December 20, 2011

Today was a good day; what gives?

Today was a really good day. I don’t know why exactly, but it was.
Never mind the troublesome fact that having one good day is blog worthy. That probably means I have a long way to go in fully recovering from a crash-and-burn episode of severe depression last summer.

Yet that’s a blog for another day. Let’s get back to today. It was a whistle-in-the shower, think funny things, eat chocolate and enjoy life kind of day. Seriously.

Since I reverse engineered a bad day in an earlier blog, let’s walk back through today and see if we can identify what made it a good one. The fact that I didn’t have to go to work today surely is a factor, but I promise you I have just as many bad days on the weekends as I do during the work week—sometimes more. But in the interest of full disclosure, I was off today (work, that is).
  • I ate a healthy breakfast. I learned in a partial hospitalization program that good nutrition is key in battling depression. This morning, I had a wheat waffle covered in peanut butter. No syrup!
  • I went for a brisk walk. I’m a runner at heart but can’t bring myself to run hard again just yet. I’ve lost my edge, lost that eye of the tiger with this soul-sapping illness. But instead of lying on my ass today, I got it moving. I made two personal phone calls that I needed to make while walking, one to my mom and one to my brother.
  • I did not drink alcohol last night. Back when I was a heavy drinker, the next day or two (okay, three) were often brutal. My anxiety would go through the roof. My depression would worsen. That was almost a guarantee.
  • I took some time for myself. I went and got a massage. I’ve blogged about the benefits of massage before. It really helps me. If you are screaming through the keyboard that you can’t afford a massage right now or don’t have the time for it, fine. The point is I did something for me and me only. That’s pretty rare for me but it’s critical in recovery.

Today wasn’t perfect. But what day ever is, even for “normal” folks? Don’t get me wrong. I am not trying to simplify a complicated illness. Some days are brutal for those suffering from depression no matter what we do. Truth is, today was a good day because of choices I made today, yesterday, and the day before that and probably even the month before that. I’ve been taking my meds and making my appointments with my therapist, for example. 

I want to thank you for taking the time to read this blog. I write to cope and, hopefully, connect with others who suffer. If you had a bad day, take heart. Keep fighting. It will get better.

December 12, 2011

When Mornings Start Rough, Fake It 'Til You Make It

Fake it ‘til you make it.

That’s what one great collegiate golf coach that I know tells her players when they’re having a bad round. “Fake it ‘til you make it" means a bad start to a round of golf, or a work day at the office, doesn’t have to always turn into a bad afternoon.
Sometimes you just have to fake it til you make it, or keep plugging away until things improve.
Too many Mondays are like that for me. Today was an especially Manic Monday. At least the morning was. I awoke tired and depressed. The weather was depressing. Work was even worse—at least until after lunch. 
As I’ve blogged about before, there is a natural explanation for why mornings can be harder for those of us who suffer from depression. It’s partly because our body naturally produces more of the stress hormone called cortisol in the mornings.
That can become a vicious cycle because an elevated cortisol level only makes us more stressed out, which then leads to more cortisol, which then leads to even more stress and anxiety.
Enough with the science, which I have only a limited grasp of anyway.
Sometimes I find, like today, if I can just grind through a tough morning, I can end up with a decent afternoon. I end up setting small goals when mornings start out rough. Like make it to my 10 am coffee break. Finish that letter I’ve been procrastinating. And then just make it to lunch.
That can be enough to propel me to the afternoon, when my energy and mood generally improve. I’ll be honest here. It doesn’t always work. Sometimes all the coffee and positive self-talk I can stand doesn’t make tough starts turn into good days. But I try. We always have to try.
This is a bit dramatic perhaps, but we just need to remember the words of the late Jim Valvano, the North Carolina State basketball court who led his team to an unlikely National Championship and then died of cancer a decade later.
“Don’t give up,” Valvano said. “Don’t ever give up.”
 Words to live by.