A few months ago I was telling a colleague of mine that I was dealing with a bout of depression. I talked about what I had been doing for self-care and mentioned that I’d taken up meditation. I had meditated in the past, but not as diligently as I started doing last fall. He was surprised to hear that I’d established a new habit while struggling with depression.
Until he said that it hadn’t occurred to me that might a bit unusual. Of course I knew that it’s easy for your good habits to fall away when dealing with depression or any other illness, but taking better care of myself seemed like what I should be doing. I kept my depression to myself and those closest to me for a long time so I was pretty adept at doing what I had to to not let it show, while trying to get better.
That didn’t work this time because of how severe it was, but I still tried to put the energy that I had into taking care of myself. I’ve never been a heavy drinker, but just as I have the past few times, I stopped consuming any alcohol as soon as I realized that it wasn’t just stress taking a round out of me, but rather another bout of depression. I took up daily meditation. I became even more diligent about exercising. I got in with the therapist I’ve seen in the past who has always been helpful. And this time, I decided it was bad enough that I was ready to try medication. For me, when I’m struggling is when I seem to be most aware of what I need to do to take care of myself.
I recently had a realization about the flip side to this. When I’m feeling good, it’s easy for me to let self-care slide. “Hey, I feel great so I don’t have to do all of this.” That, of course, is ridiculous. I want to stay feeling good so I need to continue doing all of the things that helped me getter better.
I’ll be on the medication for at least another couple of years, a decision made jointly by me and my physician. Next month will be a year since I’ve had any alcohol and I intend to abstain for at least a little while longer and even then I’ll have to limit what I have because of the medication.
I’ve been less diligent about some other things. I haven’t been working out everyday I like I was when I felt really awful, but that’s a good thing. I wasn’t taking rest days, which I should be. Now I either take a day off every week or I have days with very light workouts (a short walk on the treadmill for example).
I used to always meditate after my workouts, however, so on days when I don’t work out or when I’m running late in the morning and don’t have time to meditate after my workout I’m often not getting to it until the end of the day, which doesn’t help me nearly as much as when I do it in the morning (that’s just me).
I’ve been rushing through my morning gratitude practice as well. I haven’t been as good about getting to bed early, which is really bad because a lack of sleep is a big risk factor for depression. It’s also likely why I’ve been more rushed in the morning because I haven’t been getting out of bed as early.
When things are going well, it’s easy to let things slide. You feel really healthy so you eat crap and stay up late. Your relationship is going great so you start taking your partner for granted. Let’s be honest, the results are never good.
It would appear that feeling a lot better is bad for me, at least the way I’ve treated it. While I’m making plans and seizing opportunities now that I’m a lot healthier than I was, I need to take care of myself like I’m still depressed. I need to meditate in the morning, get to sleep at time that allows me to get a good nights sleep, put my attention and intention into things like gratitudes and what’s really good and important to me. The goal is to stay healthy and avoid having to pull myself out of that pit again.
Featured image by Ilikepie2221 under a CC-BY-SA license.