How do you take care of yourself? Chocolate? Sleeping in? Working out? Maybe a bit of retail therapy? Whatever you do, hopefully it helps you cope when things get hard and you start feeling down or tired. Taking care of yourself is supposed to make you feel better, feel rejuvenated, be able to face challenges with calm and confidence.
Depressed people are used to being told to take care of themselves. We hear a lot of, “Have you taken your meds?” “Are you eating right?” “How are you sleeping?” “Maybe you just need to rest?” Everyone has a suggestion for what you should be doing to take care of yourself. As if you haven’t heard it all before. As if you don’t have reams of printouts on what foods to avoid for your depression or how to make your sleep quicker and more effective. As if this is a new problem. Or an old habit you just haven’t kicked yet.
This week I’ve struggled a bit. Monday and Tuesday were busy with trips to Parramatta so I could work and then an unexpected trip back to Parramatta to rescue my stranded wife from work. Then there was the two day migraine which I don’t even want to talk about because it hurt and made me feel like a shell filled with goo. And through it all there was the feeling that I just did not have the energy to fight back against all this.
At one point yesterday, my wife looked at me with concern and said, “I need you to take care of yourself. Workout, take your pills, whatever you need to do.” That’s the thing, though: sometimes you don’t know what to do to take care of yourself. You know things are wrong, but you have no idea what to do about it. And you don’t know because even doing the smallest thing hurts and makes things worse. Literally, going to the bathroom or microwaving food can be as difficult and insurmountable as climbing Everest.
Depression does more than just make you feel down and unable to function. It can literally rob you of knowing how to function or how to help yourself. And there’s nothing you can do about it. You can’t even tell someone how to help you because you don’t know yourself. Depression takes everything that is you away and replaces it with nothing more than mere existence.
As far as my health journey goes, it was fine until this week. I had days when I was tired and unmotivated but I was able to shake them off and I knew how to do that. This week has been different. I got hit with my depression like someone had dropped a piano on me. It has sucked and I’m not totally back to myself yet.
Here’s the important thing, though: I’m going to have days and weeks like this. That doesn’t mean I’ve failed or that I’m broken and can’t be fixed. It just means that I live with depression like millions of other people do all over the world. I do the best I can with it and eventually it subsides. It never goes away, but it doesn’t always stay. I need to know that about myself and about how I live my life. Maybe I can plan ahead and figure out how to deal with things before they happen. But that is not a surefire thing.
Ultimately, all I can do is be patient and kind to myself. And that’s all I can ask the people in my life to do, too. That’s how I need to take care of myself, whether I’m depressed or feeling okay.