I am back to my baseline mood. A few notches above neutral, though it took some doing. In my most recent traverse of the terrain of my depressed mind I fell back into some nasty, maladaptive habits that embraced me long ago, including:
Staying in bed
Not drinking water
Turning off my phone
These are some of the more mysterious costs to mental illness. What is worse is that they build on one another. Because I stay in bed more, I move less. Because I move less I do not need as much food so I eat less, until not at all. I turn off my phone because I do not want to connect with anyone. Because I lack connection I fail to maintain basic hygiene, and because I fail to maintain basic hygiene I am even less likely to venture out where there are people!
Lacking energy, feeling weak, and looking like a vagrant make staying in bed a very appealing proposition. What I find amazing is that everyone can relate to this experience because it is identical to getting the flu.
When I last got the flu I avoided connection with other people because I did not want to infect them. Since I was not going to see people I stopped taking care of my appearance. I could barely keep food down so I ate less. Because I ate less I had less energy, and I stayed in bed!
Getting the flu leads to identical costs as falling into a depression, though they appear in reverse. With treatment, the end result is the same - one gets back to baseline. The timing varies based on the individual, but generally a treated person improves over time. My depression lasted a little over three weeks start to finish. I spent most of September sliding down and stumbling up. Mind askew, perceptions awry, emotions dark.
The significant differentiator between the flu and mental illness is the shame. I beat myself up these past three weeks, even though I knew I had not earned that additional guilt. I never beat myself up for catching the flu. I might have been upset at getting the flu. Bemoaned the lost productivity and cancelled plans, but I never felt as if I was a worse person because I got sick.
Shame is the hidden cost. Guilt, the demotivator.
Today I woke up at 5:30. Drank water. Had a filling breakfast burrito and drank a soothing medium roast. I practiced Cognitive Behavioral Therapy while listening to someone smarter than me - Simon Sinek. Then I wrote, which is my triune of self-therapy, catharsis, and journaling.
A student once asked if I will always deal with mental illness. I responded that I would. Considering my answer more deeply, it is good that I will always live with the risk of a depressive slide. Just as it is good that I will always live with the risk of the flu virus.
It is good because both indicate that I am alive.
I am giving a presentation on the AFSP’s More Than Sad program to a group of students in Fayetteville, GA on 10/11.
This program is geared toward high school students, parents, and teachers - teaching how to recognize signs of depression, initiating conversation, and how to responsibly act to prevent the suicide of a friend or loved one.