As I wrote last week I’m on reduced time at work. For the past two weeks I worked a very small amount and for the next two weeks I’ll work a bit more. The consensus among my doctors and my friends and family is that I shouldn’t be completely off work, that working even a few hours each week (about 11 to start) would provide me with some structure, and I agreed.
But, these same people also wanted to know what I intended to do with the rest of my time. Nobody was looking for anything really productive or life-changing for that non-work time. They all just want to make sure that I’m not just staying in bed or sitting somewhere ruminating about less than positive thoughts or even just about how much my current condition sucks (and it does). Again, I agree with this thinking. There have certainly been mornings that I would prefer just staying in the warmth of my bed or even crawl back in in the middle of my day. And ruminating comes easy to me.
Two weeks ago, on my first day of working just a half day, a good friend texted me to ask how I was spending my afternoon. I don’t think that this was some casual inquiry to see what “fun” I might be having. She’s made it clear that she’s in my corner and wanted to make sure that I was A) not doing work and B) doing something that involved taking care of myself. I was actually on a “date” with myself thinking about not how much this all sucks, but about what changes, even small changes, I could be making to help me get better.
Structure is important and to provide myself with that I’m scheduling my days even more than I was when working full time. Today is Monday and I worked this morning. I scheduled my morning workout as if I was meeting somebody at our home gym, scheduled what time I would leave for work, scheduled my work meetings and what projects I was going to work on and when. I also scheduled when I MUST leave work, no saying, “oh I could get this other thing done if I stay another 15 minutes”, which given how supportive my colleagues have been, I’m sure I’d get called out on. I scheduled this writing time and what I’m doing the rest of the day.
Yesterday, Sunday, I scheduled my day. I never do that on weekends unless I have set plans with someone or my daughter has a birthday part or a basketball game. I really only scheduled my morning, but this included my morning workout, having breakfast and doing up the dishes, having a shower, planning my week including setting some goals, and playing a game with my daughter. I know some of you are thinking that sounds pretty ridiculous, unless of course, you’ve dealt with depression or other health issues that sap your energy, attention, and motivation.
It’s easy to let my workout slip by, but exercise is a good way of improving mood and increasing energy. It’s also easy to let things like dishes or laundry go, but that stuff has to get done and I’m physically healthy so I refuse to dump that stuff off on my wife, which would make me feel worse. Planning my week and setting goals for myself helps me to at least feel like I’m moving forward. I’m grateful every day that I already had routines like setting daily goals established so that I can use those tools to get through my days.
While I try to be as much my “normal” self as possible around my daughter, she knows what’s going on. She may not fully understand it, but my wife and I had an honest conversation with her about depression. I think it’s important for me to continue to make time to do fun things with her. It’s good for both of us.
I’m also scheduling time to clean my house, time to connect with others (in person, virtually, or through writing letters), time to have lunch, and of course, therapy session and any homework my doctors have given me.
I need to do all of this to provide me with focus and boundaries. It’s too easy to look at social media, which I’m trying to limit to avoid drowning in bad news right now. Like I said, it’s very easy to just stay in bed, or go back to it if I’m home. It’s too easy to sit and let my mind wonder to less than positive thoughts, to ruminate on what’s going wrong, or how sad and angry I am that I’m going through this. I can’t do that because I know that those things won’t only not help me get better, but will likely make me worse.
Now, for those of you reading this thinking, “but when does she relax?” I read on the bus, before bed, and sometimes just sitting in my living room. I had a great massage last week. I love writing and connecting with my friends provides me with both opportunities to talk about what I’m dealing with and to forget about it for even a few minutes.
All of these things combine to provide me with a foundation to build myself back up upon. It seems to be working for me, but a foundation like that is different for everyone and may shift over time. I’m still experimenting and trying to figure it all out, with more than a little help from my amazing support network.
For those reading this and going through their own struggle, I have two bits of advice:
- Ask people for help and then let them help you
- Figure out what the healthiest ways are to take care of yourself and do as much of that as you can.
That’s it. You can get through this.