My readers may think that I have conquered all my mental demons. Not the case. I still deal with debilitating symptoms from time to time.
Imagine if I lose a leg, and my friend kicks my stump in the middle of a conversation. I would be indignant, and he would no longer be my friend. My friends, family, and coworkers do not know if some off-hand comment will kick my invisible stump. We tiptoe around mental illness because we do not know if what we say will cause more damage. That is the unique dilemma of mental illness compared to physical illness.
Mondays and Thursdays are my best days, but Tuesdays afternoons and Saturday evenings are difficult for me.
February and March are when I feel the very best, but I tend to slip into a mild depression at the end of the lacrosse season in May.
I am more productive in the summer, but I am usually affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder, SAD, in the late fall.
How do I know all this? I tracked my mood twice a day for two years with an app, iMoodJournal. Every week, I reviewed the data and noted low and high days. Then I recalled what happened on those days, and, very slowly, the bigger picture revealed itself to me.
Before I tracked my mood, I assumed that my depressive episodes were sporadic and random. Because of that, I further assumed that they were beyond my control. I felt trapped in a mental “fog of war,” a term that means, “uncertainty regarding one's own capability, adversary capability, and adversary intent during an engagement, operation, or campaign.”
It is terrifying, stumbling around in the dark; knowing an enemy lurks nearby. It is even more terrifying when the enemy is your own mind.
By identifying the times when depression or anxiety were most likely to launch an assault; I had time to dig a mental foxhole.
I could gather supplies and call in reinforcements. All of this gave me the mental ability to say to my depression and anxiety:
“Come Get some!”
I do not win every battle, but I no longer feel like I’m losing the war. There is immense psychological relief that comes from preparation. Whether that is rehearsing a presentation, doing breathing exercises, or telling your friends, “It’s almost winter, I may need you on some bad days,” you bolster your defenses.
While we cannot control our circumstances, we can control our reaction to them. If we have a good idea of when circumstances will change, we can be prepared and be even more in control of ourselves.