How much time do you spend on self-care?
I have been asked that question now for months. I have been jumping and running from one thing to another in my quest to learn all I can about depression. While this has been hugely helpful in understanding and facing depression, it has not left much time for other activities.
And it turns out “life keepings happening while I learn other things.“
OK, that was a poor parody of John Lennon’s “Life is what happens to you while you‘re busy making other plans.” I am seeing that more clearly now. My whole focus is changing, and my priorities have changed as well. It still feels funny to say I am getting in touch with my feelings, but that is the reality of my life now. I am no longer content to just report the facts.
My new life involves “how do I feel about that?”
And that is scary to me. So, the answer is, I’m afraid of my feelings. I am a master of hiding them, of ignoring them, of shoving them down deeper and deeper, all the while ignoring the physical and emotional damage I am inflicting on myself and unfortunately, in the end, on others too.
One of the dotted lines I finally connected is how my actions impact others.
Depression got me to think about myself and only showed me what it wanted me to see. It did not want me sharing with others, taking other’s needs into account, or even in passing look at what the consequences of my actions might be. The more secretive I could be, the more depression loved me.
And the more depression loved me, the more secretive I became. This is where the addiction part of depressive behavior rears its ugly head. I am still angry that I have an addiction. Having depression, facing depression and saying, “I have depression, depression does not have me,’ has been hard enough to say out loud.
But I am saying out loud, “I have depression.”
Saying “I have an addiction” out loud, is harder for me to accept. Understanding why depression could be an addictive behavior is the reason why I am accepting this as part of my life. I cannot choose which parts of depression I will accept and which parts I will ignore. Doing this puts me right back where I was, ignoring and not accepting, not facing my mental illness.
So, “I have an addiction.”
There, I said it. Now my actions need to be in line with ways to keep it at bay, to recognize warning signs it may be trying to make contact with me. My wellness recovery action plan includes triggers that I can recognize and watch for. These are warning signs that I need to be aware of. And then I have tools and actions I can take to minimize the impact and turn the ship around.
Doing this, I have identified traffic problems as a trigger. And I have used my WRAP tools and my SMART checklists to help me change my attitude towards slow, slow, slow, slow, slow drivers. OK, so this may still be a work in progress, but I am aware of the problem. Even better, I understand that there is some underlying issue that is manifesting itself in my acts of road rage.
Rest assured, my road rage never involves anyone else.
I am not the guy honking the horn, waving my middle finger, or yelling out the window. Instead, I am quietly seething and creating an internal dialogue about why the car in front of me cannot go faster. I create a story in my head about why they cannot tell the difference between the brake and the gas pedal. Then I get all worked up over their inability to do what I think they should be doing, which is getting the hell out of my way.
What a waste of my energy.
I cannot fit everything into my head I want to do, and yet I am filling my head with things and ideas that I cannot control. And I am obsessing about the fact that I cannot control other drivers’ actions. And then I am getting all amped up.
Looking at my actions from the sideline, sitting on the front porch, early on a Sunday morning, having my coffee and watching the birds at the feeder, I am getting a different perspective. These moments are my self-care, my relaxation. I do this for me to clear my head and relax. And by being relaxed and open to the moment, I saw two deer meandering across my driveway, heading down along the tree line before disappearing into the woods.
I can control my attitude towards events, not the events themselves.
Seeing that I am successfully doing that now in a lot of areas gives me hope that I will continue get stronger in this. After all, I spent over 43 years hiding from my depression (ok my addiction) so I should give myself credit for how far I have come in the past 120 days.
I should be grateful for the fact that I can see a path forward, that I am aware of unhelpful thinking and have had some real success in challenging it. And I have been keeping depression out in the open where I can see it. I am not hiding it from myself. I am not allowing it to encourage secrecy in my thoughts and actions. I am on to its games and am a better person as a result.
There are areas I am still working on to balance my life. But the hardest part is over. Having the courage to face depression head on was a major step towards balance in my life. Recognizing that I have choices and can make decisions without checking with depression is unbelievably freeing. And terrifying.
Without my former buddy depression calling the shots, I am in charge.
I am my own best advocate; I can make my own decisions. And I will live by those decisions and accept the consequences of them. I will continue to work on valuing my own self-worth by focusing on how I am teaching people to treat me. Getting this figured out will provide support for many other parts of my life.
So, my days are all about creating the best possible life for myself and those I love. Living in the present is how I want to spend my days.
I will make the adjustments needed to keep my life in balance.
Your thoughts and comments are welcomed as I continue my journey.