I received a lot of lovely feedback to my post before this one.
I was interested by the tone some of that feedback took. Probably about a quarter of the responses I received on Facebook said something along the lines of "Don't be hard on yourself if you can't maintain all of those rules (that regime/program, etc)".
I think the plan I laid out looked ambitious to people – like I might be biting off more than I can chew. And maybe it looks like I'm trying to "willpower" my way out of feeling depressed.
But I don't think that's what's going on for me. I believe I got depressed because I wasn't taking care of myself. I got myself into a situation where I felt like I was being drained and I didn't manage to keep very good boundaries or assert myself for my own wellbeing. As a result, my well ran dry. And because I don't have very good skills when it comes to self-care, I couldn't seem to get the water level to rise back up in the well. Before I realized what was going on, I was depressed and starting to feel a bit desperate.
My plan, however, is not desperate. It's just the kind of simple plan for living that many, many people enact every day without even thinking about it: moderate, healthy eating, exercise, relaxation, sane boundaries on work, etc. The trouble for me is that I don't know how to do most of these things. Before this fall, I never really stopped to consider what I needed to live a healthy life. When I felt down I just had an ice cream or worked for 14 hours and it went away. This depression has forced me to examine where I'm at and what I need.
I believe that I need to change my ways; to develop some new skills and habits.
As Maya Angelou said (and as a dear friend recently relayed to me):
“I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.”
EASE is the key!The plan that I've set out mostly consists of things that make my life easier, not more difficult. For example:
- Eating less sugar/drinking no alcohol protects me from:
- unnecessary, chemically-induced highs and lows;
- masking my true feelings; and
- spending money (that I could using more productively in my life) on wine, chocolate or cola.
- Finding out if I have food sensitivities is going to keep me from feeling dragged down because I won't be unknowingly eating food that doesn't agree with me.
- I've had a daily yoga practice in the past, so I know I can do it. Yoga is something I love and that makes me feel good. I'm pretty much going to stick to beginner classes for the foreseeable future so it will be easy and satisfying, not difficult or frustrating.
Admittedly, some of these changes are more challenging than others:
- I know putting boundaries around work is difficult for me. I toyed with the idea of a 50-hour-a-week maximum or a policy of no work on Sundays and I knew I just couldn't do it. My work comes in irregularly. It often needs to be turned around quickly. That is the nature of the beast and I accept that. However, I have promised myself that when I'm on the fence about accepting more work, I'm going to try hard to land on the "no" side of the fence more often than I have in the past.
- Walking: this might be the one thing on my list that is an actual mistake. I don't really like to walk. I think I should like it, but I'm very rarely actually in the mood to go for a walk. And the weather is going to be crappy for the next few months. Indeed, some days this week, I have not even stepped outside the house. I am outlawing shoulds. Consider this axed from the plan.
- Feeling my feelings: yes, this is a toughie for me. I often prefer to pretend my feelings aren't happening (Not eating copious amounts of sugar helps. Without that crutch to lean on, it's harder to deny my feelings).
- Think positively whenever possible: I'm trying. Admittedly, my journal is full to the brim with bitterness. I figure the best I can do for now is to let it come up and move through it as quickly as possible. And I've set aside 5 minutes before each meal to relax and focus on the positive. That is helping me to look on the bright side, and also to eat slowly and digest well.
I didn't put anything REALLY difficult into the plan...There's no requirement for me to eat kale or even salad. I'm not giving up sugar entirely, or meat, or carbs or fat. I never have to be hungry. My meals are still delicious. I don't have to train for a marathon. I don't have to try to find a soulmate on the Internet dating or apply for and take a square job. I don't have to make any plans for the future. I don't have to play guitar every day (unless I want to). I don't have to do anything that doesn't suit my heart, mind, body and spirit in the moment.
How's it going so far?So how is it going? Not bad, actually. On Monday, I felt pretty good. Yesterday and today have been okay, at best, but I'm not complaining. I'm enjoying my meals. I'm enjoying yoga practice. The positive thinking seems to be helping to ease some of the dark thoughts that were hounding me. I'm doing pretty well at staying in the present moment and feeling my feelings. I'm happy with my food choices. (That's easiest when I'm at home, but even when I went to the city on Tuesday, I managed to recognize the stupid temptations for what they were. I mean, I wouldn't even enjoy a jalapeno angus burger from McDonald's. When I saw the sign, I wanted one, but I knew not to give that desire any credence).
I'm enjoying taking it easy. I'm working, sure, but I'm also doing jigsaw puzzles and watching Downton Abbey and spending large amounts of time playing with Salinger. I am enjoying being by myself and keeping things very quiet and peaceful. There is no drama in my life right now. No stress or upset. I have released myself from expectations. I am allowing myself to recuperate.
I know this wouldn't be the right path for everyone to try to heal from depression. As I said, I think my depression resulted directly from me not taking care of myself. So, starting to take care of myself feels like a logical first step to try to correct the situation. If this doesn't work, I have lots of options I can try, from talk therapy to pharmaceutical intervention.
For now I'm giving myself some time to see how I get along.