things for your body and mind. Is it a coincidence that my mind (and my body, for that matter) feels better? My knees, which have been aching for months, feel better, except when I sit too long. My ankle now hurts like the dickens, but I’m hoping that will get better with time. I have arthritis, so it’s not unexpected. I have actual… ENERGY. I had none before.
- Sunshine. There is nothing that will raise my mood faster than sunshine. Even if it’s freezing cold, which is a good thing around here. The summer’s are hot and balmy and sometimes, that’s a mix for a lot of overcast days which equal – you guessed it, migraines. And depression. I told a funny story last week on Facebook. It still makes me giggle. On Friday, I looked outside and it was blazing sunlight. I stepped outside and realized I could get away with my hoodie (a sweatshirt) and scarf, draped lightly around my neck. It was a gorgeous day! I went about my business that day, even turning my heater in the car to fresh air. As I stopped at the market, I took out my phone to text my husband and noticed the temperature. 37 degrees Farenheit. Seriously. It felt warmish outside. Am I an honorary Canadian? Ha!
- Death. We can’t get away from it. It’s a fact of life. People and animals we love… die. We too shall one day die. Also a fact of life. Grieving feels a lot like depression. Sometimes, it’s easy to get them mixed up. Also, grieving losses that have not yet happened, but could (like my dad’s accident that sent our entire family into a whirlwind of “Will he make it?”). A friend of mine died in February. She’d introduced me to my first husband, who died in 2014. A whole whack of my early adult life disappeared with her death. It reminded me of earlier deaths and I began grieving those losses anew.
- Birthdays. Mine is in December. Last year, I turned 59. The last year of my “younger” years. Sixty is the line in the sand. I am no longer young. My third act begins and will, likely, not last as long as the first two.
All that happened last year and into the first of this year. I am not a victim of others… but I am a victim of my own body and mind.
In the last few days I have noticed a marked change. In fact, the last week or so has been better than most of the preceding three month’s worth.
In this short time, I have reorganized my purse, my medications, the bookshelf, the spices, the fridge, our coats and scarves, and the downstairs closet. I have put together a thrift store bag – well, four of them, actually.
I have more energy and less pain than I have in months.
I am taking my meds, drinking one cup of coffee, enjoying the sun and going to work out. Can eating well be far behind?
This is the thing about depression… it can blindside you. But there are some things you can watch for… it’s just that when you’re down, you don’t watch for them.
This is the beginning of my best time of year (although fall is my favorite, with the colors, the brisk air, the cocoa). I am going to take advantage of it and try, try, try to remember this next year… BEFORE I let it all get to me.