“She was a girl who knew how to be happy, even when she was sad. And that’s important.” ~Marilyn Monroe
Depression is like a bad word with bad connotations. People overuse it inappropriately the same way they might throw a cuss word or two to the breeze, neglecting the true meaning of the word itself. You might hear, “Dude, I’m so depressed. I have to miss the game this weekend.” Or–it takes the other route, people simply avoid using it all (I mean the word itself is depressing…).
But as “bad” as it is, as much as I don’t want to deal with it– depression happens to me. I do get depressed, and not like in a “my favorite pen ran out of ink” way, but rather in a “the curtains must stay closed; I won’t leave my bed unless it’s to go to the tub; I’ll insist on ineffectively self-medicating with wine all day and I won’t turn off the phone, but I’ll let it ring and stare at it, knowing without a doubt that I’m saving others from the disgrace that is my-self” way. The National Institute of Mental Health describes it as, “When you have depression, it interferes with daily life and causes pain for both you and those who care about you.”
Whether or not you’re diagnosed with a mood disorder, whether or not you have ever defined yourself openly as feeling depressed, most likely you’ve encountered the circumstance at some point for whatever length of time. I’m an artist, so “luckily” my moods and sensitive understandings are not that surprising to others. People sort of expect artists and writers to think on a different beat. Regardless of anyone’s beats, a bout of depression can creep into one’s day without consent.
Someone you really wanted to see may have just canceled on you, or your insurance provider is blatantly scamming you. On the other hand, you may have had a great morning, or just completed an incredible achievement. When a dip in my mood happens after a let down, I can at least understand it, give it context, explain to people why I can’t make the dinner or why I decided not to show up to the volunteer meeting–because something very disappointing just happened which I’m still processing. However, when a dark mood hits me in the midst of a sunny day or on a day when I should be happy like on my birthday or at a cookout, I not only feel depressed but also basically like a freak.
The reasons or triggers for the arrival of a depressed mood sometimes do show consistency, and I can predict a mood dip. For example, I sometimes mentally prepare for a bout of depression on my way home from a really exciting trip or vacation. Returning home from a stimulating adventure always bums me out; it’s almost like I’m grieving that it’s over and accidentally I think negatively, telling myself that my home life is so boring and perhaps not where I really want to be and that I’m ruining my life by being normal (remember…it’s not rational thoughts, it’s depressed thinking).
But many times, depression will catch me off guard in the car on the way to CVS, or oddly on a Saturday morning with a day full of plans. My least favorite is the midweek afternoon blues. If I get depressed for a few days midweek, I won’t lie to you, it’s tough. Typically what happens is that all my spunk and passion will disappear, the world outside my room becomes threatening and unbearably noisy; I’ll have trouble being social, and any form of happiness in those around me becomes clouded in my sorrowful or sometimes cynical thoughts. If it weren’t a weekday, I wouldn’t leave the house, but even if I’m depressed on a weekday, I have to.
How do I cope with a midweek bout of depression? I strip clean my responsibilities to the bare bones. For instance: It’s a regular workday, so I have to step out and get my sad butt to work. What I do is, I turn off my human feeling mode and turn on my robot mode. This allows me to complete my tasks. Instead of fretting that I’m sad, I’ll accept the sadness, let myself be sad and clinically methodically complete the critical duties of the day. However, what I won’t do is follow through on a plan to meet for lunch. I’ll cancel and reschedule. This is the same tactic I use when it comes to any doctor’s appointments or meetings scheduled that day/s too. If I give myself permission to call, cancel and reschedule when I’m depressed, I find that it pays off. It’s better to bunker down, recover, wait it out. Then when the mood subsides and I can follow up with positive energy, leaving a good impression.When you're young and healthy you can plan on Monday to commit suicide, and by Wednesday you're laughing again.… Click To Tweet
When I used to force myself to do things while I was depressed, it backfired on the regular. If I was supposed to go shopping with my mom, it basically turned into torture not just for me, but worse, for her. If I went to a meeting with Eeyore’s cloud over my head, I certainly underperformed which would leave me feeling even worse, adding on another layer of failure to the mood. The most important thing to keep in mind for me on these types of days is to get the basics done and remove any secondary stimulations that could potentially darken the mood further.
If I treat my depressed moods the same way I would a cold or flu, it seems to work. If I have a cold, I always still complete the important bulk of the day’s work, but then I unquestionably allow myself to crash, rest and recover. Additionally, it’s easier to give myself permission to skip a reception if I have a cold; skipping something while depressed without giving self-permission is super stressful. I’ll start to judge myself, “what’s wrong with me? Why can’t I go do this fun thing and be normal like everyone else?” However, if I conceptualize a session of depression in the same way I perceive a flu, recovery time is shorter. The heavy awkward guilt dissipates because we don’t feel guilty about rain-checking when we are physically under the weather. What I try to remember most when I’m depressed is that it’s okay, that’s it’s not bad, and that like bad weather, it will always pass, leaving behind a clear sky.