Monday, February 4, 2013

Depression Default Settings


Every day seems to present itself with a new challenge.  Just when I think I am getting the hang of things and feeling prepared, I am caught off-guard.  Inevitably, something happens in my psyche and I have to re-evaluate my attack strategy.

Whether or not you struggle with a mental illness, change is an ever present reality in life.

Throughout all the changes in my life over the past ten years, I can look back and see that my depression has manifested itself in many different forms.  Many times, my experience felt less like normal change and more like a continuous circle drilling ever deeper and deeper into despair.

It is not uncommon for people struggling depression to also struggle with other mental disorders such as eating disorders, anxiety, and obsessive compulsive disorders, just to name a few.

Looking back on my darkest of times, I admit that I was also very extreme with my eating behaviors.  Once I felt like I had my eating habits under control, I had extreme panic attacks.  Then once I eased my anxiety, I was obsessively counting everything under the sun.  Then, it would start all over again.  Needless to say, I was not doing well.  I lived in a different world than my peers.

In my head, my default setting went something like this; I am unhappy, therefore, it must be because I am fat.

No matter the situation, if I felt unhappy, my brain told me it’s because I am fat.

To this very day, I have to beat down those ridiculous thoughts as they pop into my head.

If I am sad about not having a job, it’s because I am fat.
If I am unhappy at a party or gathering, it’s because I am fat.
If I am depressed about the state of the world, it’s because I am fat.

Was I born that way?  I don’t think so.

I am going to take a good guess and say that it comes from my commercial catechism.

Commercials and society, in general, tell me that I cannot be happy unless I am flawlessly beautiful, extremely thin, and have perfect hair.  And being the gullible person I am, I let that belief run (and ruin) my life.

Yes, I felt fat, but, more importantly, I felt unlovable because of the way I looked.  I felt that I did not deserve love because of my appearance.  I did not even deserve to love myself.

This belief dictated how I lived my life.  I tried to fix my depression by fixing how I looked on the outside.  Appearance was my first priority.  If I thought I gained weight, I could not show my face in public.  If I didn’t exercise, I was weak.  If I wasn’t stylish, then I was a laughing stock.  If I ate desserts, then I was a failure.

For the most part, now I can recognize these ridiculous thoughts and NOT obey them.  From time to time, however, I still make poor choices.  I am still a work-in-progress.

Did anyone wake up with a Super Bowl hangover?  You know, lots of good junk food and mindless eating in front of the television?  All I wanted to do today was starve myself to make up for my “eating sins”.  I felt groggy and sluggish this morning.  My default button kicked on and told me it was because I am fat.

Really?  I thought we were done with this?

So, I took a deep breath and tried to distinguish the facts from the feelings.

Let's evaluate:  Yesterday, I ate more junk food than I normally do in one day.  I stayed up late and didn’t get enough sleep.  This weekend was busy, not my usual routine.  It’s Monday (need I say more?).  I watched TV (I don’t normally watch a lot of television).  I am, yet again, feeling down because I don’t have a job.  And, it’s, you know ladies, that time of the month.

So it is clear that there are a lot of other factors that could be contributing to my bad mood.  I have to remind myself, again, that starving myself will NOT make me happy.  If I don’t believe it at first, I have to keep repeating it over and over until I do believe it.  Fake it till you make it.

Even if you do not deal with a mental disorder, from time to time, you might find yourself wanting to cope with the blues in an unhealthy way.  The best thing to do is to separate the facts from the feelings.  You don’t have to use extreme measures to get your mood up.  Sometimes all it takes is a few deep breaths.  Other times you might need to show yourself more love. 

If I am struggling with a “downward spiral” mood, I try one of the following mood boosters:

Taking a Walk – I drop everything (bundle up) and leave the house, even if it is just a walk around the block once or twice.

Journal – Sometimes you just need a good vent on a piece of paper.

Reading blogs or self-help books/articles – nothing too heavy, when I am down I can’t handle using too much brain power or things just shut down.

Tending to my garden – In the summer, this has become my FAVORITE coping skill.

Doing the dishes – It is mindless, yet productive, and I feel a sense of accomplishment after it’s done.

Watching a funny movie – Ah, the magic of laughter…

Going to Confession – There is a cleansing power to this Sacrament.  It’s hard to get there, but when you do, the effects are so good for your mind, let alone, your soul.

Playing the piano – or any instrument if you can play one.  I play Canon in D when I am in need of an outlet.  The song is different every time I play it.  Sometimes, it’s fast and loud and angry.  Other times, its soft and sad and makes me cry.

Other Favorite Mood Boosters: Talking to a friend on the phone, or having coffee with someone.  Boy, do I like coffee.

What are some things you do to help lift a bad mood?  Leave a comment below.  I would love to hear about it.



Until next time, Take Care!

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