Don’t do Depressed: 3 Suggestions for When We’re Thinking About Watching Netflix and Eating Pizza in the Dark

Like far too many of us, depression is something I’ve battled throughout my life. I find it can come and go with the seasons, specific events, or simply on days with ‘day’ in the name ;). While I’m learning that I may not be able to control if I feel depressed, I’m embracing that relief and growth are very much within my control when I follow these three steps:

Reach Out:

In the times where I feel most lonely, isolated and vulnerable, exchanging a few minutes of honest communication with a trusted friend can do wonders. When I *feel* depressed, my thinking invariably becomes very negative and self-defeating, and my perspective narrows down to the point where rational, objective (never mind positive or optimistic) thinking or action becomes impossible. Openly sharing with someone I trust has a truly alchemical, magical impact, broadening my mind, bringing clarity to issues and elevating my mood. 12 Step Support groups are largely built around this premise for a reason.

Sharing my concerns with a friend allows me to process my emotions, dispels the notion that I’m alone, and reminds me that I’m loved (even if I don’t feel particularly loving of myself in the moment).  I find the action of reaching out for help by texting, messaging or calling starts to elevate my mood, even if the other person isn’t available to chat right away.

..I used the words ‘trust’ and ‘friend’ above for a reason; reaching out to someone who is either unable or unwilling to be supportive can feel pretty terrible. Make no bones about it: asking for help and admitting vulnerability can be incredibly challenging when I feel depressed, and I don’t want to risk exposing myself to someone who might respond indifferently or insensitively. Everyone also has their own life to live with its various obligations and shenanigans to attend to, and sincerely caring individuals won’t always be able to talk with me in the exact moment I need it. Building up a community of trusted confidants and practicing open communication has taken me time and effort, but the gifts I continue to reap as a result are literally life-changing.

*Being part of a healthy, vibrant community is SO essential to my mental health, I’m realizing it needs its own post. (Note to self).

Get Up:

When I feel heavy, insecure and unhappy, the thought of hiding out alone, eating a bunch of food and passing out can be very seductive (hence the title of the article). If salvation was at the bottom of a jar of Nutella or end of a large pizza devoured in solitude, I would have found it a long time ago. Trust me 😉

When I encourage myself to get up and invest in some slow, rhythmic movement (walking or yin yoga if I’m feeling really gummed up; jogging or various body resistance exercises when I have more gas in the tank), it acts like a physical reboot for my system. Trapped energy gets redistributed, endorphins are released and my mood and thinking generally lighten up.

.. Speaking as someone who used to be addicted to heavy exercise, I feel it’s essential to repeat that I derive the most benefit when the movement is slow and rhythmic (at least to start) and done with the intention of bringing coordination and balance to my body. I’m continually amazed at how much better I feel after a light 10 minute jog when in years past I would have considered anything less than a 45 minute 10km cardio hell session “worthless”.

*Learning to differentiate between self-loving, focused action versus self-depreciating scattered action is SO essential to my mental health, I’m realizing it needs its own post. (Note to self).

Get Down (with your Funky Self):

Ever since I was a little kid, I loved singing, dancing, drawing and performing. I was fascinated with music, wanted to learn how to play guitar and be in a band that traveled around the world.

As I “grew up”, I stopped doing or pursuing all of those things.

I could blame this on our “repressive, money-focused, dream-killing society” blah blah blah (and honestly that’s a not-insignificant part of it), but truthfully It was me who killed my own dreams by not investing in them and believing in myself. I don’t mean “believing in myself” in the sense that I could (or should) be the best in the world at any particular artistic endeavour, but simply believing that I deserved to do it for no other reason than because I loved it.

Over the last year, I’ve taken guitar lessons, starting singing, drawing and writing again and can comfortably and joyfully dance (in public! completely sober!). No one pays me to do these things, but they all add happiness and value to my life, both on a daily and cumulative basis. I when I posted the video below on YouTube the day I was leaving for Burning Man, I was nervous as hell. I NEEDED to share it though, to prove to myself that I WAS learning to play guitar and that the things I care about MATTER. The more often I act from this place, the less often I feel depressed because I know that I am beginning to live my life authentically, with purpose.

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