Depression Marathon Blog

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Diagnosed with depression 17 years ago, I lost the life I once knew, but in the process re-created a better me. I am alive and functional today because of my dog, my treatment team, my sobriety, and my willingness to re-create myself within the confines of this illness. I hate the illness, but I'm grateful for the person I've become and the opportunities I've seized because of it. I hope writing a depression blog will reduce stigma and improve the understanding and treatment of people with mental illness. All original content copyright to me: etta. Enjoy your visit!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Shoulds and Shouldn'ts

I'm busy getting ready for Christmas. That process has been made easier, as I've slowly been on the mend from my low energy and mood. I'm so relieved. I'm always worried the depression symptoms, once present, are going to drag on forever. Of course, they never do. Bad days are always followed by better days eventually. Even last year at this time, when I was fresh out of my fifth hospitalization in three months, the bad days did eventually dissipate.

I think I helped myself mend a bit quicker from this low episode. I was reminded of a Dialectical Behavioral Therapy skill called Radical Acceptance. Last Thursday, lying on my sofa, unable to move, feeling desperate and hopeless, I reached for the phone. I explained to my therapist how I shouldn't be feeling this low. Not me. Not now. I should be feeling better. I should have more energy. I should be exercising rather than lying on the sofa. With so many good things going on in my life, I shouldn't be feeling hopeless and sad. Blah, blah, blah... You get the idea.

Instead of dealing with my reality, I was fighting it tooth and nail. I was should-ing myself to death. Rather than accepting my symptoms as part of my depression, I was treating them like character defects. For example, rather than resting when I felt tired, I laid down and admonished myself for laying there. I was incredulous that I had so little energy rather than remembering and accepting that I almost never have energy when I'm low. I was treating myself with less than kindness. Instead I was forcing stereotypes on myself. How could I have symptoms when there were good, even exciting things going on in my life? Umm...because depression is an illness, and just like other illnesses, it can rear it's ugly head at any time? Geez...I think I just made a video addressing this stuff!

I got off the phone and turned my mind. I worked on radically accepting where I was at, staying in just that moment, and doing what I could and/or needed to do at just that time. (At that moment is was taking a nap!) It took a couple of days, and lots of reminders, but I began to feel better. Whenever a should or shouldn't statement came to mind, I stopped it and went back to accepting the moment. It was what it was. That's all. With this illness, we already face plenty of judgments, I certainly didn't need to pile on more of them, yet that's exactly what I was doing.

Should and shouldn't statements did nothing to relieve my depression symptoms. Accepting where I was at and working on just that moment gave me some power and control in what otherwise felt like a powerless situation. I'm working hard to rid should and shouldn't from my vocabulary.


Irene said...

All suffering exists outside the moment. I am so happy you were able to tap into what helped you rather than adding to the crap.

Mopsa said...

Such a great reminder. Thanks for sharing :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for sharing this. I am going to try this technique. I am always beating myself for not getting enough done and just watching TV or going to bed.

- Virginia

littlemissdullshine said...

For some bizarre reason cutting yourself some slack is so hard to do when you are feeling low, or angry, or inadequate. Thanks for sharing x

Charlie said...

This post is great timing. I've been struggling to come to terms with my depression and acting like it shouldn't happen to me or I shouldn't be feeling like this.

Hopefully once I start taking this seriously I might actually make a recovery. Sometimes it feels like a character is ill and not really me. Oh well.

Merry Christmas.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing. My life is ruled by the shoulds and shouldn'ts in my head. As my therapist once said, there is a policeman in my head, and it's up to me to listen to him or let it go.

Unfortunately the voice is still too loud.

But hopefully one day I'll be able to, like you, accept that's how it is, and obsessing on the shoulds and shouldn'ts.

I wish you a Merry Christmas. I hope you had some good time.