This is hard to type. Because as much as I have spoken about emotional awareness and shared with others the tools, skills and habits they can adopt to keep their mind strong, the truth is I have to revisit these tips so often myself.
I battle depression and sometimes I don’t even know that I’m fighting it. Before you ask all the questions, let me go over all the basics. Yes, I have a great therapist. Yes, I have wonderful techniques that keep me from going too deep when my depression bubbles up. Yes, I have learned how to identify it when the cloud is coming on. Yes, I have been on medication before and yes, I know that ‘everything is going to be fine.’ However, right now, as I type this, it is not totally fine.
I should also add that in most respects I am considered successful. I have a great career, have the opportunity to speak about authenticity (hence this piece) , wellness, parenting and my journey in womanhood around the world. I am author with a book that was well received and noted in Boston Globe and Wall Street Journal. I have a daughter who has such a big heart that she is reading 1000 books this year to fund her own initiative of helping other children and I have a community of people who love and support me. Things do look pretty good.
I am also, however, sitting here with a small weight in my gut that is tempting me to cry and I’ve been fighting it for the last few days. Until a few nights ago, I haven’t been sleeping as well as I wanted to and I can rattle off a laundry list of things that I have yet to accomplish. That list of unfinished stuff makes me feel unaccomplished…despite being ‘successful’ – and therein lies my first point:
- Make a win list – I know that I am battling this sickness right now because of this shadowy feeling of failure. My mind is focused on either all that I haven’t done, all that I started but didn’t finish, all that I didn’t start yet and/or didn’t finish properly. It is focusing on all the times I tried and failed and keep replaying the sentiments and emotions surrounding those hard moments. I know that there is much for me to do and achieve, but the thing that helps me through these moments is writing down all that I have already completed. At the beginning of the summer I made a ‘Summer Goals List’ with about 10 things that I wanted to do. To date I have completed 4 of them and am currently working towards finishing another. With the summer not yet being over, I know that I still have the opportunity to accomplish my goals and I am on a good pace thus far. When I look at my to-do list I feel a sense of overwhelm, which drains me from moving at all. But, when I force myself to do a ‘win list’ and write down what I have already done, that sense of overwhelmed is quelled as I see that I am moving the needle to becoming my best self forward.
I wrote my Summer Goals list in the Reminders on my phone and can check it whenever I need to. It gives me the feature of actually putting the checkmark on what is done, but unfortunately it removes what has been done, so I have to go and find the completed list to see my true progress. Once I wrote the list down on paper, it made it easier and I was better able to see what has been accomplished as I prepare my mind to continue working.
- Change my environment – So…I’m an introvert. I can stay alone for extended periods of time and that doesn’t help me come up out of my thinking when the cloud comes. Even if I do not go and speak with someone specifically, getting outside and changing my scenery boosts my spirits immediately. This is because when I change what I see I also subconsciously change how I feel. It does not happen right way, but it does help move my ‘grey cloud.’ Especially when I go outside, I am not so focused on thinking about myself or situation, but now I am as free and open as the outdoors I’ve just stepped in to. Today I took a walk to get some brunch and then walked to the beach. The vast nature of the ocean moved my mind to think of all the possibilities still waiting for me. My dreams are as big as the ocean and just as the tide comes in at the appropriate time, my dreams will be made manifest in the same manner.
Even if you don’t live near the beach, just getting outside in nature will make a huge difference. Taking deep breaths slowly and closing your eyes will reset your mind and broaden your perspective. Look up into the sky and tell yourself that the sky is not the limit, but just the beginning!
- Do one thing. – After I did the first two things, I came home and opened my laptop. I wanted to get some writing in for a deadline, but my computer wasn’t cooperating. So, I decided to check some emails and get that task off the list. Prior to leaving I was totally overwhelmed with everything on my to-do list, but just checking a few emails made me feel accomplished for today. I allowed myself to trust that if emails was all I did today, it was still powerful because I was in this state and was working through it. The expectations and pressure I place on myself can be so weighty. Being a driven person, I do not always check to make sure that what I place on myself I can actually carry. However, on days like today, moving a feather deserves a prize.
Let me say this to you. The prize of you doing that 1 thing today is something you are deserved of. If you are the person who usually is superman (or superwoman) then know I will hand you a cape for just being willing to put it on. On days that you don’t feel super, doing one small task means you still deserve the title. Also, it may be time to do an inventory to see if the pressure you are placing on yourself is merited. What you are pushing yourself to do may not be something you can move alone, or was even designed to be done as such.
- Check in with someone – It can sometimes be hard (I do have a great support network, but it’s a hangup I constantly work through) to admit that I am in a low moment, but it is necessary for me to be as willing to accept the help I need as I want those around me to do when I offer it. I have been constantly checking myself on this point since reading Rising Strong. In it Brene Brown, the author, states
- I have often been a helper and after reading Brown’s book I was convicted that it may not have always been for the right reasons. Sometimes, I was helping to distract me from seeing where I needed help myself. Now, I do much more to sit with my experience and work through it. With the way this quote and lesson resonated with so many people around the world (Brown’s Ted Talk has over 40 million views and there are hundreds of articles including a great one by Mark Leruste on this quote alone!) I see that I am not the only one who may have had this issue. And so, today, I strapped on my vulnerability boots and told a friend that I need help. The help wasn’t about fixing me, but understanding that for a moment everything was not together, even if it looked that way. (Plus I’ll be seeing my therapist in a few days too.)
So to all my successful readers who may be on this path as I am, know that you are not alone as you walk it. You may be viewed as successful, you may expect constant success from yourself and may be tempted to indite yourself when you have a low day. To you, brave soul, I say don’t. To you I say that you will be ok, even if everything is not yet alright, just trust your process. Most importantly, know that that you are awesome in the times when feel successful and things are going well and when you push through the moments they are not.