This is the last entry for this particular series. However, rest assured that I will revisit this theme quite a bit. It is important to me. So many of us suffer with depression. It is painfully common (I will be sharing my theories as to why that is) and too often fatal.
I promised that this time, I would be super practical and tell you the ways in which I keep the lead in my dance with depression.
In no particular order:
1. I don’t write in a journal when I feel sad. This was the most counter-productive practice that I had. When I would flip through old journals and diaries, they would always start the same way, almost verbatim: “I’m feeling so depressed and worthless again…” Then, I would fill pages with just how horrible life was and how horrible I was. I haven’t written about my depressive episodes anymore. I don’t write while I’m in a depressive episode anymore. It it so much easier for me to release and move through it without dwelling.
2. I eat a lot of fat. Yep, I said it. Olive oil, yes, but mostly coconut oil, palm oil, pork fat, beef lard, egg yolks, coconut milk, avocado, macadamia nuts and I see you over there, butter! I eat fat at every meal. Since I shifted to eating this way, my mood has been incredibly even. Fat = happiness to me.
3. I don’t eat sugar. I am mostly consistent with this. I will have days where I have more fruit than others, and every once in a while, I’ll have a slice of flourless chocolate torte, but in general, I don’t eat sugar. I can’t pat myself on the back enough for taking this decision and changing my behavior. For years, I was stuck on the feel low-eat sugar-feel high-crash lower-eat more sugar-feel not quite as high-crash even lower cycle. It takes a while to break the cycle, but the steadiness I feel in myself is so worth it!
4. I go outside. Every day. As much as I can. I am a heliophile. I, in a weird paradox, don’t like the heat, but bright sunlight? Yes, please. The light is important to my mood, certainly, but it’s so much more than that. The corners and flatness of inside affect my mood. I crave curving tree branches and the kisses of the breeze. I need to smell grass and pines and other things that I can’t quite identify. All of it. There is something so ‘internal’ about staying inside that pushes me deeper inside my brain. This is not a good thing for me. I need to be reminded that life is going on all around me and that I am part of the world as a fleshy, sensory creature engaged in the beauty that is.
5. I have learned to distinguish between listening to my depression and obeying my depression. My depression and I no longer pretend the other doesn’t exist. We discuss things. This sounds a little cuckoo, but what I mean by this is that my depression is one part of me and the healthy adult that I now give the most permission to run the show, is another part of me. When my depression rises up in any way, no matter how small, that is a sign that in some way, I’m not taking the best care of myself. (This is how depression becomes an ally, by the way. It signals that deeper, more comprehensive self-care is needed.) But, I do not OBEY my depression. Often, my depression will rise and tell me to isolate myself. This usually means that I have not been caring for my relationships well enough and that that part of my life needs some nurturing.
6. I express my anger. One of my pet peeves is the delineation between “negative” emotions and “positive” emotions. This is a horrible disservice that we do to ourselves. You don’t have good emotions and bad emotions. You just feel things. Some are uncomfortable sometimes, but that’s okay. (The discomfort comes more from what society deems appropriate for the occasion then the actual emotion, by the way. Laughing at a funeral is just as uncomfortable as crying bitterly at a wedding.) Anger is a wonderful emotion! Here are the rules of anger: a) express it without hurting yourself and b) express it without hurting others. The best way that I’ve found to express my anger is to say: “I’m angry.” And, then, try to figure out why. Nearly always, it is because a boundary of mine has been crossed somehow. It is valuable information to deepen relationships, both with myself and with others. Then, I use the energy that anger gives me to do something about what made me angry.
7. I have one religion and my god is sleep. My dad always used to say, “Sleep is sacred.” I inherited that belief. It has taken me a long time to find the right amount of sleep. When I don’t sleep enough, I am priming the pump for all sorts of depressing hormones to flush through me. When I sleep too much, I disengage from life and the melatonin never gets a chance to get out of my system and all sorts of depressing hormones flush through me. Right now that it is winter, I need a solid 9 hours to 9 1/2. During the summer, I scale it down to 7 1/2 or 8. That is where the goodness lives.
8. (How awkward…a list of eight things. Why does that feel funny?) I move. Nothing has ever been as effective as a daily pick me up as movement has been for me. I don’t call it exercise because it doesn’t have to be structured training, I just need to move. I usually combine the going outside and moving thing. I’m efficient that way. I walk or run or dance or do push ups or yoga or just pose like an elephant. It doesn’t matter as long as its dynamic. Again, this takes me out of the labyrinth of my brain and brings me back to the rest of me….the part that knows how to take the lead in the dance.
These are my methods of managing my depression. If you are depressed, I would suggest that you go see a therapist or psychiatrist to make sure that you don’t need medication. There’s NO shame in that. It happens to the very best of us. If you’ve found ways of your own to dance with your depression or your (fill in the blank with whatever your challenge is), I’d LOVE to hear about it and about you!
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Nourishing ourselves into freedom!