I’m Going Down. Now what?

clouds
“I know that in everybody’s life must come days of depression and discouragement when all things in life seem to lose savour. The sunniest day has its clouds; but one must not forget the sun is there all the time.” ~ Lucy Maud Montgomery

We all have off days.  Days where our irritation levels run high and we just want to run away.  Days when no amount of coffee in the world can help us keep going and it feels like there are heavy clouds weighing down our hearts.  But what does it feel like to really be heading “down” into depression?  There’s a difference between a bad day and a season of heading into depression.  How can you tell the difference?

For me, I learned to listen to my body; physically, mentally and spiritually. It’s taken me years to truly understand and listen to the warning signs for me.

Physically:

  • My left eye lid droops
I know that sounds odd, and it really is a bit strange.  When I get overtired, overstressed and well just plain overwhelmed with things, the muscles over my left eye relax.  Kevin can now look at me and know I need rest.
  • I can’t sleep
Even though I may be completely exhausted, sleep doesn’t come.  My bed becomes a torture chamber.
  • I crave coffee and sugar
Ok, well, I crave coffee and sugar all the time.  But when I’m really going down, I can’t get enough.  I just keep thinking one more cup of coffee will get me through.  It doesn’t, it only gives me the shakes.
  • I hide from people.

I’m an extrovert, so being with people energizes me.  When I find myself not wanting to go out and I avoid people whenever possible, I realize that’s not the real “me”.

  • I don’t smile

I love to smile. It’s such a small act that makes people feel like you are glad to see them. Yet, when my smiles slow down, and the nasty crease (aka wrinkle) in between my eyes deepens, I know it’s not good.

  • My anxiety is heighten

My heart begins to beat faster, my breath becomes shallow and quick, my hands shake.  Anyone who has suffered anxiety or a panic attack can understand how horrible the feeling can be.

Mentally:
  • I can’t think straight
My job as a coordinator, as well as being a mom, means I make a thousand decisions a day.  But when my mind is shutting down, it’s difficult to make even the simplest decision.
  • It’s difficult to help others
When my mind is full of my own “issues”, it’s almost impossible to be there for others.  Yet, that’s what usually drives me.  I love helping others! So, I know there’s something wrong inside me, when I’m too exhausted to deal with people.

Spiritually:

  • I can’t “feel” God
Ever go through a patch where you can’t “feel’ God’s presence?
  • I can’t find the words to pray
I’m thankful that God knows my thoughts even when I don’t have the words.

So what does all this mean?  How does it help to understand your own warning signs or when the clouds are rolling in?  For me, it means I need to take action to protect myself before the clouds become black.

What taking action looks like for me:

  • I reach out and tell my family and close friends
  • Pray even when I don’t have the words
  • If I’ve committed to something, I send my regrets and try not to feel guilty
  • Say no to people, even if it’s something I’m passionate about
  • Take time for myself.  My husband is so supportive. He understands when I need to go to bed at 7pm or if I need to go for a run (Heck, sometimes he tells me to go to bed or pushes me out for a run.  Love that guy!)
  • Try to stay physically active.  This can be hard when I’m feeling exhausted, but I try to push myself to do at least something
  •  I write about it.  As much as this blog is hopefully helping others, it is also an incredible journey of self discovery
  • I take a day off work.  Spend a day writing, reading, walking in the woods, praying.  Just me and God.  Again, with no guilt.
  • If it gets really bad, I will seek professional help.

The guilt of letting people down can push me to the edge.  But I know I’m no good to anyone, unless I care for myself first. We all know that the sun continues to shine behind the clouds.  Eventually the clouds will dissipate and we’ll be able to see clearly once again.  Never forget that.

Do you recognize your warning signs when you’re going down or the clouds are rolling in?  What do you do to take action to care for yourself?

Psalm 97:2 (NIV)
Clouds and thick darkness surround him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.
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8 Replies to “I’m Going Down. Now what?”

  1. Linda, I try to be kind to myself. I use the words “this too shall pass” especially if it is probably an anniversary- like Gord’s dd. I turn on all the lights. I try to take baby step to reconnect. I have recently used the assistance of a therapist to help give me tools to both stay grounded, and on a good energy path. A new book on mindfullness is a huge curve for me.

    1. Sarah, thank you so much for sharing! Yes, baby steps, one foot in front of the other, is sometimes all we can manage. Especially around specific times in our lives, like Gord’s dd. I think it’s great that you have sought the help of a therapist. They are wonderful at giving us tools to cope, for sure. You are beautiful and strong, Sarah. Be gentle with yourself.

  2. After my first husband’s death, I entered into a dark tunnel and stayed there for years. (It wasn’t the first time I visited that tunnel but it was definitely the longest I’ve stayed in it.) I somehow managed to hold it together on the outside (barely) but inside it was cloudy all the time with a very good chance of crying. What helped me initially to get out of that sad place was a small group at a church I had just joined. My opening line to the group was, “Hi. I’m Yvonne. I have many problems.” Then I cried out loud until it got all snotty. That group let me be authentic, to show on the outside what was going on in the inside. I can’t thank them enough for that. They put up with a lot of sob sessions for me. I think it’s really important to have people in your life you can be completely honest with even if the honesty isn’t all that pretty.

    Through years of journeying with depression, I have learned that the root of it for me is perfectionism. I have a strong drive to do everything perfectly and when I don’t, I start beating myself up and getting to a bad place. In my childhood, I learned to associate being very good with being loved. When I didn’t perform as well as I thought I should, I skidded down hill and believed I was unlovable. I knew intellectually of God’s unconditional love but didn’t let it penetrate my heart until very recently. My new mantra, one I recite often these days is, “God loves me, right here, right now.” I say it when I burn the tacos. When I forget to pick my son up from school. When I eat the cake I said I wasn’t going to. That mantra is the truth and I believe the truth will set me free from the lie.

    I guess in summary, when I realize I’m going down, I talk with trusted friends about it. What comes out of my mouth isn’t always nice Christian ideas or words but it is honest. I also speak words of truth to myself like some people run or diet. In other words, consistently. It helps me breathe deeper, see the world a little more accurately and accept myself where I’m at. The funny thing is that people appreciate my authentic self – the one who isn’t a great cook, the one who forgets things, the one who still has cellulite – a lot more than my perfect acting job and I feel the love I so desperately want more now than I ever did being Little Miss Perfect.

    1. I love your mantra, Yvonne! “God loves me, right here, right now.” It’s so great to speak the truth to yourself, when the lies of being inadequate, not smart enough, strong enough, etc. start filling your mind.

      And I love how you found a group that you could be on the outside, who you were on the inside. Being surrounded by accepting community is definitely key. It’s so true that people actually prefer the “real” authentic us, to the one we think they’ll like better. Oh, how we beat ourselves up! But no more!

      Thank you for sharing so openly and honestly. You are a gift to others.

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