Now I already know what you are thinking.
And while mind-reading is one of the unhelpful thinking styles, it is easy to guess what comes to mind when I ask you to embrace depression.
For me, it took 43 years.
After depression scored a major victory against my self-worth when I was in my early twenties, my way of dealing with depression was to ignore it and hope it would go away.
When depression would make a new appearance, I would not acknowledge it, I would not face it, and I would certainly not embrace it.
Not even 100% sure what was happening, all I could think to do was to get past it, to figure a way out of the situation depression had landed me in, and then bury the evidence.
Without facing depression each time I had an episode, I was unknowingly setting up the next round.
Over the years, each round got worse and worse until, in this latest visit by depression, I finally could not see any way out. My choices were to end it, keep doing what I had been doing and expect a different result, or seek professional help. The least frightening choice was seeking help.
However, walking into the emergency room and saying, “I need help with a mental health problem,” was damn scary. I just didn’t see any other choice without giving in to the depression once again. At this point, I still had not called its name, I still wasn’t clear what I was facing. I just knew that morning that what I had been doing wasn’t going to work anymore.
Thus, began my journey to embrace depression.
Day one after getting home, I was less than convinced that I had made the right choice. My future was only slightly clearer than when I went into the hospital. But I did have tools and the beginnings of hope. This feeling of hope grew and grows stronger each day. Combining medication, the Prozac, with therapy and group sessions, I am significantly better than when I got home.
My deep dive into depression has given me 7 ways to embrace it:
#1 – I acknowledge I have depression
This seems like a given, but it certainly wasn’t for me. I did everything possible to avoid knowing what was happening. As each episode wound down, I would look for the quickest exit and bury the evidence. The sooner I got back to concealing it, the better I felt. Which led to my finally being “up against the wall,” as I couldn’t hide it any longer.
#2 – I understand that depression is a lifetime disease
This realization at first scared the crap out of me. By the more I think about and understand depression, the more I will be prepared for whatever it may try to inflict on me. In the past, without my knowing it, the depression was the boss. Now I say every day, “Depression is not my Boss.”
#3 – I know what I look like when I am well
Getting an idea of how I feel and what I do when I am well has been a welcome addition to my depression coping skills. After all, if you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up anywhere. Depression has been very good at tossing out hair-brained schemes that I would latch on too.
Then it would trim away any objections or doubts about the crazy plan until that was all I could see. Without knowing or remembering what I look like when I’m well, depression has an easier time getting me to go along with it.
#4 I understand what happens when I begin to feel depressed
Embracing depression means going through the steps to know what to expect. And knowing what I look and feel like when things start to go south can help me avoid spiraling out of control. Writing things out, having lists of things to watch for is comforting.
#5 I have a list of tools I can use
Before embracing depression, I was just winging it. Not knowing, or even wanting to know the cause of my “depressive episodes,” I did not have any tools to help keep me strong.
I did not understand the value of self-care or the reasons why doing that could and would benefit others as well as myself. Now I have a list of things I do that make me stronger, and more able to build a life where depression is not my boss.
#6 I never want to go back to the abyss
As I near 90 days since my hospitalization for depression, the sheer terror I experienced has abated a little. This to me is a danger sign. I never want to forget that “up against the wall” feeling. Even in the hospital, I wanted a plan to make sure that I wouldn’t become complacent.
Embracing depression is doing that. There’s that adage “keep your friends close, keep your enemies closer.” I always want to know where depression and I stand. No more surprises.
#7 – I have a Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP)
I have a workbook and am going to weekly classes. It is an eight-week program, dealing with everything I listed above. Our facilitator draws out many different ideas from the group, so even if I start an exercise and only see the blank page, by the end, I have 10 or more things on my list. This has been so helpful in getting my brain to see what I can do, instead of what I can’t.
Embracing your depression can be empowering.
Knowing what to expect and having the tools to address different stages of the disease is making me extremely optimistic about the future. Before I did this, I was at its mercy. I did not know when it would show up. What’s worse, I would push the previous experience so far down into the ground that I wouldn’t recognize depression when it showed up again.
Sure, depression would think up a new scheme each time, making me think this time it was something original and different. It has been very inventive, developing whacky new ways to get me excited and involved in its latest programs. But the under-handed methods, the impulsiveness, the secrets, and the destructive conclusion were always the same.
Yes, I have depression.
Yes, I will always have depression. But you can bet it will no longer have me. Depression is not my boss.
Follow my journey and be the first to know what I am thinking next. You’ll know before I do.