I always feel like I have to qualify things. Why? Because people seem to always be telling me that I’m doing it wrong.
For example, I told my friend the other day that I am experiencing depression and ‘dark thoughts’. That I am apathetic and unmotivated. That I am working hard to overcome it.
‘Well, you can’t have REAL depression, because if you had REAL depression you wouldn’t be able to get out of bed. Just saying…’
And off she went talking about her son’s teacher at school and how he is marking her son down unfairly and blah blah blah.
O-kayyy. So glad I confided. And thanks so much for your support.
But it’s all very familiar. I don’t do rheumatoid arthritis ‘right’ either. I’m often told I can’t ‘have it bad’ cos I do far too much exercise, and I (usually) have far too positive an attitude.
Positive is my basic personality.
We all deal with our problems in different ways. Whatever works, I say. It’s individual.
I fight hard. That doesn’t mean I don’t hurt.
I fight depression as hard as I fight arthritis.
That’s what this post is supposed to be about. Depression. You can see how easily my mind wanders. It’s hard to stay focussed. It’s hard to think clearly. I’m also mega-flaring again. So there’s some valid brain fog and fatigue going on as well.
There’s also the nagging possibility that this isn’t a flare. That this is a return to normal. That the last two weeks were the aberration. But let’s not go there yet.
This is a megaflare. This will pass. The mild-to-moderate days will return, even though they will remain the minority. The methotrexate will work, but I can’t expect it to end all megaflares, always. That’s just crazy talk.
There are ways I manage depression. They aren’t cures. They are just the way I try to pull myself out. Because I don’t have anyone to give me a hand up.
Firstly, I keep busy. It’s harder now that the pain is so all encompassing, but I have lists and lists of things that need doing. Doesn’t matter WHAT I do. Just do something. I was feeling so good physically that I finally finished painting my room. That’s huge. It looks great now, and my furniture is finally back where it belongs. Painting itself, is a mindless task. Focusing on it empties my mind. It’s soothing.
It took me seven weeks to paint my room. Seven weeks where all the furniture was in the middle of the room. Seven weeks of paint smell. Seven weeks of doing a little bit every day. Seven weeks of washing out brushes and rollers every day, which is harder than the painting. Seven weeks of waiting for all those people who offered to come and help me finish to show up.
I painted for ten minutes. I iced my shoulder for ten minutes. I rested for an hour. I painted with the other arm for ten minutes. I iced my shoulder for ten minutes. I rested for an hour. Some days that was it for the days. Some days I was spent after one arm. Some days I went back for round two. And some days I was in too much pain to do anything at all.
So it took seven weeks. But I did it. And I’m proud. I’m proud because its akin to climbing Everest for me.
But I’m getting hung up on painting. Point is, the fact that you DO something doesn’t mean you’re not in buckets of pain. Though people will judge. But keep doing things, because you need to, to fight the depression. You need to keep on getting up and achieving one thing, just one thing, every day.
Lots of people do craft…crochet, or colouring. I don’t do those things, but I can see the purpose they serve. Distraction. A different focus. A pleasing one. And satisfaction at creating something beautiful.
Now that I’m done painting, I’m tidying up in there as well. I have my office space set up in my bedroom as well, although I am writing this from the couch. Because I have to lie down so often. Sitting up is often too much. I have thrown out a bunch of stuff that I don’t need. And I’ve gotten my tax receipts in order. More small achievements to tackle the despair.
The risk of course is finding things that remind me of sad things.
So I cry.
Crying is OK. Sitting at the bottom of your walk-in wardrobe clutching a book you used to read your kids when they were little, and remembering how wonderful life was then, bawling like a baby IS OK.
The tears will stop. Eventually. And I’ll feel a little better. And then I’ll get up and keep going.
It’s a stop / start kinda thing. Rome wasn’t built in a day. And that’s why these are mindless tasks. No deadlines. No pressure. Stuff that needs doing, but it doesn’t matter how long it takes.
Next thing…I’ve stocked the fridge with healthy food. Lots of apples and mandarins and grapes. Easy to grab and eat stuff. I have no real appetite, but then suddenly I get ravenous. So I want something healthy to grab. I really hate junk food, for the most part. So I need easy things that aren’t processed rubbish.
I’ve boiled a bunch of eggs and got them in the fridge as well. Easy to grab snacks. Lots of vitamins and minerals and protein. I also have nuts. Almonds and peanuts. Again, easy to grab, healthy snacks. When I get a bit more organised I’ll make some muesli bars and muffins. Quick mini meals.
My thermoknockoff is making soups daily. Throw it all in and walk away. My kind of cooking right now. Easy. The slow cooker will be getting a workout too.
I’m taking my folic acid and I also take a B group multivitamin that’s designed for PMS. And magnesium. I think those help a little.
Now for the big one – exercise! That one’s harder, because of the pre mentioned apathy and lack of motivation. But it is the most effective mood elevator there is. Things like a 30 minute spin class are perfect. Get in, work hard (if the RA will let me) and then get out of there. Post exercise euphoria is awesome. And the mood elevating effects last for hours.
Exercise is essential for keeping my joints moving. But it’s even more important for my mental health. Especially now. I went to the gym yesterday and I felt better afterwards. I swore I would go every day that it’s physically possible. And yet today I don’t want to. But I will. There’s a 4:30 spin class that I used to go to every single week. This week I start back. Although the class is hours away, I have changed into my gym gear, because that significantly increases the chances of me actually going. When class time rolls around, I just get into the car and go. No excuses. Not negotiable. I’m already dressed. I’m ready to go. I’m in the car and driving before my brain has time to argue.
Next thing…get out of the house. Where? Anywhere. Just get out for a while. This is also not easy. I so very much don’t want to. I want to stay here, where it’s safe and warm. And I have lots to do here, anyway. Lots to keep me busy. Don’t make me socialise, please!!!
But I have to get out. See people. Interact. Make small talk. The longer you isolate yourself, the harder it is to get back into the real world.
So going to the gym really hits two of those targets. My usual spin class is full of people I know who usually go every week. I need to go to that, or maybe even the class after it. And I need to see those people, chat, socialise.
I see my psychologist next week. I’ll dump a truckload of crap on him. I’ve been seeing him for several years. And I haven’t trusted him enough to tell him some things I really need to talk about. It’s time I did that. Its time I dealt with some of the real issues. Just saying them aloud to someone helps sometimes. If you can find someone who will listen.
Things not to do?
Drink too much wine. I like wine. I like it a lot. It usually makes me feel relaxed and happy. That’s why I like it!
But when I’m depressed, it doesn’t do that at all. It intensifies my emotions, and there will likely be more tears than giggles. Although if someone who cares brought over a bottle of red and wanted to have a laugh, then I’m much more likely to laugh. Having two or three drinks is good then. But not on my own. Drinking alone is sad and miserable and depressing. And there’s also my liver to consider…
Also I try not to dump on people who have bigger problems than me, or are also struggling. A friend and I have a catchphrase – Asparagus. If either one of us calls ‘Asparagus’ it means “I’m here, I care, I want to help, but I’m barely keeping my head above water. “
And it’s always OK to call Asparagus. It’s like putting your own oxygen mask on first, before you help others. It’s essential. I think I’m really only learning that now.