Defeating Your Depression: My Advice — don’t.
I’ve spent the better part of two years in my biggest battle with depression yet, and quite frankly, any outsider would happily say it’s won. My depression has made me a different person over the last three years; it’s gone out of it’s way to interfere with my life. I remember when I was having a hard time at work because my line manager was malicious. I used to commute by train and as I got off the train and crossed the bridge to get to my car I had serious considerations of jumping onto the tracks. Over a job. That paid less than £15k a year. Depression-free me would never have even considered that. Firstly, I reckon a train would be a horrific way to go, and preclude any chances of people seeing my beautiful face at an open casket funeral. Secondly, I was really fortunate then. I didn’t even need to work, I was just doing it for something to do. My reasons at the time were all about saving up for uni but to be honest, I could have sat at home and had ice cream for the whole time I worked at that job and I would have been much happier.
I spend a lot of my time nowadays using tools and techniques to try and manage this beastly depression that gets in the way of my goals and I’m starting to think, why am I bothering? I am spending hours of my day ‘being good to myself’, but that translates to Netflix, procrastination or anything other than what I should be doing. It’s a vicious cycle, because I’ve been paying more attention recently. Every graphic, horrific intrusive thought I’ve had over the past few weeks has been triggered by one thing. Stress over things I haven’t done. And why haven’t I done them? Because my definition of being good to myself has gone too far one way.
I used to be really hard on myself and not give myself a break but it’s got me to a place where the thought of doing something new and challenging (and that matters) has me in a wreck, falling into a cycle of damaging thoughts. Every time that email reminder comes up, I was punishing myself — you can’t do this. You should just [insert graphic suggestion of self harm here] so you don’t have to [deal with the consequences of your actions]. But it doesn’t work it. It just meant that I’m trapped in this cycle of productivity where I don’t do anything because I’m being ‘good’ to myself, and then be ‘bad’ to myself because I haven’t done anything.
It’s time for me to take responsibility. I can’t keep fighting my depression using techniques that are bad for me. So I’m not going to let it. Have you heard the expression, it takes two to tango? Or that it’s pretty hard to fight by yourself? You need another willing participant and I’ve just realised that I’ve been participating in the stronghold that depression has had on my life. I need to get cleverer. Somehow along the way I actually developed a fear of getting things done. Hard to believe for people who know me, but for those same people — how many times have I rescheduled, not picked up the phone or just flat out missed a deadline and blamed it on my mental health? I’ve got to do more than what I’ve been doing because I don’t think this fear and inability to cope with hard situations suits me. I’m not going to fight my depression, I’m going to try something new. I’m going to challenge myself. Instead of using a new mindfulness tactic or a new medication or begging my GP for ADHD meds as a last ditch attempt to get my work done, I’m going to do something different. I’m going to work hard.
I think I’ve lost the concept of hard work during this crusade of being nice to myself and instead I’m going to make an effort to get out of this. For some people with depression, this might not be good advice for you. But for some other people, maybe you’re like me — you’ve got long-term depression or some other mental health diagnosis and your current tactics aren’t doing enough. You’re just skating on by in mediocreville. If you’re like me, and youi’re pretty tired of feeling trapped by your depression, try this with me — not being good to yourself, and not being bad to yourself but just hard work and commitment to what you want out of life. Yes, it won’t be easy. Actually, I’m not looking forward to the process, but I am looking forward to the outcome.
I’m just going to change how I live my life. Every time I try to excuse something or avoid something because I’m being good to myself, I’m going to change it up. I’m going to do that thing. Read my emails instead of ignoring them. Responding to messages? Actually switching on my phone — I can do it. Whatever it is. At least 50% of that thing. Maybe that’s too ambitious. Maybe I’ll just start the thing and do as much as I can, but this is how I’m beginning making that change. This is how I’m going to stop fighting with my depression and instead, how I’m taking command of the situation.
Let me know how it works out for you.