I was directed to this on the internet by a friend, and felt it was worth reblogging. It’s a wonderful blog post, and I couldn’t have written it better myself. Please read it, it’s well worth the read. SO well written and expressive, and I don’t even need to mention the important content, do I? Peace out and be well, my friends.
A while ago, I penned a fairly angry response to something circulating on the internet – the 21 Habits of Happy People. It pissed me off beyond belief, that there was an inference that if you weren’t Happy, you simply weren’t doing the right things.
I’ve had depression for as long as I can remember. It’s manifested in different ways. I did therapy. I did prozac. I did more therapy. My baseline is melancholic. I’d just made peace with it when I moved, unintentionally, to a place that had markedly less sunshine in the winter. I got seasonal depression. I got that under control. Then I got really, really sick. Turns out it’s a permanent, painful genetic disorder. My last pain-free day was four years ago.
So, this Cult of Happy article just set me off. Just… anger. Rage. Depression is serious – debilitating, often dangerous, and it’s got an enormous stigma. It leaves people to fend for themselves.
It’s bad enough without people ramming Happy Tips at you through facebook. There is no miracle behaviour change that will flip that switch for you. I know, I’ve tried.
A friend of mine suggested that I write something from my point of view because, surprisingly, I manage to give an outwards impression of having my shit together. I was shocked to hear this. And I find this comical, but I see her point. I’m functioning. I’ve adapted. I’m surprisingly okay. I think the medical term is “resilient”.
So, here it is.
My 21 Tips on Keeping Your Shit Together During Depression
1) Know that you’re not alone. Know that we are a silent legion, who, every day face the solipsism and judgement of Happy People Who Think We Just Aren’t Trying. There are people who are depressed, people who have been depressed, and people who just haven’t been hit with it yet.
2) Understand that the Happy People are usually acting out of some genuine (albeit misguided) concern for you, that it’s coming from a good place, even if the advice feels like you’re being blamed for your disease. Telling you these things makes them feel better, even if it makes you feel like shit. (If they insist on keeping it up, see #12.)
3) Enlist the help of a professional. See your doctor. You need to talk about the ugly shit, and there are people paid to listen and help you find your way to the light at the end of the tunnel.
4) Understand that antidepressants will only do so much. They’re useful, they’ll level you out and give you the time you need to figure out your own path to getting well. They can be helpful. There are lots to choose from. They may not be for you, and even if they are, they take some time to kick in. Conversely, they may not be for you. Work with your doctor.
5) Pick up a paintbrush, a pencil, an activity you got joy from in the past and re-explore that. Or, sign up for the thing you always wanted to try. There is a long history and link between depression and creativity. It’s a bright light of this condition, so utilize it to your best advantage.
6) Eat nutritionally sound, regular small meals. If you’re having trouble eating, try to focus on what you’d like to eat. I went through a whole six week episode of tomatoes and cream cheese on a bagel twice a day. Not great, but it was something – helpful context, I’m a recovered anorexic. Conversely, if all you want to do is scarf down crap, try to off-ramp it by downing a V-8 and doing #9 for 15 minutes, and see how you feel. Chucking your blood sugar all over hell’s half acre is going to make you feel worse.
7) While you’re doing #3, get some bloodwork done. If you’re low on iron or vitamin D, or if your hormone levels are doing the Macarena… these can all contribute to zapping your energy or switching your mood to Bleak As Hell.
8) If you’re in bed and the “insomnia hamsters”, as I like to call them, are on the wheel of your head, watch Nightly Business News on PBS. This has the effect of Nyquil. Swap out your coffee for herbal tea. If you just cannot sleep, try the next tip….
9) Learn how to meditate. Start by focusing on your breathing. Not sleep, not thoughts. In through the nose, out through the mouth. Meditation is focusing on being present in your body, not careening around in your brain. It may not be as good as sleep but it will give you some rest and recharge you.
10) Face a window as often as you can – at work, at home. Look out into the world. Watch. Observe. Try to find something you find pretty or interesting to focus on. And, handily remember that one in five of those people out there feel the way you do.
11) Cry. Better out than in. Sometimes it’s not convenient or career-enhancing to cry, so find a private place as best you can and let the tears go. Carry Kleenex and face wipes and extra concealer if you wear makeup. You can always claim allergies.
12) Any “friend” who resolutely believes that your depression is because you’re lazy, because you’re not trying hard enough, who blames you for not bootstrapping out of it- that friend needs to be cut off. Polite (#2) is one thing, but there is a limit. You don’t have to explain, you can just not respond. You feel badly enough, you don’t need their “assistance”.
13) Limit your time with people who drain you. You know who they are. Often you don’t have a choice- but you can put the meter on. And, subsequently, be aware of what you’re asking of those close to you.
14) Everyone has shit they’ve got to deal with. What you have been saddled with is your shit. Recognize, just as you’re not alone, you’re also not unique. The grass may look greener, you may be jealous or envious of others who don’t have to deal with depression, but you likely do not know everything that’s going on with them.
15) Let go or be dragged. This is an old Buddhist saying. It’s a very useful way to frame aspects of depression. Betrayal, anger, fear… letting go is a process – often a painful and difficult process – but it’s ultimately going to show you the path out of this terrible place. Repeating the mantra can help when you’re feeling gripped by these feelings.
16) Wear clothes that make you feel confident. It takes as much time to put on nice clothes as it does to put on sweatpants. You will want to wear the sweatpants. Fight the urge. The whole “look good/feel better” campaign isn’t limited to cancer and chemotherapy. Or women.
17) Avoid fictional drama and tragedy like the plague. No Grey’s Anatomy, no to The Notebook, or anything that won a Pulitzer prize. You’ve got enough going on In Real Life. Comedy only. Or trashy stuff. Old episodes of WonderWoman? I’ve got the box set. Mindless drivel, like the latest CGI blockbuster. Or clever, funny books. David Sedaris. Jenny Lawson. Fiction exists to elicit emotion, and the emotion you need to express most right now is laughter.
18) Simple exercise, if you can. It can be something as simple as taking the stairs up a flight, or walking around the block. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, it doesn’t have to involve climbing a mountain or running a marathon. Baby steps.
19) Depression will lie to you. Depression will try to tell you what others are thinking. That you are unloved and unworthy, that others think little of you or don’t care – or even wish you harm. You are not a psychic. Keep repeating that. “I am not a psychic”. Repeat. The only way to know what another person is thinking is to up and ask them.
20) If you are well and truly losing this battle, reach out to someone. I’ve been the random friendly-but-not-close person who has fielded the occasional outreach. I like to think I’m not judgemental and generally resourceful, and others have thought the same, so they called and asked. You know someone like me. And they will help you.
21) Forgive yourself. I’m writing out all these tips, and I can’t always muster the strength to even stick my nose outside, or walk up the stairs, or eat my vegetables. Today, I got outside for ten minutes. I will try again tomorrow. And I will try again the day after that.
This list will not cure you. This list will not flip on the happy switch. God, I wish it were that easy. The theme here is to not to unknowingly sabotage yourself. All these little things? Like your blood sugar, or watching nonstop episodes of House, or endless Try Harder lectures from your Perpetually Perky sister?
They all make dealing with depression just a tiny bit harder than it needs to be. And it’s hard enough, all on its own.
UPDATE: Wow, guys. Thank you. The feedback has been wonderful – all I wanted to set out to do was something helpful.
For those of you who want to see the original rant, Here it is.. http://www.diycouturier.com/post/41923259437/to-the-person-who-wrote-21-habits-…
And here’s the response to my response (?) – basically, after posting my retort, the happy people came at me with torches all over the interwebs.
Also, a few people have mentioned that having a critter is a great thing to keep you on track, that taking care of something and having something rely on you keeps you going. I went back and forth on including that, but for some, it’s just not feasible to have a cat or a dog… but my cat is my Prozac.
And, I wrote this in Canada, where we have universal health care. It breaks my heart that people don’t have access to professional support. You can sometimes find a community health centre, or sometimes your work benefits will have an employee support or assistance plan as part of your insurance. If you’re without benefits and hitting desperation, phone someone. Friend, family – even your local distress centre.
Stay well, my melancholic interweb friends…xoRR
I’m not often speechless. It’s not usually hard for me to know what to say, but writing in this blog has been so hard for me lately, and that’s not like me. It’s like I feel like I’m supposed to have the “answers,” as if 1) there are certain answers one has to follow as a member of Al-Anon and 2) I know them.
Let’s get a couple things squared away. The only “answers” I really know in Al-Anon are told to me (either through the other members, the big book of Al-Anon, my sponsor, whatever) by my higher power. And what I don’t know will be revealed in time. I trust that. I trust it as easily as I trust the sun to rise every morning and to set every night. There is a God, and it’s not me.
Which brings me to the second part of what I’ve been feeling and why it’s been so hard to write lately. Not only are there certain answers, but I have them. Alcoholic boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse/parent/sibling/friend? Just come to me. I’ll cure what ails you. NOT. So not. What I say on here, what I share on here, on this pithy little blog, is just my own experience, strength and hope. I don’t have the answers anymore than the next guy.
What scares me is when I write posts like “Five Ways to Tell if You’re Codependent,” because it makes it sound like I’m an expert, which – we’ve just just established – I’m really not.
So if you’re here for answers, you’re in the wrong place. If you’re here because you just want to hang with another struggling, trying-to-get-her-act-together codependent, you are so in the right place. And man, can we have some fun. Because my life is anything but boring. I’m worried about two people right now, my mom (who is not an alcoholic) and my sister (who is). More on that tomorrow.
Why not just live in the moment, especially if it has a good beat? ~Goldie Hawn
Forever is composed of nows. ~Emily Dickinson
Okay, I’ve posted a lot about One Day At A Time, but . . . well I guess it’s because I think for me it’s one of the core parts of the Al-Anon program. And today I really need it. So bear with me.
I’ve gotten three hours’ sleep in the past 48 hours, and it’s exactly because I’m not living in the present. I think I mentioned I’m in a local choir. One of the group members has made it his personal mission to make sure I know what I’m doing wrong. Well, after our 1st Christmas concert, which I loved singing so much, he made a comment that gave me my first sleepless night. Then I caught up during the week.
But – as Friday approached (the next concert) I anticipated more and more the comment he made about the glaring mistake I had made. Thursday night I slept about three hours. Last night, even though the concert went well, I worried because the director herself reminded us about the mistake I myself had made. Okay, so maybe I wasn’t the only one doing it, but . . . Then last night I didn’t sleep at all.
So I’m exhausted. Scratch that. I’m beyond that point. You know when you get so tired that you can’t even sleep? But you don’t want to move . . . Tonight is our final concert, and tomorrow we go caroling.
What would it have hurt me to take the comment in for a moment, accept it as someone trying to be helpful, and let it go? (Sung to the tune of “Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow. . . )
I would have been rested and happy today. Because all we can do is the very best we can with what we have been given at the time, and for this day, this moment. THIS is all there is. It’s such a beautiful thing, life, that to waste one moment of it in worry is to lose something we’ll never get back.
If you are struggling with anything this season: gift-buying, long lines in stores, traffic, harried customers, party preparations, parties to get to, difficult relatives . . . take several deep breaths. Remember this. Nothing lasts forever. You only have to handle this one day, one hour, one moment.
So sorry I haven’t been posting a while. Haven’t been well, almost had to go into the hospital, my doctor had to change a bunch of my meds, and on top of that I’m in a senior choral production of Broadway show tunes. So I have been very busy, very sad but with that fine-fine face that I know some of you will know what I’m talking about.
However, that’s not what I wanted to talk about today. Some kind of transformation has taken place in me through all this, you know, “stuff.” It’s made me stronger, braver, and not afraid to say the truth. Sometimes my voice shakes when I say it, but I still speak the truth.
It was never brought home to me more than Friday afternoon when a friend of mine, who was my sister’s friend first (so, you get that she knows both of us) called and asked how I was doing. Then she said, “How’s _____ doing?”
“_______’s great.” I said.
“What’s that mean?” she asked me.
“You know what?” I said. “Why don’t you call ______ and ask her what it means?”
“Oh, I will, I will, I was planning on calling her.”
Whew. I tell you, that was THE hardest conversation I’d had in a long time. This is someone who is used to pumping me for information about my sister. And in the past I’m ashamed to say I doled it out.
You know what? It’s not ME she needs to ask how my sister is doing, and it’s not my place to give out that information.
She never did call my sister. Not as brave as the average bear, eh, Booboo? It would involve apologizing for not being there for her in the past, and maybe she’s not ready to go there. I don’t know. That’s HER inventory. I’ve got enough on my own plate.
May I just say that I am boot-kickin’ proud of myself? So is my sister. I told her, in preparation for a phone call from this friend.
How have you been bold, bad, and beautiful lately? It’s show and tell time. So COME ON DOWN!!! W00t W00t!
I hope you are awake, Gentle Readers, because I need your advice this morning. There is an anniversary celebration at my “home” Al-Anon meeting, the Peace at the End of the Road meeting this morning. There will be a breakfast followed by an Al-Anon speaker, an AA speaker, and an Al-Ateen speaker. I’m psyched about it.
Except for one thing. The Al-Anon speaker will be Karen, and she’s someone who REALLY hurt my feelings at a non-al-anon function, trying to “school” me in how things were done (when there weren’t any hard and fast rules). Actually, she brought me to tears in front of a bunch of strangers.
I’ve since forgiven her, but still–my feelings are there, you know? I feel extremely uncomfortable around her and it’s hard to trust anything she says, it’s hard to trust mySELF with her for sure. I would never feel comfortable to speak at a table with her again.
I want to go SO BAD, but everything in me is screaming AVOID – be afraid, be very afraid. My ubersponsor will be there, but even that doesn’t seem safe enough.
What do you all think? PLEASE, I need some honest opinions, and I need them by at least 9:00 EST.
Everything was set. I had just finished straightening out the family room, the kitchen was clean, the downstairs bathroom (the one I mostly use), my bedroom . . . I was as ready as I was going to get. And I was excited. My UBERSPONSOR was coming to my HOUSE!! You have to know that I never let anyone come over. Not my friends, anyway. Mom’s friends come over frequently, and family of course.
Then, my cell rang. It was Uber, herself. Plumbing problems at the house, she couldn’t get away, was it possible for me to come to her instead?
Now, I’d been to Uber’s house a zillion times. We often meet at her house. I didn’t hesitate, just said “That sounds terrific. I’ll be there in half an hour.”
A year ago, heck, six months ago, I might have said, “Are you kidding?” I don’t care if the roof is caving in!! Do you know what I’ve been going through expecting you to come this morning? Drop everything and get your butt over here right now.”
Yeah. Not very attractive or kind, is it? Uber would not have dropped a single thing, by the way. She would have listened to me rant and rave, then very kindly have restated her problem and her position and that she was sorry she couldn’t be there today. I love her so much!!
But I’m amazed – now that I can look back – that I’ve changed that much in a year. I can be spontaneous now. It’s okay. It’s not that bigga deal. It’s not the end of the world. I can deal. I don’t have to control every single moment of my life.
Just a couple things about this step. Some people, in their zeal to “come clean,” list every single person they think they have every harmed, including their children if their feelings got hurt when they were grounded, and things like that.
I am not responsible for other peoples’ unfulfilled desires. Simple as that. Other peoples’ expectations are not my responsibility unless I have helped to create them.
Also, willingness is key here. Some people find it helpful to divide their list into three parts: the people they are willing to make amends with, the people they might be willing to make amends with, and the people whey never will be willing to make amends with. As they work through the list, they find that some of the “mights” become “willings” and some of the “neverwills” become “maybes.”
Just something to chew on. It doesn’t have to be done perfectly. It just has to get done.
Withdrawal sucks. No two . . . okay, well maybe two words about it.
It’s been over 24 hours since I checked my blog stats. Now, before you start snorting Pepsi out your nose and all over your computer screen, please realize this is a very big deal for me. In the not-too-distant past, I’ve been known to check my stats anywhere from 1-8 times a day, to see how many likes I’ve been getting, what posts are most read, etc.
Even now, my fingers ache oh-so-bad to just click over and see how things are going.
Knowing where this comes from doesn’t make it any easier. Who do you know that had a fairy tale childhood, with a happily ever after ending? KNOWING is useless. I deal with it, I’ve forgiven it, let it go, “over with, done with, gone” . . .
Then stuff like this crops up, like a weed among the flowers, or . . . better yet, a flower that suddenly sprouts up through a crack in the sidewalk. Ever see one of those? I have. They are little miracles. They remind me that I’m not quite finished, and maybe I never will be.
But you know what? It’s okay. I’ve got plenty of time. Acceptance will carry me through for now.
It’s just okay.
Have you ever just felt like you were going to explode inside? Like you had all these pent up feelings you didn’t know what to do with? I feel like Mt. Vesuvius ready to blow, and I worry for whomever might be in my path in the next few days.
I really want to just get in my car and drive. I mean for a distance, and for a long time, until I’m somewhere I’ve never been where no one knows me and there aren’t any expectations, no one hanging on me for this or that, or rides here or there… I’m just . . . grrrr. So – EDGY. I feel like I want to throw things and jump up and down like a two-year-old, and I’ve never felt like that in my entire life.
So glad I’m going to a meeting this morning, because even though I can’t “dump” all this at the meeting, I can talk about the edginess, and the newness of these feelings. I can dump the wanting to run away with my sponsor and talk about what to do with that. WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN ALL YOU WANT TO DO IS RUN AWAY??? When everything within you is screaming, “Go away! Very fast! Now, while you still have a chance and before you get sucked into the mire and can’t get out at all!!”
Dear God, I don’t even know where these feelings are coming from. Dear Reader, I don’t expect you to have the answers. This is just my safe place. My go to place, where I can come and lay it out. It WILL work out. I’m scared because these are quite unexpected feelings for me, that’s all. It’s normal and perfectly all right to be scared.
It’s already okay, right?
Remember way back when in April or maybe the end of March some time when I talked about cleaning my car, Tweetybird? Yeah, I never did.
Not until yesterday and the day before, until I was backed against the wall and we were going to take my sister to her court date. But I did it! She’s beautiful again. And I am SO SORE, from bending over and picking up empty iced tea bottles and cans, Coke cans, etc, and putting them in trash bags (no, when I’m in full-on clean mode like this, I do NOT recycle, sorry).
The only thing I have left to do is vacuum and get my baby washed. THEN you are in for a treat, because I’m going to post pictures. I would’ve taken before/after pictures, but I was just too embarrassed to let you see my baby before. She was sooooo sad.
Yes, courage to change is also about little things like this, and how much better they can make us feel. I may be sore in body today, but I am soaring in spirit.
Okay, so I can totally relate to this picture here. When it comes to the Third Step, Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him, I’m a total control freak with the big things.
And what exactly ARE the big things? I mean, I can turn over parking spaces, book ideas, my dog’s ear infection and different things like that.
But when it comes to people I love it’s an entirely different story. I have a pretty big deal coming up on the 29th, next Tuesday, and I’ve been talking around it, and in vague terms. Today I’m just going to come right out and say it, because I could use your prayers or comments of support, whatever you can offer me. Even just your “likes” on this post will send my heart soaring. Honestly.
My sister was arrested for her 4th drunk driving and I’m driving her to court on Tuesday. She faces from 1-5 YEARS in prison. There is a possibility of treatment instead, so we’re praying about that. Fortunately, she didn’t hurt anyone else while she was driving (or herself), so she’s not dealing with manslaughter charges.
I’ve been doubling up on my Al-Anon meetings, and talking to my sponsor a lot, because my sister calls me often to speak to me, looking for reassurance, or just to talk. She speculates much about the future, and I try to help her take it one day at a time, and one hour at a time if she needs to. We just DON’T KNOW what will happen. Only God knows.
That’s where I get hung up. I get all twisted up inside when I think about Tuesday. As much as I’m reassuring her, I think of how much I will miss my sister. No matter what happens, she will go away for quite a while. If it’s treatment, it will be long term somewhere. I talk to her every day without fail except for when she is drinking. Then I miss her the most.
The only time I have peace with this is when I’m sleeping. I try so hard to turn her over. I pray to my higher power, which is God, and I say, “I know she belongs to You. She was Yours way before I ever even knew her. You can take such good care of her if I just let go. Help me to let go. Please.” *laughing* Praying a prayer for help to turn someone over doesn’t even seem to make a lick of sense, does it?
But it’s the best I can do for now.
Sponsorship is one of the tools of recovery in Twelve Step programs. I, however, would call it more than a tool. I would call it absolutely necessary for honest recovery. Whereas I can fool myself pretty much all of the time, I can never fool my sponsor for very long. Nor would I want to.
This morning, I went to an OA meeting. I admitted that I’m still in deep denial about the whole process. I didn’t even admit that I’m a compulsive overeater. I merely said “Hi, I’m Chris” and began my sharing.
The miracle though, the one I’m referring to with the picture I’ve inserted here, is what I did even before the meeting started. I approached a woman I’d been thinking about whom I listened to at my very first meeting. Her name is Mary, and she has a strong program, I can tell. Plus, she seems like she would know what to do if you called her in a panic. You know what I mean?
I already have a strong Al-Anon sponsor. But Dori would not know what to do about compulsive overeating because she does not struggle with that addiction.
So I saw Mary getting out of her car, and even before the meeting starting I walked up to her and asked her. “I’m still in deep denial about the whole thing. I just thought you should know.” I told her. “But I’m willing to do whatever you ask me to do. Absolutely anything.” She never hesitated. She wrote her phone number on the inside of my Big Book of AA (our basic text for OA).
I’m calling her at 6:00 tonight. I’m SO looking forward to it.
The tenth step of Al-Anon says: “Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.” It’s one of those steps I take on a daily basis, or try to, before I hit the sheets at night, during my prayer time. I ask God to point out to me any areas where I might need to make amends. I also acknowledge any successes or achievements throughout the day, and am grateful for those. It’s a time for me to make any adjustments in my life.
The adjustments aren’t always easy, and sometimes take much longer than the recognition comes. You know?
So this morning I was aware when I spoke with my sister that I had been stepping over boundaries left and right into her program. Worried, I had been speaking out of that and telling her what I think would happen or what I think she should be doing.
When I look at my hands and my arms, I see the scars still there from self-harm (cutting and burning). The ways I coped in the past with my codependency were so varied, convoluted and harmful. I still mess up, as witnessed by stepping on boundaries. I took the picture to remind myself I’m so very human. I’m no better than anyone else.
So I spoke with her, I apologized, told her I overstepped my bounds. This time I said, “I only know what I can do. I don’t know what’s going to happen. The only thing I know for a fact is that I love you.”
The world is an amazing place, I’m convinced of this more and more each day. Not only in the nature of its glory around me, but in the people I come in contact with every moment.
Yesterday morning, I went to my (previously) usual Blueprint For Progress 4th Step meeting, which started out much larger than it now consists of, which is myself and three other women. I brought the key to the church building I’d been given in case the group leader couldn’t be there, and nothing else.
My intention was to explain to them why I had missed four weeks in a row – because of the severe depression I initially went through, and then an inability to catch up. Our group started on January 2nd of this year and has continued every Monday morning at 8:30 EST, just before the usual Al-Anon meeting at said church.
Anyway, I intended to quit the 4th step group that morning.
Instead of accepting my intention, they told me how glad they were I was feeling better, and told me I was not very far behind. Apparently, they got distracted during the “Commitment” section, and spent three weeks on it instead of the customary one week. How wonderful for me! They so WANT me back! Weird, huh? I mean, for me. To be wanted like that.
Also, I lost my job at the library, and was granted a second chance, when I got honest about the depression and how severe it was. I had not shown up three times, and as there is no phone at the Book Nook desk, there is no one for me to call to say I won’t be there. As chance would have it, the coordinator of the Book Nook needed to speak with me the third time I no-showed, and e-mailed me to say they wouldn’t be needing me anymore.
Hence, my reply back, pleading my case, and her gracious and compassionate reply.
People truly blow my mind. They astound me in their capacity to love.
Have you been given a second chance, or have you given someone else a second chance? Please share (people love love stories).