I think that this should be titled The Climb, because that is how this has felt to me. I feel as though I have been climbing, step by step and day by day, out of the hole I dug myself. This took a lot of personal inquiry and attention, but not necessarily a lot of work. I actually did less for a while. The biggest things I decided to do for myself was to be kind and grateful. It is the one thing that helped me the most.
My first step in kindness for myself was to calm down on the things I considered “my” responsibility. I relaxed on the things I thought that I needed to do and asked for help with the rest. This allowed me to breathe, to see the important things in my life and care for those. This also gave me the chance to listen to the things I said to myself and notice the feelings that followed. What was I telling myself that gave me so much guilt? Were those really my words or did I get them from someone else? By listening deeply I was able to see that I treated me like shit. That I would cling to the only things I felt I did well, and then turn those things into problems. This way of living had turned me into a shell, filled with my failures and insecurities. I couldn’t see the good that was me.
After noticing how I treated myself, I decided to find things to be grateful for, everyday. I had no energy to put in much work, so I made it as simple as possible. When I went to bed for the night I tried to list off things I was grateful for, in my head, until I tired of the task and went to sleep. “Shout out to my bed for always having my back” (meme) was often the only thing I could list and actually feel grateful for. Turns out that was enough. The trick was to feel the gratitude for my bed in my body. It mostly felt like pure relief to done for the day and allowed to rest. After about a week I was able to feel gratitude, in my body, for simple things, like my bed, my house, my car, my son, my husband, and such (yes, in this order and yes, I know that people should come first. I worked with what I felt). The feeling of gratitude is such a powerful thing that once it gets going, and it gets a chance to keep moving, it will sneak into all parts of the day.
Also, with this time I was giving myself, I tried to do the things I enjoy. Mostly, I read and read and read. It’s a great pastime and gets me out of my head, into a story or an idea that is not my own. Like a mini vacation from myself. Since I am a self-help nut, I also hoped I could gather ideas that could help me learn, grow and change from how I was feeling into how I hoped to feel. I do believe that the answers we seek are inside of ourselves, but that it helps to have some guidance. I use books as a rough guide into a direction of change, adjusting only for personality and traffic.
I can tell you that the ideas here are simple, but some were hard to do. Letting others care for me and learning to answer questions honestly, especially to myself, was a lesson in vulnerability that I didn’t ask for. Obviously I needed it. Letting go when I felt everything was out of control was another skill I forced on myself. The freedom that followed allowed me to find peace in a mind that was full of guilt and shame. I needed that freedom. I had to learn to let go of the judgments I had of myself and find the person that was actually there. My imperfections weren’t the issues. My thoughts and the following emotions were. I had to learn to see things as they are, not as I pictured them to be. Cracks can be beautiful, too.
I write to help me, I share to help others. Depression is a miserable and bleak place to be. Being open to change, however small, can be the one turning point needed to be a little happier. I truly feel that gratitude saved my life. Knowing that I lost it and then bringing it back reminded me to open my eyes to what was real. Giving myself the opportunity to be as I am without the judgment allowed me to be okay with me. I am the only one who sees myself so poorly and only I can can change that perspective.
If you are dealing with anything that remotely feels like depression, please reach out. If you have no one to open up to, I’m here, and I’ll try. If you know someone who seems down be sure to keep your judgments, pity and fears to yourself. They help no one. What helps is to listen. Listen not to respond, but to hear. Having the burden one carries seen by another can lighten the load, just enough, to make the next step easier. We don’t have to carry others’ burdens on our shoulders, but we can walk beside someone who struggles.
As always, I love you.