These past few weeks have been tinged with grey. I’m not quite sure how it happened, but my depression sneaked up on me. One minute I was congratulating myself on conquering my first post-breakup Valentines Day and feeling positively full of self love, the next I was lying in bed, immobilized by despair.
I can’t quite express how frustrating depression is to me. I seem to go around in circles. I get depressed, the feelings of gloom and doom drag me under. The weight of my despair holds me under the waters of depression for a while. Then I begin to kick and flail to try to break through the surface. At this point, I’d try anything for a wisp of fresh air. I begin to remember the tools at my disposal: the self-care basics, the CBT strategies I’ve learned, my friends, sunshine, rest. Slowly I manage to grapple my way upwards until my head is finally above water again.
Then, after a few gulps of relief, I start to feel wonderful again. I begin to think about all the things I could be doing with my new-found energy. I think about all the time I wasted while I was depressed and I try to get caught up. Only to find myself overwhelmed, exhausted and depressed all over again. I’m like the mental-health equivalent of the person who doesn’t finish their course of antibiotics because they feel O.K again. Once I feel well, I totally neglect all my self-care techniques and drill myself back into that hole.
I had a really great idea last night. I was trying to think of a way that I could remind myself to slow down and put those mental health maintenance tools into practice. I came up with the idea of creating a depression journal.
I went through my collection of notebooks and found this Snow White one. I chose it because she looks so peaceful and hopeful, and I felt that was an uplifting image.
Inside, I began brainstorming ideas to help me to tease out the things that help keep my depression at bay. I made a series of headings and prompts, and wrote one at the top of each page. I’m slowly beginning to fill the journal with lists and ideas. I’m hoping that I’ll be able to create a personal resource that I can look through on a regular basis and keep practicing those things that help me to keep my head above water. I can add to it over time and build my own personal survival guide for navigating my depression.
So far, these are the page headings I’ve come up with:
– Bad day list (things that I can do to turn around a bad day)
– Self care basics
– Small things I find nurturing and comforting
– People to get in touch with when I’m feeling down
– Tools for fighting my depression
– Films and T.V shows I find uplifting
– Music to lift my mood
-awesome things I’ve accomplished
– Role models to look up to and draw inspiration from
– Things I love about me
– What gets me down? Possible triggers to watch out for.
– Negative thoughts I have and how to break them down.
These are just the ideas I’m working with at the moment. I’m sure that I will add loads more to my journal as time goes on.
I’ll let you know how this project goes. At the moment I’m feeling pretty excited about it.
How do you maintain your mental health? Do you have any suggestions for topics that I could include in my depression journal?