April 19, 2016

A Letter to Myself, for when I’m Depressed.

girl face mirror sad two face art

So you’re here again.

That shroud of sadness hovers around, clouding your perspective and your mood. There are some things I want you to know:

You didn’t choose this. It’s not that you’re not exercising enough or not scrawling out enough gratitude lists or getting enough Vitamin D. Those things all help. But depression isn’t your fault. It’s something you get, like the flu, something that chooses you. I can’t remind you of this enough, because self-blame is part of the package of depression, so here it is again: You didn’t choose this.

This won’t last forever. When you’re in it, it feels like things can only stay the same or get even worse. And yet it will pass. Like much of life, you can’t know the exact time stamp of the day you’ll wake up and realize, wow, I don’t feel like sh*t anymore. But I promise that day will come, and you’ll return to yourself.

Admit that you can’t think your way out of this. Give up trying to think your way out of depression. Your ailing brain cannot fix your ailing brain.

You are not your depression. Yes, right now it feels like it defines you, like it’s sunk down into your bones, seeped into the deepest parts of you. This is one of the lies depression tells. Depression has nothing to do with your essence. With your light. With the parts of you that are all love and spark. It blots those parts out, but they are there underneath, waiting to shine again when the depression lifts.

It can be hard to pinpoint exactly what turns the channel on depression and brings you back. Here are some things that help:

Get outside. Rely on the earth and trees, the sunlight and moss. They will cradle you. They will bring you back to yourself, over and over and over.

Talk to someone. The hard part about depression is it tells you to keep it in. That other people won’t understand. Talk anyway. Text a friend who understands. Call your therapist. Sharing about your depression shines a light on it, and light is healing.

Move. When you least feel like it, you must move your body. Run, dance, do yoga. Enlist your endorphins in the battle. It helps.

Make your health your first priority. I know. Your to-do list is miles long. But everything will wait. If you had cancer, you would shift your priorities around. You would treat yourself. Your job and your kids and your laundry would all wait for you. Right now, you have cancer of the spirit. Put your spirit first. I will say it once more: everything else will wait.

If meds work for you, take them. Medication can be the glasses that restore your vision. Every day when I get up, I put my contacts in. I don’t think, oh, maybe I don’t really need these today. Because I can’t actually see without them. If you’ve tried all the natural routes and it’s not enough, it might be time to surrender. Instead of feeling guilty, try gratitude. Thank you science. Thank you modern medicine.

You are precious. You are loved. This will pass.


Author: Lynn Shattuck

Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: Hillary Boles/Flickr


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