This one begins with a caveat. It won’t be a ‘how to’. You don’t get 5 steps to a new you. You might, however, find yourself hiding somewhere in the lines and maybe, just maybe, you’ll know it’s going to be ok.
It’s another morning. The sun could be up and the sky the clearest blue with little interruption from the clouds. The temperature could be the perfect blend of cool enough to wear my coziest clothes and warm enough to be outside. The day ahead full of all my favorite things. But beneath my eye mask equipped with headphones I use to push myself into a state of okay-enough-ness to fall asleep at night - I see nothing. I feel nothing. I feel everything so deeply and intensely. The morning is just like most others, despite my attempts to change everything about it.
I’m angry that I’ve been going to group therapy, individual therapy, sound baths, meditations, ceremonies, getting myself shot up with psychedelics to the point that I’m sick all day for weeks in a row, taking supplements, going on walks, exercising, dieting, coaching sessions at my therapy center, coaching sessions with a voice coach, coaching sessions with a health specialist, virtual therapists, executive coaching, self-help books, podcasts about how to feel better, and I still feel like this. All the time.
Have you ever felt this… hopeless? If you answered yes, or maybe you are getting close to saying yes - stay with me. You’re not alone. Here’s something for us to consider.
What if, and this is going to sound crazy, we didn’t resist it? My therapist and I had quite a revelation in session a couple of weeks ago. We were talking out this habit (rut?) I find myself in lately where it’s so difficult to peel myself out of bed. She proposed the most preposterous and perhaps genius idea of all time. She said, “What if you didn’t resist it?” ALARM BELLS.
Lady, I have a kid. A family. A full-time job. A side hustle. A social calendar that gives me anxiety. Travel plans. I can’t afford to NOT get out of bed. There is no room in my life for doing nothing.
Ok, I may be starting to see where she was going with this. She continued, “What if you bake it in? Every week you have a day where you have zero responsibilities or expectations. If that’s not reasonable, maybe every two weeks. You and your partner each get a day like this. You can, guilt-free, stay in bed all day. Or if you decide you WANT to do things, you can do them.”
The idea is that it’s a free day. The trash doesn’t have to go out. The house does not have to get cleaned. While the pile might be high, I am not responsible for putting laundry into the machines, let alone folding it when it’s dry. My partner would be the default parent that day, and I would be the default for their day of no expectations or responsibilities. Planning on it, knowing when it’s coming, communicating, and preparing for it would allow me to truly rest in it.
I ruminated on this a bit.
What would it mean if I just… allowed myself to do it? Much of those hard mornings are the beating I give myself for feeling this way. With as much as I have going on, I thought, “What if my body is trying to tell me something? Could I possibly need this?” Still pondering that answer, but I think I’m leaning toward yes.
There’s this quote from Rick Rubin’s book ‘The Creative Act: A Way of Being” that I can un-hear.
“By accepting self-doubt, rather than trying to eliminate or repress it, we lessen its energy and interference… you can doubt your way to excellence… the work is not about perfection.”
Expending what little energy there is left after attempts to Houdini the depression away - depression that has been present for so many years - rather than just letting it ride shotgun on the way to better things isn’t working.
Have you ever towed a trailer? The gas mileage you get while towing isn’t as great. You need more frequent stops to fuel up, but you’ll get there. That’s kind of how some of these habits are. I could still have the life I want WITH them. But I might need to fuel up a little more than if I wasn’t towing a trailer full of mental health issues.
Of course, managing depression and anxiety is important and deserves attention. Thorough, meaningful, and at times, professional attention. Though, is there a difference between addressing mental health needs and pretending they aren’t part of who you are? Yes.
Putting a red wrapper on and calling myself Red when I know that I’m Blue serves no one, least of all me. I can’t be an apple. I’m as blue as the ocean. Square peg, round hole situation. We can’t engineer who we are. We can only be shepherds to our unique set of given psychological traits accompanied by the experiences we’ve had along the way. This means I can’t simply put myself into the boxes I wish I fit in and expect myself to thrive.
Applying this logic to the symptoms of depression - the hard mornings, the self-doubt, and the things getting the bulk of our energy - there might actually be a way to be less combative with ourselves and simply acknowledge the hard realities.
By accepting the symptoms of depression, can we disarm them?
If the goal shifts from this:
👉 Do [insert tactic] so I don’t have depression anymore. (which might not be a realistic goal for some)
👉 Put these things in place to reduce the intensity, frequency, duration, and impact of depression so I can continue living life to the fullest.
👉 Energy is restored. We’re not exhausted from the fight. And perhaps the systems and supports that were put in place could be a little more effective. Almost like befriending the thing we’re resisting.
Here’s another example for all you visual people out there. One day my other half came home with 3 new laundry baskets. Keep in mind we already have laundry baskets. What could these be for? Replacement laundry baskets?
The inspiration was about meeting yourself where you’re at. Then I followed her around to three separate places in our house where piles of my clothes towered upward like giant neon signs flashing “I AM DEPRESSED”.
See, it’s one of the things that goes first. When I am really struggling, it feels impossible to brush my teeth let alone put all my clothes in their respective places. So she scooped up the clothes and put them in the basket. One by one, each releasing a little more weight from my shoulders.
She didn’t ask me to change, and that felt really good. I didn’t have to be different. I didn’t have to add another bullet to the list of things in my life I believe I need to get better at. The guilt about creating chaos in my environment and hers subsided. You put your clothes here. Now you put your clothes in the basket here. It’s organized chaos. No resistance.
You know what? It worked. It’s still working.
Here is the challenge to myself, and you can take it on too if you wish:
Ask what I’m resisting. It could be a behavior, habit, or thought process.
- For the sake of the experiment, let’s use the stuck in bed, avoiding the world and all responsibilities example.
Find ways to genuinely support and befriend it.
- Hi, avoidance. You need some time to feel like the main character. Let’s get it on the calendar.
Connect with someone.
- Share the experience with a friend or trusted person. Maybe a therapist. Let them know what’s going on and give them the opportunity to be a friend.
- How does this feel? Whether or not it solves all life’s problems, does it feel better this way? What’s working? What needs tuning?
Celebrate the wins.
- No matter how small, celebrate the successes. Followed through with the plan? Throw a party. Found a way out of bed somehow? Hell yeah. Inner monologue was kinder than usual? Way to go, kid!
Then keep doing that. Ask what we are resisting. Come up with a way to befriend that part of ourselves. Connect with someone about it. Reflect on the experiences. Celebrate everything.
Ok, so maybe there were a few steps in here after all. But it wasn’t the point. These aren’t going to change your life, or maybe they will. The point is to shift the perspective just enough for change to be achievable, but not so much that it’s hard to sustain.
Please, and I do genuinely mean this, let me be a person you connect with in the process. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this and the ways in which you are resisting. The ideas you’ve come up with for how to support yourself. Share any and all parts of the journey with me. When we are vulnerable like this, my growth is your growth, and your growth is my growth.
The last thing I’ll leave you with is something that I think we all need to hear right now.