What does coping with mild to moderate depression look like in practice? I can only share from my experience of what works. I feel it’s important to put the both the good and the bad days out there, so maybe someone who doesn’t have a solid toolbox of coping tools can learn from my mistakes and my battle-earned wisdom. This is something I wrote a few months ago but wasn’t ready to publish then. It’s how a bad but not-too-bad day feels, and it’s what I do to make it through.
May 3, 2018: Today is a full-on depression day. I don’t want to move. I don’t want to sleep. I desperately need a shower, but that feels impossible to do. Honestly, the whole last week has been some version of this that I have generally been able to overcome. Today, though, is ridiculously hard for some reason. I feel like screaming or crying or flopping on the ground in some sort of catatonic state. But all of those require an initial effort, and today I just can’t.
Maybe today is harder because I didn’t sleep well last night or because my period started, and it feels like my uterus is trying to kill me. Maybe my hormones are out of whack. Maybe pollen is God’s greatest curse on Adam and Eve, and so snot is also trying to kill me. Maybe. There could be a million reasons why, but none of them matter. Because I just can’t.
So how do I get through today in some moderately adult fashion (since throwing tantrums is frowned upon at my age)? I will pray a lot. None of my prayers today will sound very dignified.
This morning I muttered and grumbled because I couldn’t find clean underwear for my child since it seems all her clothes are either dirty and scattered all over her room or in the washer, which I forgot to transfer into the dryer and must wash again. And then I said, “God, you could just find me a pair of underwear,” as I searched through a pile of unfolded clean clothes all belonging to me. Behold, a pair of tiny human underwear was in the midst of the pile. I will hope today that God answers all my obnoxious demands so perfectly to my liking, but the reality is, he will get me through it, pretty or not; how prettily will mostly depend on my attitude.
Besides praying undignified, muttered, short and snappy prayers, how will I cope with today? Mostly I will just keep talking to myself and reminding myself to breathe in. Breathe out. Take the next step, whatever it is.
One minute at a time isn’t so huge, so I can walk to the bathroom and start the shower. I can wash my hair and cry where I won’t scare the dogs or tiny human, and then I can get out and do the next thing. I won’t think about the whole day or my to-do list or what’s coming up this weekend. I will gently tell myself that I did something great by bathing, and I will tell myself that I can do more great things today, like brush my teeth. Even though I desperately want to eat my weight in ice cream or peanut butter or chocolate, I will eat good food in moderation, and I will celebrate by telling myself, “we can do this; we can make it through the day.” And even though I feel like kicking people in the shins and sticking my tongue out at them while I run away, I will smile instead, and I will hold my feet still, and I will celebrate by reminding myself that on a normal day my smile is my secret weapon. I can coax a smile out of the grumpiest of folks if I look them in the eye and smile – it’s my best and favorite superpower.
Everyone has some superpower, and a sparkling-eyed smile is mine (procrastination is also one).
But I’m not a nice and friendly person when I feel this depressed. Generally, I shut down and avoid all contact, but when I don’t, I am sharp-tongued and angry. It’s not pretty. I actually take pleasure in the mean things I think – and sometimes let slip – and then I feel awful for being a jerk. More self-loathing to add to the heap of horrible I already feel. And even though I know it’s fleeting – this will pass in a few days – it feels like I will feel like this forever. I almost edited that last sentence because I overused the word “feel,” but then I realized that’s the key to my self-talk coping.
I speak truth to my feelings.
It turns out, feelings can lie. My depression feelings are depraved liars because they tell me I’m worthless. They tell me it doesn’t matter what I do because no one cares. They tell me it’s okay to skip my life and wallow in self-loathing and self-pity. None of that is true, and in my heart I know that I am a creation of God; I have intrinsic value as his child. I am a worthy daughter of the King. I have to tell myself the truth over and over, and even when my feelings make it impossible to believe, I can still act on the truth. Once I make that first move into the light of truth, I start to feel better. Each act builds on that momentum until I realize that I made it to lunch without falling into my pit of despair. Then I made it to dinner and through the tiny human’s bedtime, and then it’s my bedtime, and I made it.
Tomorrow may be just as hard, but I can tell the truth tomorrow, too.
What truth do your feelings need to hear right now? Listen in your soul, and hear the voice of God tell you this: you are precious and valuable. You are loved. You are worthy of love. Today may be hard, but the load will get lighter the more you listen to his truth, the more his truth lives in you and fills you up. Jesus is waiting to carry the load for you if you’ll let him. There is an army of people surviving depression who are cheering for you and love you and want nothing more than to lift you up. My door is always open. Join me in the Mabbat FB group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/773975689656609/?ref=bookmarks or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org if a group feels too scary.