In the last few weeks, since my dark slide into suicidal thoughts, I have started to feel better. And not just a little bit better, a lot better. In fact, I feel so good now that I feel alive again.
I have to admit that the last couple of years have been so hard, depression-wise, that I didn’t think that I would ever feel “alive” again. But I do now.
I’ve been trying to put my finger on what it is exactly that has changed, but it’s hard to pinpoint it. These are the things that I think might’ve had an influence.
1. I took time off. I moved back home to my parents house on 6th January and allowed myself time off to recover. I’ve never stopped, never taken ‘time-out’ before. I’m a go, go, go kind of person, and my incessant driving finally caused me to crash. Giving myself time and space to get my ‘head straight’ has been the best thing that I have ever done.
2. I reconnected with friends and family. In the past year, I had become so depressed that I struggled to socialise with anyone at all. As a result of this I lost regular contact with friends who I have since reconnected with. I’m always amazed when people want to be my friend, especially as I can be quite hot and cold due to my depression. But true friends will always be there for you. Two friends in particular have helped me massively simply by hanging out with me and having a laugh. I’d forgotten how to laugh properly, but they have helped me to remember. To them both, I say thank you.
3. I reconnected with myself. I can be quite a chameleon and this has its challenges. I can change quite significantly depending on the people around me. One of my purposes in taking time off was to figure out my identity and to reconnect with myself. I’ve given myself time to understand who I am and why I am who I am. I was struggling with this quite a lot in the past year and it feels fantastic to have it worked out. I’ve always struggled with liking who I am as a person, and accepting who I am. I’ve tried to change myself many times over the years to become a “better” version of myself. I’ve stopped doing this. Now I just accept who I am, and for the first time in my life I’m starting to like myself.
4. I’ve been meditating daily for nearly a whole month. I use an app called Headspace, which has short 15-20 minute guided mindfulness-meditation sessions. It takes all the wishy-washy stuff out of meditation and turns it into a routine that doesn’t make me feel embarrassed to be doing it.
5. I exercise intensely several times a week. I’ve always been a bit of a fitness-freak, although I struggle with exercising when I’m feeling down. I have recently been going to a personal trainer once a week who pushes me to the absolute max over the course of an hour. The adrenaline and endorphins that I get from this workout keeps me going for a whole week. Although it’s quite a bit more expensive than just attending a gym (£20 per session, rather than the £20 per month for a gym membership) it has now become part of my “keeping my head healthy” routine and it’s 100% worth the extra money that I put into it.
6. I make sure that I always have something to look forward to. This is a trick I learned from an ex-girlfriend who always had something to look forward to. The idea intrigued me, and now I make plans for future outings before the current one ends. This means roping friends into doing various activities with me, anything from making dinner together to going surfing in Donegal. Nothing is too small, and each future event helps me to keep moving forward.
7. I catch myself when I realise I’m over-thinking situations. I’m the world’s worst over-thinker. I’ll analyse everything round in circles until I’m dizzy. This is a recent addition to my “mental health toolbox”. It’s thanks again to a friend who told me “you’re over-thinking this!” They told me to just go with the flow, and I’ve been applying this rule to myself over the past week. The lack of dizzying thoughts spinning around in my head is incredibly freeing!
8. I give myself breathing space. In the past, when I felt overwhelmed or stressed, I would go into a panic. The lack of things to panic about since moving home and being temporarily unemployed has helped me to get my stress levels under control. I’ve learned to control my anxiety with my breathing and allowing myself time-out. I used to ignore the first signs of stress surfacing, which would cause my mood to spiral quickly out of my control. Now I know what the first signs are so soon as I notice them I make sure to give myself space to calm down.
9. I acknowledge how I’m feeling. I’m brilliant at ignoring my own feelings. I often go out of my way to ignore them in order to make sure that those around me feel comfortable. This past year of living with intense depression has forced me to become more selfish with my feelings. When I felt really bad I would make sure that those around me knew. It was the only way I could cope. Now, I just acknowledge those feelings and process them, rather than squashing them down. It can be intense, but I find that by acknowledging the feelings which I’d rather ignore makes them dissipate more quickly.
10. I cleared out. I cleared out my clothes, my facebook, my room, my head. The physical act of getting rid of those things that connected to painful memories allowed me to come to terms with those memories. Not all were negative memories, but all were emotionally charged. I’ve let go of the past, which I cannot change, without forgetting it. I don’t want to make the same mistakes again, so I remember but don’t dwell. I’ve accepted that I made bad choices in the past, but I’ve also stopped beating myself up about them. I can only live in the present.
I’ve learned quite a lot about myself in the past month. More, in fact, that I have in my 28 years on earth. I only have one life and I’m going to be alive to it, not dead. I hope my depression stays in remission, but if it doesn’t, I’ll have this post to remind myself that it does get better.