ungrateful

Lately, I have had some days in which I’ve felt a painful inability to feel grateful.  DEPRESSION.  Such a shameful feeling for someone like me, whose spirituality centers on gratitude and recognizing all the things for which I am thankful.  And yet somehow a dark curtain had fallen and I felt totally paralyzed.  Emotional and mental paralysis.  Yes, I felt ashamed and out of sync as my mind drew a blank. I was resentful.  If I can be totally honest, my usual blessings seemed uninspiring- not because I am truly ungrateful, but because I seemed to be having a temporary crisis of hope.  I was tired and sleep deprived, exhausted after work, anxious about money, and overwhelmed with lots of “to-do”’s. I had gone without some basic self-care, which I now realize is no longer optional.

Each day in this spell of depression I became increasingly fragile.  Crying in the morning and throughout the day; sleeping less and less. Dragging myself through work.  Eating unconsciously and unhealthily while on the go, questioning God about the meaning of life, the value of my own life, and if I even wanted to live at all.  My rut was exacerbated by a keen awareness that I was doing the “wrong” things, being ungrateful, self-absorbed, and out of sync with my spiritual teachings.  So of course I felt guilty, guilty, guilty.  I beat myself up, judged it, embodied the shame of my unbelievable gall to not “feel good.”

And as one could imagine the cycle continued and spiraled out of control.  For me this looked like physical illness- always the same miserable ailments, but thankfully nothing life-threatening.  I was sneezy, and stuffy and snotty, and achy from head to toe.  My inside and my outside were now aligned and I got mad.  Feeling bad emotionally and feeling bad physically makes for a miserable combination.  My physical ailments distracted me from my emotions for a moment. I resented not being healthy enough to have fun and enjoy myself because I had to recuperate in bed. But I hadn’t been having fun anyway, nor had I been resting – which illness always forces us to do.

My mental health swung back and forth.  The depression became anxiety as I realized that I was “creating” my illness (more guilit!) and I worried that things were too confusing to untangle easily.  I believe in the mind-body-spirit connection, but this is slippery territory with mental health.  Depression is formidable, intimidating and can seem insurmountable when you are in it.  Anxiety and panic are maddening and swift… worries can mount faster than you can blink or take a deep breath.  Finding a door or a way out requires total surrender- a complete stop- a ceasing of all movement that feels unreasonable or unlikely in the daily treadmill of life.

The phenomenal thing is that my body helped me, as it always does, getting my attention and demanding rest.  Resting opened the door for drinking more water and eating simpler food.  Resting in bed required me to find help and seek healthier people to assist me. While resting I remembered to get a little exercise to boost my immune system.  I tried to hop back into action after a day or so.  My illness worsened- I felt depressed (only mildly) and had a strong spell of anxiety.  I went back to sleep.  About a week after this cold/allergy/flu thing and maybe three weeks after my bout of depression picked up, I realized that the other issue I needed to address was talking to myself kindly.  I pulled out all my self-help books, mental health guides, and inspirational writings. I mostly just looked at them in a pile and carried them around with me.  Then I realized I needed to write the affirmations, post them, and speak them aloud in order to untangle the neglect, self-judgment, guilt, shame, and resentment that had initiated and fueled my experience of depression and ingratitude.

I also considered my surroundings, enjoying sunny days more fully and having plans in place for the cloudy, winter grey skies as well.  I tried choosing positive company or solitude rebuilding a spirit of enthusiasm and hope.   I began caring for my home a bit, making it a warm, loving, and peaceful space that made me feel good.  This bout of depressed peeked in and out every other day rather than persisting without interruption.  However, becoming ill reminded me of the necessity of:

  • rest
  • exercise
  • healthy diet
  • self-care
  • home care, and
  • positive affirmation and self-talk.

At first, I integrated one or two of these items a day, at best.  Now I am at a solid three a day and have added some fun and play time into the mix ( a movie, a game of jenga, etc).

I am building myself up now, should depression visit me again soon.  I am on vacation from work and have ample time to practice and think about how to meaningfully adjust my work-life routine so that I don’t continue to produce the conditions for illness, depression and anxiety.  I want to practice awareness and loving way of life so that low, heavy, and unhappy days are extremely infrequent.  I envision transforming my coping strategies with a mindful way of living that will increase the quality and pleasure in my life in a consistent and permanent way.  I will start today… in this moment, as I head to the kitchen to prepare a healthy meal to start my day.

Posts that helped this week:

10 Simple, Science-Backed Ways to Be Happier

5 Reasons Why Your Life is Awesome

Depression is a formidable opponent

Depression is a formidable opponent.

That is of course, assuming that you notice and accept that depression is present at all. For me depression is like the duller twin of anxiety- dulled as in the lack of sensation. But honestly … I had ranked these conditions in my head and given anxiety a higher status than depression. Anxiety was less embarrassing to me. Basically it translated as: “You worry too much and you just can’t calm down well.” Depression, on the other hand, felt shameful. I translated it as: “Really? – you can’t find anything to be happy about?” But here I am watching as the “Winter Blues” season approaches, clueless that I was already in my indigo funk. I was feeling sullen but not miserable, functional but listless about my personal life. As much as I had judged and avoided it, I had to just admit to myself that I was actually experiencing depression (and sometimes I was still pretty anxious too). In fact I have regularly experienced depression but try to hide it, deny it to myself, or I try to focus more on my anxiety. But it feels better now to just “come out” about it.

Anxiety and depression often function together and not separately. In my experience, anxiety requires one to center oneself and calm down (not ever as easy as it seems). Alternately, depression requires pulling oneself up out of the mire; revving up into hope and out of despair. Despair. Despair is what can make mental health challenges overwhelming and cumbersome. The despair of depression may feel like persistent hopelessness . But with anxiety, excessive worry can lead to panic or to despair… the hopelessness that things we worry about won’t work out. When we are in despair, it FEELS impossible to come out of it.

It is not impossible, but it sure does seem like it, sometimes.

Depression is a formidable opponent; BUT it is NOT impossible to overcome. Breaking through depression requires that simultaneously, we be WILLING TO MEND (this can sometimes feel like forcing oneself, but that’s okay) and that we be GENTLE AND CARING to oneself. To work through my own depression, I had to give myself permission to lay in the bed and do nothing so my body and mind could rest and heal. I had to lie in the bed without guilt when there were chores and cleaning today, people waiting on me or calling me, and a running to-do-list of work tasks. I had to be there and get clear on what I really need most and what I was feeling. Sometimes this can take days, or weeks, or months.

On the other hand, I had to be willing to mend and to add a little force. I sometimes had to force the bathing and eating. Or make effort to consume lots of water and fresh veggies. Sometimes I would muster up a lot of force and go walk or exercise for 15-30 minutes because I knew the endorphins would automatically change my situation. This might only happen once a week, but I fight for it. Every day, even in the pain of depression or anxiety I try to find something to be grateful for. The gratitude work is transformative. Stopping to smile, because the sun came through the clouds on a dreary day, can be quite soothing. I also try to laugh or watch a funny movie if I can pull myself out of the slump for a moment. If I can’t “unslump” myself I am learning to call a safe person to help me pull myself up. And ultimately, I ride it out because I know that depression can last a few days or a season and that this is okay (and it never lasts forever). I don’t worry too much about judgement from others (i.e. happy people) but here is a great post with good practical suggestions and some nice “snarkiness” if you need such a boost! I have definitely felt many of these and benefitted from a lot of the suggestions.

Tips to Keep Your Shit Together When You’re Depressed

These things are small steps, but depression is a formidable opponent that requires determination and patience. It can seem impossible to “get up” quickly (or get up at all) in the midst of despair. Absent of hope there is often no will to try or exert effort. This is what I know. But I also know that big, scary, difficult things are best overcome piece by piece, step by step, breathe by breathe healing IS POSSIBLE. Coming out of depression is possible. Feeling better, feeling good, feeling healthy IS POSSIBLE and it is within our reach. I am not alone, nor are you. I am willing to mend and take difficult painful steps to get out of depression. I am!

Daily affirmation for gratitude:

http://www.dailyword.com/dailyword/gratitude-thursday-november-28-2013

Things that make me fall out laughing no matter how low I am feeling:

Animals That Cannot Even Handle It Right Now

BEST pics from “Reasons My Kid is Crying”

and the “f$&k it” face on this dog right here… priceless!

dogoverit

Enjoy!