I write this while I am on sick leave from work, due to disease symptoms flaring up and a bout of depression.
I believe in sharing experiences authentically and in a way that helps others.
In this article I hope to provide you with some tools and inspiration if you are overcoming the gravitational pull of depression in early parenthood.
We all oscillate in our mood space and emotions, but depression is an interesting one because it is a little more insidious. Depression is often framed as deep sadness and despair, but it has another aspect; hopelessness, lack of motivation, detachment and total, overwhelming inertia to do the things we know are so essential to feeling human.
I knew I was going into an episode because of this inertia; I struggled to care and motivate myself to shower, brush my teeth, get dressed or leave the house – these are all things that as a parent, it is important to model yet it becomes really hard to do. You try to think your way through this inertia and lack of motivation, but it is like a house of cards – just as your positive thoughts gain a bit if momentum, a whisp of wind (a negative or hopeless thought) makes them collapse.
What do we do?
It really is about overcoming the inertia and I liken it to the transmission of a car. When you get going in your car, the first two gears take more RPM and more gas than once you are going. Getting started is big effort, but an object will stay in motion, once in motion. This is a law of energy and physics. As a bunch of subatomic particles & energy ourselves (not the dense material beings we tend to think we are) it is helpful to remember that these laws apply to us, too.
In depression recovery there are two strategies that have been really helpful:
Ramping up your RPM for those first difficult two gears, through SMALL WINS.
What have my small wins been?
- Making the bed
- Putting on foundation and mascara
- Playing music while I do chores
- Opening my kitchen window for fresh air
We tend to forget our small wins in depression, because the brain focuses on losses – so really do take a moment to appreciate how fresh air feels, or a nicely made bed. It is fleeting, but a start.
What are 1-2 small wins you can design? Don’t be ambitious. Stay simple.
For example, showering has been work and I know it, so to shower AND blow dry my hair isn’t something I added to my small wins list. Just a shower is great.
The second strategy is a bit woo-woo but I swear by this. Once a day marinate your brain in your ideal life. When you marinate in cooking, the dish retains the flavour of the marinade.
If you marinate your brain in your future that you want (and can conceivably happen if you take the actions) – it will retain that positive energy, even if for an hour.
How do I marinate my brain? I wrote my ideal day in 5 years down in a journal and my iphone notes. I reread it or rewrite it constantly. But the brain’s language is pictures, so I double down and have a pinterest board filled with images of what I want my future life to be.
A lot of psychologists will recommend you stay away from social media in depression, I agree that Facebook is horrible, but I do think you can use Pinterest as a wonderful strategy because it’s about ideas and visualisation, rather than watching your friend’s lives and ruminating on what you don’t have.
And that brings me to the third and most important point for depression recovery:
To overcome the gravitational pull of depression and climb out you have to have something to climb up towards.
Depression recovery may involve healing trauma, addressing problems in a therapeutic approach but I believe when that is done, it is time to focus on what you DO want to move forward. Don’t focus on what you currently have. Focus on what you are going to have.
Remember that you are not just your brain.
You have a body and a soul, too. And they are equally powerful. Your brain is not a North Korean Dictator. It has to work side by side with your body and soul. It just tries to convince us otherwise 🙂
Even if your brain feels like it is conspiring against you, know that you have two legs and a heartbeat which will take you for a walk and can override that brain.
Even when you are in dark days, remember that your soul never switches off. It is this quiet whisper of intuition which if you listen, is telling you what would work better for you, what you have to look forward to in life and it is always saying this is a temporary stage and you are larger than your brain.
Even in my least motivated days I know deep down there’s a different lifestyle and upward progress coming, that this is an episode and nothing is permanent in my life, including my moodspace or thinking patterns.
In fact, if you listen closely enough and get out into nature and quiet places (meditation, yoga, the occasional sparks of happiness) in those moments we catch thoughts that come from somewhere deeper.
Depression is the choppy shallow waters of our inner world. The deeper waters are more calm. Those are the waters of our soul and there, our soul tells us that this difficult chapter is a gift.
Depression tells us that we are on the edge of change and upward evolution is always preceded by a bit of suffering, because it makes us realize this next step in our life is necessary.
In depression we begin to see what is not working for us and when we’ve suffered enough we will finally let those things go and begin to implement what does work for us. That takes great faith and courage but I am here to tell you unequivocally that Beyond my poor thinking and self care right now, I still have a voice rising up from the deeper waters that says, am excited for you, I am excited for me, and evolution and greater happiness is ahead. Will you put into practice the strategies above, and join me?
We’ve got this.