Learn to ride the waves

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I’ve noticed, over the many years of my depression, that the good times and the bad come in waves. Like the tide, there’s no stopping the fluctuations, I just have to learn to ride them as they come.

I think, I hope, that I’m getting better at spotting these fluctuations and controlling my reaction to them. For me, feeling good comes with a manic-like high, a feeling of unstoppable energy, a desire to be involved in everything and a need to be surrounded by people. It’s a bit like FOMO – the anxiety from the fear of missing out. It’s both a good thing, and a bad thing. When I feel good, I have the motivation to do things, energy to follow through on commitments. The downside is that I have all this excess energy that puts me on edge, making me feel panicky and unable to sleep.

This time around, my ‘feeling good’ time started to build up about 2 weeks ago. It seems to come out of nowhere, starting with a general feeling of happiness and contentedness. Then it builds up into enthusiasm and energy, followed by a manic period in which I lose control of my willpower to resist all things that negatively affect my mental health. After this loss of control I usually have a period of excessive drinking and partying, followed by a slowing down period that leads right back into depression. This time, I caught it around the energy build-up stage, and I think that I might have halted it there. This means that I will hopefully avoid the bad behaviour, the loss of control and the consequential downward spiral into depression again.

Reading over what I’ve just wrote, it seems like I’m refusing to take responsibility for my own actions. But for me, feeling bad is like becoming an addict – I know that I shouldn’t be doing what I’m doing, but I cannot stop myself. I feel ashamed and disappointed in myself for failing, which then makes me pursue more bad behaviour because “what’s the point in trying?” It’s a terrible spiral that inevitably hits on average twice a year, sometimes three times, and I always end up having to climb back out of the pit I’ve dug for myself.

If I really have found a way to halt this process, and only time will tell, then hopefully it means that I’ve will be able to control the ups and downs of my depression, which would make an absolute WORLD of a difference to my ability to function in life.

Trying to pinpoint what I’ve done differently this time is easier said than done. It’s been a process of different actions and decisions. Here’s a list:

  • I’ve been spending more time alone and enjoying it, using it as a functional time to get things done that I want to do, rather than dwelling on negative thoughts about being alone and lonely. I wrote a post this time last year about this called Sitting with Loneliness if you want to read more about this.
  • When I feel panicky, I’ve made sure to meditate, even if it’s later that night or the next morning. Meditation ALWAYS calms me right down and stops the thought-spiralling process. Here’s a link to my Meditation Techniques post if you’re interested in learning how to meditate.
  • I’ve started listening to the news in the mornings – this is an important one I think because it forces me to think about other people and situations outside of myself. BBC World Service is my go-to radio station, and I’ve found myself listening to all sorts of interesting programmes about the world around me. It helps to remind me that there is a world outside of my transition and my depression.
  • I’ve begun listening to music again. I stopped listening to music for a long time because it evoked emotions in me that I couldn’t manage. Perhaps being able to listen to music again is a reaction to feeling better rather than a cause of it, but either way, it feels good!
  • I’ve learned to accept my limitations with regards to what I can cope with, especially when it comes to spending time with other people and helping others. When I’m not careful, I burn myself out by putting myself out there too much. I’m an all or nothing type of person, which can put me in danger of investing too much energy in one thing (or one person) thus losing balance in my life. I’ve been learning to say ‘no’ and more importantly, I don’t offer my help unless I’m certain I can follow through.

Looking at this list, I’m not certain that it’s any one of these things in particular that has helped me to stop the manic energy. I think perhaps it’s really just a change in my outlook and my mindset. I’ve had a lot of time lately to reflect on past actions, relationships and experiences that I’ve never really processed properly before. This is the longest time I’ve spent standing still and it’s the first time I’ve felt that I’m truly beginning to move forward. 

I know that life is one continuous journey, but sometimes it helps to draw a line under things. That’s what I’ve started to do, and it feels good. It’s time to move away from my past and start planning for the future. And for the first time in my lifetime, I believe that I really do have a future. I’m still riding the waves, but I’m no longer getting caught on the rip tide.

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