The bravest choice is to get out of bed.
I repeat this a few times from under a thin canopy of bedsheets.
My chest rises and falls as I peak out over the cream-colored comforter into our small Japanese hotel room.
Sitting up completely, I repeat the same statement out loud: “The bravest choice is just to get out of bed.” So I lift the weight of my entire body out of bed, one leg at a time, and shuffle across the carpet.
It doesn’t seem like much, but getting out of bed when I am depressed really is the bravest choice available to me.
So why do all of my favorite things seem pointless all of a sudden? Why does everything seem overwhelming?
Anxiety and depression happen suddenly and without warning. They catch us off guard. So it’s always a game of memory. It’s about recognizing that we’ve been here before. From here, we can pull ourselves together with the tools that have helped us over and over again in the past.
Sometimes I remember I have tools after 24 hours of melting into my mattress.
But the one sign of improvement is that it no longer feels good to stay curled in my bed. After years of living with depression and anxiety, I can finally say that I know it doesn’t get better by staying tightly wound up in my pain.
So a plan of action is the best route to take.
Here are a few tools that help me sail through the depression and anxiety cycle:
1. Changing our self-talk.
This one is tough. My negative self-talk starts early in the morning when I put on yoga pants or even jeans. It starts with an expanding feeling in my body. It starts when I continue to stare at 500 words with a dumbfounded look on my face. Or when I see the differences between me and everyone I know while scrolling through Instagram.
If I take a deep breath, pause, and ask: What’s real in this moment? Why am I so hard on myself? Why do I have to be perfect to be lovable? It brings me back to reality. And then I can treat myself like a good friend who needs a little more love some days than others.
And that helps me tune into what others might need later.
2. We are not alone.
Being accountable to ourselves is hard, but realizing others need us too can be a blessing—not a burden. Especially when we’re battling negative self-talk.
We see that we are important.
I meet with a few women every week who help ground me. I know I can count on them. And they count on me. We connect and trust each other.
Depression says to isolate ourselves, but community will save us. It saved me. I can share my experience, strength, and hope with others who understand.
It is impossible to be alone. We must share our pain and our joy. We all count. We are all important. So we are never alone in our pain. We can’t be.
3. No one is perfect.
I went home to the United States to see family in Georgia and Florida for the holidays. I saw more family members and friends than I have in over 12 years. And for whatever reason, I saw them completely. I didn’t see the perfect versions that I’d always imagined of them. I saw their pain and their joy.
And I realized that there is no pressure on me to be perfect anymore. It clicked somehow.
No one wants a perfect version of us. And we shouldn’t want a perfect version of anyone else either. Once we break down these walls, we can feel the love for ourselves and for other people.
It ended up being the most real experience around all of my loved ones.
Stop it with the perfectionism. Let’s get real.
4. Worthiness is not earned.
Hold your head high. You are worthy. We are always worthy.
Even if I can’t believe it sometimes, I know it has to be true. Because it’s one of those nonnegotiable birthrights that we aren’t allowed to take away from anyone, including ourselves.
I’ve learned that we don’t need to be good to begin. We can start loving ourselves at any time. We don’t have to wait until we are shinier, brighter, or something else to start loving ourselves. So no matter what anxiety and depression have to say about it, we are always worthy.
5. Try something new.
Take a bath. Take a breath and read something new. Go out of the house. Go to a new vegan restaurant for lunch. Take your laptop to the park. Go to the natural history museum to admire the colossal ammonite fossils alongside a field trip of tiny humans. Get outside, even if it is standing on the other side of the front door in your house slippers.
Sometimes doing something new can reset our outlook. When I feel like it’s impossible to leave my bed and get out of the house, I take it step by step. Minute by minute. I take it slow and easy with one thing at a time, from getting out of bed to brushing my teeth and getting dressed. One foot in front of the other until I am out of the house.
6. Breathe and find a way in.
When I find a place where I can stare down my depression, I can accept that it is the “otherly presence” in my life. But it’s not in charge of me. It might be there. But I am not beneath it. I am still me. I can filter this out with deep inhales and exhales on my meditation pillow. Even 10 minutes is a good start.
As wonderful as it is to carry on with my day, I know my depression is still there waiting for me. And eventually I have to confront it.
Sometimes it takes weeks to feel lighter. But it does get better.
The depression learning curve is sharp, and I always feel far behind. But slowing down and finding out what works when it comes to meeting that unidentifiable burden face-to-face seems to help.
So I try to breathe into it. I slow down to call it out by its name. I see you, depression.
So, what is the first thing in front of me? Maybe I will get out of bed. Then, I will brush my teeth. Maybe then I will hold my husband’s hand as we walk along the beach in our new home in Fukuoka, Japan.
There is no telling what will happen. Anything is possible. And possibility is the one thing depression never told me about.
I am so glad I got out of bed today.