It’s difficult to hold onto one’s identity when you’re depressed. You can go through it once or a thousand times but it steals the same amount of your spirit. Whether situational, hormonal, or chemical, the reasons often do not dictate the damage.
Depression can confuse you, masking who you truly are through self-doubt, self-hatred, and self-sabotage. Not only does it take your confidence, your hobbies, your ambition, your interests, and your smile… worst of all is it steals your time; Time that could have been used not only for yourself but for your family. The time that could have been spent building and growing and laughing alongside people who have also been stolen from.
So how can one navigate such a ruthless reality? Because whether you deny it, run from it, or hide it… you have no real control.
Of course, you still try to manage it. Be it through mindfulness or healthy coping mechanisms or cognitive therapy; You can try all the Zoloft or St. John’s Wort you’re medically allowed to take… but once the big D has arrived… it’s uncertain how long it will stay. No matter what you do.
So how can you embrace such a frightening foe once it knocks at your door? Once it barges in, uninvited, kidnapping the joy of not just you, but of that which you offer your friends and family.
How is one able to stare sadness in the face and simply say…
I see you. I understand (or don’t understand) why you’re here. And although it is terribly inconvenient… let’s do this.
Those who have been predisposed to the diathesis of depression may have even learned how to ride the wave. The ups and downs of motivation and apathy… the shame, anger and the acceptance. For some, the duration is much shorter; mainly just due to familiarity. For others, that familiarity is devastating, exhausting, and soul-quenching. Knocking at your door making you question…
“You’re here again!? I JUST said goodbye to you! How are you already back to once again stunt my success, limit my abilities, and damage my heart?”
For some, this new unknown entity is absolutely world-shattering: An unfamiliar thief who can steal our stability as quickly and easily as a home intruder.
“Who the hell are you? My home and my family and my life are not prepared for this! I’ve never once hosted such a merciless trespasser! How the hell will I survive this?”
This is especially true for those struggling with prenatal or postpartum depression.
“This is the worst time, please please go away! How will I ever be able to take care of my children if I can’t even take care of myself?! I should be happy! Why are you here NOW of all times?!”
No matter the frequency, circumstance, familiarity, or intensity… depression is always an unwanted visitor.
But once we come to the realization that we can do nothing about its arrival other than embrace and navigate it the best that we can, we begin to become a little less afraid of it. Once we learn to sit in the pain, apathy or anxiety, we can feel a little more hope over the hopelessness.
The only control we have over the uncontrollable is acceptance.
I accept that this may be a slow season right now. Full of dirty dishes and snoozed alarms, canceled appointments and a dirty home. I will get back to me, I know that this will not define me.
I accept that I may not be functioning to the best of my capacity for a while. And that’s okay. Because I understand why. Even if other’s around me don’t.
But how can you manage, minimize, or explain that to a child? Or an employer? There is no storybook or disability leave for mental health.
All you can do is be as honest and tactful as you can.
“I’m going through a rough time right now, I may be a little sad and out of sorts for a while. But if you can be patient with me and give me grace during this season, I know I will come out stronger on the other side”
Okay maybe to your little one a simpler version is better “Remember hormones? Sometimes our body tricks us that we are sad. Mommy loves you and if I’m not happy for a little while just remember that has nothing to do with you! You can always ask Mommy questions or talk to me if you need to”
The darkest part of depression is the secrecy and shame. When we hide it from others or are ashamed to admit it, that is how we give it the most power over our lives.
But when we accept and embrace it like a visitor, unwanted as it may be… it is a lot less daunting.
“Ugh my Mother-in-Law is here for the month. I’m sorry, I may not be able to hang out as much. It’s going to be a pain getting my kid to school while juggling with entertaining her. Could we carpool for a bit? Hey did you say you had an affordable house cleaner? I may need to use that to help me catch up right now. If I cancel our girl’s night or can’t make your wedding please understand and know if I wasn’t preoccupied with this visitor I would absolutely be there.”
Obviously we don’t all equate our mother in law to depression. But for the sake of personifying a stressful and perhaps sometimes exhausting emotional season, you get the point.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to meditate or medicate my way around this demon of a time. And more often than not, you have to in order to endure it. But other times, those avenues don’t work. And all you can do is the best you can.
Keep trying to manage it through coping mechanisms or therapy or nutrition…because it is human to try to survive and all of that is still beneficial and will help to curb the chaos. But do not fear that which cannot be managed or controlled. Because sometimes the pain needs to be felt. And sometimes we have to just sit in that mud or shit for a while to appreciate the cleaner side once we come out of it.
And don’t be fooled. You will come out of it. Eventually. So hang in there. Light those candles and incense in the bath or shower, drink all the water you can, remember to eat… and not just the unhealthy serotonin/dopamine inducing sugar, but the brain/hormone nurturing stuff too. Cuddle your loved ones even if you don’t feel worthy. Remember all your seasons of strength to KNOW your worth and counter that self-doubt. Weigh those difficult moments in logic, not emotion. Take a walk and breathe in that nature. Smile at the smiles you made in your babies and be grateful that they can always smile for you when you can’t. Be confident that you will teach them how to never fear the dark because you ran into it with no flashlight saying “I may not know the way but I know that I will find it”.