Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Seasonal depression bug-out bag

First of all, I'd like to apologize for dropping off the face of the earth like I did. As is my annual tradition, I came down with a bad case of sinusitis a couple of weeks ago, which made it hard to keep up with the stuff I need to do to take care of myself (i.e. exercise, going outside, yadda yadda). Along with the already diminishing sunlight, this was enough to hand me over to the welcoming arms of seasonal depression, and one of the first stage side effects of this is that I hate everything I write even more than usual. Where normally, I'd just hit 'publish' and then go wallow in a ditch somewhere covering myself in shame and fallen leaves, this time I'm completely unable to even type a sentence without succumbing to the crushing certainty that by doing so, I have just made the world worse.
This is why it's awesome that fan fiction is a thing, by the way, because if it weren't for that already being accepted as awful, I wouldn't be able to write at all. And I kind of need to, because this is one of the things that are in my depression bug-out bag.

Having just come out of one, I feel pretty silly even calling it that, and even like it might be insulting to people who have to battle real depression that can only be dented with meds. Luckily, being the omniscient super-being that she is, The Bloggess just posted something that convinced me to go ahead and write this post anyway, and remind myself that there are few things out there that are as stupid as rating mental illness.* I know full well what it is when I'm in it, and I know one of its signature tricks is to point at you and laugh whenever you manage to fight it back to its lair, pointing out that it was never real to begin with and you are an idiot for thinking it was, so instead of feeling like a survivor, you come off the tail end of it feeling like a complete moron. This is because it is a bad loser, and all it has to fall back on are lies.

I know I've done it though, and I've done it so many times now I think I can justifiably call myself a veteran, even if it makes me feel like a fraud. And this is kind of the whole point, since depression, seasonal or otherwise, may be the only situation where it's not a good idea to trust your feelings. Because depression is a mind-monster that lies and warps the very tools you need to interpret reality, you need to have faith in what you know.

I've accumulated a mental list of things I know without a doubt to be true, and I guess I could call it a truth-list or whatever, but it sounds way cooler to refer to it as a bug-out bag (of truth!), because it effectively helps me to survive and make it through relatively short spells of defectiveness in one piece. Here's what's in it:

  • This will end.
  • A shower is always a good idea.
  • It is important to spend your spoons wisely. Tiny acts of self care are the best investments, because motivation stems from action and not the other way around. Try to think of the smallest thing you could do. Even something like brushing your teeth, clearing your desk or picking up your laundry can be enough to get the ball rolling a little bit. Directing some extra awareness to what you are doing and why reinforces the effect. I've been told you could repeat the mantra: "I take good care of myself, because I love myself," but if that makes you throw up in your mouth a little, you can just say the first half, because that is certainly true. Don't argue with me.
  • Writing will make you feel better. Go write some crap. Accept that it will be crap, and write it anyway. Set out to write crap on purpose! Nobody cares. We're all space meat anyway.
  • You are not a vampire. I know all your instincts are telling you to lock yourself into a dark room right now, but all your instincts are wrong. What you need to do is put on some clothes and get your ass some sunlight.
  • You are most definitely not "hideously deformed". I don't even want to hear about it.
  • This is not a good time to skip meditation. Keep training yourself to stop futuring. Catching yourself when you are obsessing about the future is exactly what you practice during mindfulness meditation, and this is the time to put it into action. Pretend you are in the AA and try to look no more than an hour ahead.
  • In fact, now is a bad time to think about any grand topics like your Relationship or your Career or Global Warming. Nothing you'll be able to think about any of these things will be the slightest bit useful, I guarantee you. I know telling yourself you are "not allowed" to think about things will make you want to think about them extra hard, but you can approach it like you're postponing a chore. Just tell yourself "oh I'll think about that tomorrow", and then don't. Postponing chores is easy.
  • Walking boosts dopamine. That shit is exactly what you need right now.
  • Smoking is never a good idea.
  • Talking to someone is good, but only if that someone can be trusted to not make things worse by panicking about it. The second best people are the ones who hold you when you tell them that you feel like you are trapped in a horror movie and may never get out. The best people are the ones who have been there, and don't need to be told.
  • Your brain will insist on pestering you with memories of every horrible thing that happened to you ever, making it seem like your life up to this point has been one long chain of disappointment and betrayal. This is a ruse, and the only reason it is doing this is because brains are zealous little buddies who want nothing more than to prove you are right about everything, which is why they have a hard time remembering things that don't fit your current mood. It thinks it's helping. Accept it is going to do this, and if that doesn't work, it is perfectly acceptable to read or watch Netflix until 4am. Sleep is important, but not so important that you have to lie awake in the dark all night and take that shit.
  • This will end. I put this one twice because it is the single most important one. Again, I know when and how it will end is different for everyone, and yes, sometimes you can't just ride it out without medication. But if you're like me and it comes in waves, just knowing how long it usually takes can be a relief in itself. Try to keep track of time, even if it's just for future reference. Journaling is an invaluable tool, because the monster is deceitful and its favorite thing is to play tricks with time and make things feel like forever. I usually give myself a week or two (or three), while carefully monitoring for red flags like the urge to self harm. Knowing you can survive is the most empowering thing there is, but trying to white knuckle it without proper guidance is a bad idea. As always, remember there are people out there who are trained to help you, and getting help is always a good move. But you knew all that, right? You're pretty smart about that sort of stuff.

* To be fair, there are about a million things out there that are as stupid as rating mental illness, but that's beside the point. It just means the human race has a mind-boggling capacity to come up with stupid things.

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