I don’t see depression as a bad thing. To me, it is just a part of life. Something to be aware of and something to work with.
When I am depressed I need to be aware that I require extra time to get things done, I need more time to process new information and to recall old information, I need to be gentle with my expectations of myself. My executive function is certainly compromised, and I need more sleep than when not depressed. I find all that manageable, and as long as my depression stays at a level where I find those things manageable there is no problem.
For me depression does not mean I am sad or discouraged or even more negative overall, although I do find myself more irritable when depressed. But depression is not synonymous with sadness. I can still be happy and content, even when depressed. I can laugh and find joy in life when depressed. For me depression is not bad or even particularly dangerous.
The thing that becomes dangerous for me when I am depressed is discontent. When I allow myself to focus on discontent, I find myself becoming easily overwhelmed. When I am overwhelmed I do not look after myself and remember to be more gentle and mindful with my expectations of what I can realistically get done in a day.
If I allow myself to focus on discontent, it is very easy to slip into a negative thought spiral. Overwhelm keeps great company with thoughts of inadequacy, and is best friends with the thought spiral that starts with comparing myself with others. I am not on top of things, I am not supporting my family, the house is a wreck, I am not young enough, pretty enough, confident enough, organised enough, just not enough of anything. And so the spiral goes down down down, until I am so deep in it I can barely remember the things I can do well enough to glimpse the top of the funnel I just slid down.
So, what is the solution? Well, for me it involves a few things.
I am very careful with my words in public. I make a conscious decision to focus on the positive and avoid dwelling on the negative when it comes to reporting my own experiences. This is because I believe giving voice to the nagging negative thoughts reinforces them and gives them strength. That is not to say I don’t ever speak negatively. I do. I choose my friends carefully, and have a couple of trusted friends who I know will listen with empathy and encourage me. I trust my husband to listen and to call me out if I am losing my way, sometimes firmly, sometimes with just a little humour.
I am careful to recognise the early signs that I am in need of a break from social and emotional stimulation, and I take a break. Things that trigger me can be in real face to face life, or in real online life. I give myself frequent minimal social media days (not ideal for growing a blogging presence, but essential for my health!) and I ration out my local socialising hours as well.
I am careful to do things just for myself. I love to be in the garden. I love growing things. I love breeding, raising and hanging out with my chickens. I love taking photos. All those things interrupt a negative though cycle so effectively and provide an opportunity for me to reset my focus away from discontent.
While those strategies sound simple, and they are, they are not always easy. When you are caring for a large family with multiple extra challenges and a variety of support needs, focussing on self care is often the last thing on the list of each days “to do’s”. But it is so important. I don’t claim to be perfect at this, but I am certainly a lot better at looking after myself than I used to be. Sometimes it helps to think of it as looking after my family by looking after myself- if I am not coping I am no use to them! Ultimately, though, there is nothing wrong with self care just because you care about yourself. Whatever self talk I need to use to ensure I do actually look after myself, avoiding wallowing in discontent and getting lost in negative thought spirals is crucial to me. If I can do that living with depression is not so hard.