Most of the time, I manage my depression really well.
Most people don’t know I struggle with it because I’m happy and bubbly and shit most of the time. They equate depression with sadness, and that’s simply not true. When Kristen Bell released this essay and this video, I jumped for joy because she nailed it. It’s so much more than that. And especially since she’s been someone who I’ve been compared with personality wise, I really appreciated that she shed a little more light on the subject for those who might be unfamiliar with this territory.
Because it’s not about the sadness – it’s about the spiral. Once you start going down, it’s easier to go down and down and down some more into places you’ve seen before and you know you don’t want to go and your feet just keep dragging you there anyway because this is the spiral and the spiral just keeps moving on down with easy momentum that’s hard to argue with.
It’s about that unwanted visitor that sometimes comes to stay and refuses to leave and just sits there in the corner smoking a cigarette deriding you for your choices and of course you’d end up here again and what were you thinking and no one loves you and you’re just going to end up here again so why even try?
It’s everything that you don’t want to talk about when you’re a go-go-go entrepreneur whose supposed to love the hustle and making things happen and perfect life garbage blah blah blah.
Oh right. I’m not that person. And I do not have any fucks to give about putting in a million hours when I can work less and get more done than most people do. (It’s even the topic of the book I’m putting out next week.)
So how do you get off the spiral?
It’s different for everyone. It doesn’t always work. But these are some of the things I do to keep myself on track.
1. Music playlists
You want to know why I listen to the same bad pop songs over and over again? Because I am entirely aware they will produce certain chemicals in my brain. If I produce enough happy chemicals, I can maintain more optimal operating levels. I will fabricate feelings until they are real.
If I waited to just “feel good” I’d have to rely on willpower, and frankly, mine is in short supply.
2. Tons of self-care
I say “I can’t even” like any good young person, in reference to when things are so ridiculous I can’t bring myself to deal with them (ex. this election). But there are days when I actually can’t even. I can’t focus. I can’t move. It’s trudging through mud during a rainstorm. I can’t.
So I get in the damn bath, calm the fuck down, and turn off all the sensory inputs until I can again.
3. Reach out.
If I can keep people around, I can keep myself from hitting the bottom. Focusing on other people lets me turn otherwise anxious energy into something productive, something useful, something that reminds me I have a purpose and a function.
Yes, I am well aware I have worth outside of these things, but they are what ground me in the present moment. It’s why I bake. It’s why I perform. I have to keep myself rooted this way as a constant reminder.
I live in the PNW. Seasonal Affective Disorder is a thing. This year? I’m going somewhere sunny in January. Until then, I’ll be doubling down on the B12 and vitamin D.
5. Eat well.
I’m not perfect about this, but overall, I’m getting better at making the choice that will keep me happier long term. Fruits, vegetables, protein. Rinse and repeat.
Endorphins. I’ll take extra, please. Lifting weights has made an incredible difference in my coping abilities because hellooooo booty. I mean, better attitude. I mean, both. (See? You can be depressed and maintain a sense of humor. Or at least vanity.)
7. Clear the decks.
Sometimes, you can’t keep holding it all together, and you just. need. space. Whether it’s space to think or reflect or (like it was for me Wednesday) binge watch Netflix with your kid and eat dry Honey Chex and green grapes, sometimes you have to let go a little bit. Most things can wait. They will still be there tomorrow.
8. Human contact.
Like reaching out, but different. There’s something about cuddling up next to someone that can’t be replaced by anything else. So go hug someone. Ask someone if they will be a dear and let you cry on their shoulder for a while. Find someone with a Free Hugs sign. Hold a Free Hugs sign.
In Portland, we even have professional cuddlers available. Honestly, I can’t say it’s such a bad idea.
There you go. 8 ways to trick yourself out of spiraling to rock bottom again. Turns out lifestyle design is a great way to help you work around and with your depression.
So how do you keep yourself from burning all of your creative work to the ground? Inquiring minds must know.