Came close to not writing this week, low mood continued for first half of the week , even felt like a full relapse, but the difference is now I feel like I can ride out the feelings. So I’ll explain what happened and why some of the awareness and learning helps. It may even provide some helpful hints and tips, but this post is definitely self- therapy.
I wrote last week about a few things which had lowered my mood – disrupted sleep and reporting around suicide in the media were allowing depression (the rat) to have a runaround, along with Harry (illusions) and Judge Bear (self-criticism).
This continued into this week, with increasing set of “negative” emotions and a sleep pattern that was all over the place. By Tuesday evening I had a full-on meltdown, with Rat leading a marching band through my head, followed by a carnival with anxiety, shame, fear and self-doubt all having their own floats in the parade.
I had become irritable, impatient, sensitive and incredibly busy, doing jobs around the house, as a full-on distraction and unfocused on anything that actually would have helped. The busyness was despite the fact that I was absolutely worn out, by both poor sleep and the constant noise in my head. Which all lead to the full meltdown.
Any thoughts of mindfulness and being DAB had gone – except in retrospect they hadn’t. And this is important for me to recognise this wasn’t a relapse – more a bump in the road to recovery and management of depression. Actually more of a pothole.
At the point of the meltdown I managed to find an elusive calm spot amongst the marching parade and tried a few things. I brought my focus onto where in my body the emotion presented itself -in this case a tightness in chest and an imploding head. By bringing a focus onto the pain a weird thing starts to happen – you notice the pain isn’t constant, it fluctuates. And that gives you a small gap to address it.
Deep breathes start to ease the chest and allow me to widen the focus, to notice the heart rate slowing down. To actually feel the body slow down from the flight or fight mode it’s moved into.
To address the head noise with compassion, by accepting the pain is real (by the way, anyone who thinks mental health isn’t physical is wrong, the two cannot be considered separately) and that it will pass. What do I mean by compassion? By the internal dialogue changing from a judgemental, critical one to a supportive, friendly one. That pain is part of being a human and that like all emotions, sadness is not permanent or constant. Please don’t read that as depression is just sadness, it isn’t and is more complicated than that sounds. Also compassion is worthy of a whole blog post, which I plan to do, it’s a fascinating topic.
I wrote negative emotions in quotes earlier for a specific reason. In a way emotions are neither good nor bad, they just are and it’s more how we manage or react to them that is critical in their definition.
And so a few days later, as I write this, rat is back to just lounging around on his wheel, Harry is off playing cards with Judge Bear, who is now no longer a big bear but a smaller bear with a spinning bow tie. I congratulated myself on my awareness and that actually the things I am learning do help and I can use them, even in a meltdown. It’s funny, typing that congratulation sentence is the one sentence in this whole post which makes me feel really uneasy, which is another indication of the low mood. Depression steals away the ability to accept compliments – which is why we should all say congratulatory things to ourselves every day.
Perhaps I should have called this Congratulations rather than A bump in the road?
I managed to meditate for ten minutes yesterday and today, the first time in about a week – mind very busy, but in doing so I claimed back even more control. And it doesn’t matter my mind was busy, actually doing the sitting and focus was helpful. There isn’t any scoring in meditation, no panel of Zen monks are going to appear with scores (now have the image of a little monk shouting ‘Seven’ in a Len Goodman style!) .
I’ll close on a handy trick, to help when impatience strikes. I am far more impatient when tired or down, which is probably true for many of us…so this may help when queuing, on a call on hold or waiting for Windows to complete a software update…
- As you feel impatient, note where the feeling is in your body, mine is in my chest.
- Now visualise the feeling as something which you can direct to do an activity to release the pressure.
- So I imagine a big Russian man with the full fur hat and big beard, stamping his foot in impatience, who I then get to start doing the Cossack dance (hence being Russian) to ease his frustration.
- Not only does that focus make you pause and be aware of the emotion, imaging Ivan the Impatient dancing can’t help but make me laugh…oh look, the feeling has changed.
Have a lovely weekend – I will be doing so 🙂