Though parts of the world are opening up, cases continue to increase, so social distancing and taking precautions is still very much required. This has been and still is a scary and saddening time in our history. Personal health has become an issue for a lot of people, especially mental health.
I can’t pretend to be an expert on mental health, nor am I a doctor, so this is based on my own experiences.
I am prone to both seasonal depression as well as the garden variety depression. I have always lacked Vitamin D, which has been linked to my depression by my doctors. Vitamin D production requires sunlight. I have worked night shifts for a good portion of the last couple years and I live in Canada, a country where our winter long outlasts our summer. Sunlight hours are short in the winter and cloud cover is common. For all these reasons I take Vitamin D supplements to help fight my bodies reluctance to provide me with it naturally.
On top of that, I have been unemployed for some time, which has left me a lot of time to spiral internally without distraction and nothing to wake up to do. No purpose to fill my days and no income to provide the ability to be financially stable. As you can tell at this point, negative things seem to be pilling up when it comes to my mental health.
So how have I been fighting my depression?
In the past when I would sink back into the darker parts of my head, I would sleep 16 hours a day to shorten the time I needed to be conscious and aware of my life. I would eat terribly, gain weight, feel worse about myself and drink perhaps a little more than I should have. My hygiene would decrease and my willingness to talk to anyone would fade away.
I know that story isn’t unique. Most of the behaviours I displayed were common for people with depression. Chances are if you have been depressed, you understand the mindset I was in.
This time around I decided to fight it.
To those who have tried to fight their depression, you have my sympathy. I know it’s incredibly hard to try and fight your brain that keeps trying to pull you under. You aren’t weak if you get pulled under, but you need to keep kicking to breathe again.
Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t easy. It’s exhausting, painful and I don’t wish it on anyone. I feel like curling up in bed all day, I don’t want to leave my house, I don’t want to call anyone or drink water.
Then I started to walk. I put in my headphones and just walk. I think a lot about the life I want to live, the person I want to be. I forced myself to smile at the elderly gentlemen watering their flower gardens and day by day it has become less forced. In the beginning I had to wrestle with myself to get out the door, but now I look forward to my walk. It gives me time in the sunlight. It lets me move my body and force some endorphins. If nothing else, walking gives me time out of my apartment.
I call my family at least once a week, and while I’ve been receiving a lot of bad news, it feels better to be in contact than to hide from them. Just hearing the voices of people who care about me changes my day.
The rest of my day still feels slow and without purpose, so I get myself to write, bake and read. These are things I normally love to do, but don’t find as much joy in these days. Nonetheless, doing them helps me feel normal. Even if my writing is less inspired and I’ve re-read the same four books for weeks, I feel more like myself.
It isn’t easy to force myself to do these things and my enthusiasm has disappeared, but I wake up at seven every morning instead of sleeping my day away. I have been losing weight by keeping an eye on my food and haven’t let myself dive into food as a coping mechanism. I drink water all day, no coffee, no tea and no alcohol. It feels forced, but I’m not drowning this time. It feels like I’m treading water. I can breathe, but I’m not walking on dry land.
I didn’t think I could do this. Every time I’ve fought my depression I failed. I would wait until I had purpose again and obsessively throw myself into things to stay stable. I didn’t think I had the strength to stop myself from sinking, but as it turns out, I just needed something more important than my depression. I’m not saying this is the way for everyone, I don’t even know if it’s the healthiest reason to fight, but I realize now there are people in my life that I can’t disappear from. I am running out of time with my grandparents, my parents are isolated, my friends are scared of the pandemic and my fiancé needs someone to come home to. I can’t fall apart anymore. I need to be there for the people who love me. I need to be there for the people who have saved me from drowning.