Depression is not a weakness, it is a very clever way that your brain warns you that something in your life is seriously out of balance. Yes, this may be a chemical imbalance, but I believe there are many people out there whose ‘lives’ are out of balance.
I believe the best thing you can do when you are depressed, is not to focus on too many goals, but choose one or two maximum. These goals must however be related to the imbalances in your life. Go easy on yourself, if you normally take a run each morning, but have broken your leg, would you try to continue to go on your morning run? Of course not, you rest and adjust until you heal, and this is exactly how you should be with yourself when you are depressed.
So where to start?
Start with YOU. By this, I mean you need a greater understanding of yourself, this for me is one of the best ways to make progress in your life. If you don’t know what your needs are, how the hell are you going to meet them? Yes, humans have basic needs, one of which is quality interactions with other people. This is essential and I am not talking about the quantity of people in your life but the quality of people in your life.
One of the things that has been revealed to me during my self-awareness journey, is that I have few friends for two main reasons; 1) I like a certain type of friendship and 2) I have missed opportunities of good friendships because I haven’t been a good friend.
The type of friendship I like is a close friendship, someone I can fully trust, who can open up to me and who I can open up to. A friend who is non-judgemental, basically a good soul. Someone who isn’t just interested in the good experiences with me but who is there for me when times are not so good. Many years ago, I lost the few friends I had, this coincided with me being made redundant. Shortly afterwards my friends drifted away, I realised they just wanted to go out and party, which is kinda difficult when you have no money when you’ve just lost your job. This hurt a lot at the time, but they did me a favour because they weren’t my true friends.
I realise that I have not always been a ‘good’ friend to others, however, now I have awareness of this, I am trying to make more of an effort to be there for the couple of friends I have. I am trying to make each meet up with my friends more enjoyable, honing in on my humour, being present and enjoying the moment. I have recently spent quite a bit of time with a friend helping them shop for Christmas, when I was all done for Christmas, I had a million things to do at home, but I asked myself what was more important? I decided my friend was more important, my chores can wait. I realise this goes against the grain of learning to say ‘No’, but the value I got out of spending time with my friend did not compare to my ‘To Do’ list.
- Research self-awareness techniques
- Shadow work
- The Myers-Briggs personality test
- Journal for self-reflection
The above recommendations are some to the things I have done and continue to do. Self-awareness is not just something you do once, yes, the personality test only needs doing once (if you are completely honest, when taking it). Things like journalling, self-reflection should be on-going, they should be part of your routine, even if you do periodically. Even shadow work can take many years and may again need to be revisited from time to time.
Another thing I do is to ask myself questions, questions like ‘why do you feel anxious?’ or ‘what do you think is causing you to feel depressed’? Unless you are highly self-aware, these are questions you may need to ask yourself daily over days or weeks. I realise the cause of my depression is loneliness, something I had great difficulty in admitting. Most people think of me as a highly independent person, I often reinforce this by saying ‘I don’t need anybody’, but I now know through self-awareness exercises that I do, it is a necessity. I don’t need anyone financially, I may struggle with my finances, but I have a roof over my head, food on my table and clothes on my back, but I do need meaningful human interaction.
Introversion is not a Disability
Society favours people who are extrovert, financially successful with lots of friends. This is what we are fooled to believe we need. It is okay to be an introvert, in fact many introverts have had a profound positive impact in this world we live. If you are an introvert, you are in good company, it is nothing to be ashamed of, some famous historical and living introverts are Albert Einstein, Meryl Streep, J.K. Rowling and Bill Gates. So, rather than introversion being a disadvantage, it can be a great advantage. We don’t have to be super rich, we can be comfortable and appreciate the things we already have. As for having lots of friends, just a small group of quality friends are all some of us need.
It will Pass
I am currently depressed, it is not unusual for me to cry when I wake as I realise I have to face another day, my sadness is lingering even when I am not crying. It lays below the surface, ready to emerge with a single thought I have. But, one thing I know is that this depression is temporary, it will pass. My depression is not me, it is my highly intelligent body telling me to take action to ‘fix’ things. When I wake up feeling very low and not wanting to get out of bed, I have created a voice in my head, a strong voice which says something like, ‘Come on Jane, you can do this’ or ‘you are strong, resilient, you can get past this’. This voice I have created is my voice only stronger, more confident and somehow it works, it gets me out of my bed and some days this is my only goal.
Now I know how difficult it is to be grateful when you are feeling low, but please put the effort in, even if it doesn’t work, wait a few hours and try again and keep trying until it does work. I have been doing this the past week and for the past couple of days I actually want to get out of bed. I wake up and deliberately think how lucky I am, I try to ‘feel’ how lucky I am and guess what? I feel a sense of emotional excitement build up within me. This is made it particularly easier to get out of bed the past few days, something which I have struggled with for weeks now. I try to be grateful a couple of times a day, apart from helping me, it feels good too.
I have had bouts of depression in the past, however, it is different this time, as I do not view depression as a weakness. Therefore, I am not ‘punishing’ myself with thoughts that I am weak, as I did in the past. I am nurturing myself, having thoughts of encouragement, I am being my own ‘true’ and ‘caring’ friend. Whilst this has not cured my depression, I can feel some improvement. It is helping me to weather the storm, giving me strength to hold on to that piece of driftwood until the storm passes, because I know it will pass!