Saturday, November 1, 2014

Depression Part 2: What do I need to do for myself right now?

It's November 1st and Salinger and I are in our new winter accomodations.

Salinger, our yoga mat and all of the boxes that still need to be unpacked...
This is about a fresh-start-y as it gets, I think. And I need a fresh start.

I've really let myself sink down into the depths over the past year and more. The depression I've been evading most of my life has caught up with me. I've been looking at everything through ugly lenses, seeing the worst in myself, in my life, in the culture/society and world in which I live. What a downer I've been on!

I feel like I needed to go down this rabbit hole. I needed to finally admit to my struggles with depression. Once I realized I was depressed, I decided to give myself two weeks to wallow with all my might. I cried whenever I felt like it. I slept during the day. I thought dark thoughts about things and people. I ate tons of sugar and junk food.

It felt good. But partly it felt good because I knew it was for just a little longer. I knew that a change and a fresh start were ahead of me. I knew I was moving and I knew I had a plan for what this move is going to mean for me.

Basically, I have decided to take better care of myself. The depression that I grew up with and denied and defied, was always telling me the same things: You're not important. Other people's feelings are more important that your feelings. Other people's needs are more important than your needs.

Indeed, other people's feelings/needs might well be more important than my feelings and needs TO THOSE OTHER PEOPLE – fair enough. My problem was that I came to believe that other people's feelings and needs should more important than mine TO ME. Essentially, this means that I haven't been able to focus on taking good care of myself. Even if I was depleted or hurting, I would try to find a way to keep giving other people what I thought (and/or what they were telling me) they needed.

Sugar has been my best helper — and my worst saboteur...

I've really leaned on sugar to help me live my life. Whenever I was sad, angry or upset, a little sugar would numb those emotions and enable me to act cheerful. I thought that was a good thing because I thought other people needed/wanted me to act cheerful. Maybe they did and maybe they didn't, but that's what I believed.

The trouble is that the amount of sugar I was consuming was really unhealthy. I've watched myself gain a few pounds every year and it's getting to a critical point where I don't feel healthy in my body anymore. I don't like the place I'm in emotionally, either. All the sugar in the world can't get me out of the spot I find myself in now – in fact, I think all of the sugar highs and lows and all of the denial sugar lets me do has been making everything worse.

In order to spare myself and others from having to accept/witness some of my emotions, I have been hurting myself.

It stops here.

I have a new mantra: Sugar is a flavouring, not a food (and I'm counting alcohol as a form of sugar). I'm still going to have some sugar-containing foods – as condiments, as seasoning, as very occasional treats, but no more sugar as food. No more sugar as emotional refuge. No more resorting on a daily basis to chocolate bars and soda pop and cake and cookies and ice cream. I'm not doing this to myself anymore.

Self-care begins here

Yes, I have a plan to take better care of myself. It starts today and it goes like this:
  • Change the sugar thing;
  • Check for food sensitivities: today I'm starting two weeks of no gluten, dairy, soy or corn and then will introduce them back one at a time to see if I'm sensitive to any of those foods. I've been suspicious of dairy for a while and I'm curious about the others. Here was breakfast:
    Yes, that's brown rice, pickled ginger and avocado. It was delicious!
  • Implement some of the other strategies from the Tranform Your Relationship with Food course that I took in the spring, especially slowing down and relaxing my eating and preparing healthy snacks so I always have some on hand;
  • Shop for local, sustainable food at the local farmers' markets;
  • Use my awesome adjustable desk in the standing position more of the time;
  • Use to make sure that I take regular breaks for movement when I am working/playing at the computer;
  • Practice yoga regularly – I'm shooting for half an hour a day (I'm doing the 15-day free trial at with one 60 or 90 minute session on the weekend. Salinger was a fan of and active participant in our first yoga practice this morning;
  • Dance Nia once a week – one of the benefits in living near Mahone Bay is being close to Kathleen Naylor's awesome Nia class at the Mahone Bay centre;
  • Do something fun and frivolous at least once a week – a concert, movie, play, coffee date or meal out;
  • Simplify: my life, my eating, my schedule, my volunteer commitments, my stuff;
  • Try to put some boundaries around work – this is going to be a toughy. As I head into my busy season and think about what I can do, I no I can't take a day off or limit my number of hours per week for the jobs that I commit to. But I can limit the number of jobs I accept and I plan to;
  • Walk: I am in the heart of Rails-to-Trails country here in Martin's River. I've downloaded the map and I intend to explore;
  • Allow myself to feel my feelings;
  • Allow myself to express my feelings;
  • Think positively whenever possible (yes, Stuart Smiley fans, I am indulging in daily affirmations :-);
  • Allow myself to be imperfect at all of this, keep feeling my feelings and keep trying again (or tweaking) whenever something doesn't work for me.

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