Tag Archives: compassion

10 steps to beat the beast

I recently had a relapse with my depression.  It was quite a scare as I hit some lows that I had hoped were history.  I knew what triggered it, but that didn’t help at all.  What did help though was still managing to implement all I have learnt over the last few months.  Not only did I get the ‘positive’ from implementing them, but I got it from knowing that I was fighting back.  I would love to say that after 3 days I had got myself back to the top, but the reality was more like a month.  Even then it was still up and down. 

I’ve been pretty good now for an entire week and thinking that we may have beaten that beast.  To celebrate I thought I would share some of tips.  If you have tried any of these, or have some new ideas, then please share.

1/ ‘It won’t last for ever’ 

As awful as it felt at the time, my logical brain kept telling me that it was a ‘blip’ and would soon be over.  Experience has proved this so it’s the one thing I hang on to.  Some days I would just tell the logical mind to get stuffed, it was talking rubbish, but other days the message did get through and that gave me strength to keep going.

2/ ‘Just do it!!!’ 

I have mentioned this golden rule before, so no matter how low I felt I always tried.  I didn’t want to do anything and all my efforts were focussed on staying in work (I’ve been back for over 4 months now and don’t want to go off again).  As soon as I got home I would want to crash into bed exhausted and weekends were a bit of a bed fest, just to recuperate from the week.  However, each day, I would make myself do something, regardless of how I felt.  So, on my weekends, I would make myself get up and shower, even if that was all I would do.  When I got in from work, I would make myself have a bit of toast or something before heading to bed.

3/ ‘Be social’ 

I am less than social at the best of times, but I know it’s important for me to feel connected to people when low.  This is a really new concept for me and I am only just getting to grips with it.  However, I’ve learnt enough to know I have to try and keep connections.  I have a great friend living round the corner who has a 6month old baby.  If I hadn’t seen anyone for a few days, I would make myself text her for coffee and baby cuddles.  Whilst there, it was a great distraction and I would feel a little better for an hour after getting home.  Seeing the simple thrills experienced by Chloe really touched something in me and helped take me out of myself a little.

4/ ‘Mindfulness’  

For some reason, even though I enjoy mindfulness, I didn’t want to do it this time round.  It sounds ridiculous but I really fought it.  I managed it at the weekends, but during the week I felt too tired to sit and do nothing for 10 minutes???  As I started to get better, I managed to motivate myself to do this more often and little by little I could remember and feel the benefits.  When I couldn’t manage a meditation, I did try to be mindful in other ways, such as in the shower, or in the car, so all was not lost.

5/ ‘Stay hydrated’  

Dehydration makes you lethargic, tired, irritable and lacking in concentration.  Sound familiar?  I am awful at staying hydrated, but really tried to drink as much as possible so that I wasn’t making things worse for myself.

6/ ‘Be happy’  

OK, so this is a bit of a challenge, but if you really focus and think back, I am sure most people can find that one tiny thing that happened during the day that made you smile…or at least think about smiling.  For me, this was most often my cat Dave.  When I am low, he’s gorgeous, loving, affectionate and always by my side.  However, as soon as he gets hungry, it’s all about him again.  I wouldn’t necessarily laugh, or even smile, but a little part of me would feel happy and grateful to have him and his funny little ways.

7/ ‘Move your body!’  

Again, not so easy, but if nothing else I would make myself do a few stretches, particularly at the weekends.  The days I was at work, I used way too much energy as it was, but on a weekend, I just needed to keep the blood circulating.  So, going back to 2, I just did it.  5 minutes of gentle stretching just to get me moving again.  I would feel better afterwards, but wouldn’t be able to resist the pull of my bed.

8/ ‘Moodscope’  

I track my mood every day on moodscope.com.  This is even more important to me when I am low.  I know the score isn’t going to be great, but by going through the words, I can think a bit more about how I feel.  Some days I would manage to feel a little pride, because I had managed to get through the day without giving up.  Other days I would just feel ashamed that I was so useless.  Some days I would be irritable, whilst others I would feel downright hostile.  The day I scored ‘A Little’ for feeling Active was a real breakthrough.  Without doing moodscope, I wouldn’t have these marks of progress.

9/ ‘Be honest’  

For the first time ever, I was honest with friends and family as to how I was feeling.  Not in any detail, but I didn’t put on the mask.   I didn’t want them to come over or call or do anything.  I just needed them to know I was low.  Having learnt and developed so much I felt it was important to be honest. The only exception to this was work.  Work got the mask of happiness and it always will as long as I can manage it. 

10/ ‘Go easy on yourself’  

Depression is shitty enough on its own without beating up on yourself as well.  The hardest part for me was to stop beating myself up for being useless.  Some days I couldn’t manage anything and I would feel absolutely hopeless.  But, in the same way my logical head could tell me this wouldn’t last, it was also able to tell me go easy on myself.  Remember this is an illness, it’s not you.  If you really can’t get up to do your stretches…then you can’t do them.  Big deal, we’ll try again later or tomorrow.  Or we’ll do half of them, or even just one, or even just walk down the stairs.  

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Self-Compassion

No, you haven’t entered into a netherworld, this is about ‘Self-Compassion’.  What is this strange term that I hear you ask?  Well, take a seat and let me explain 🙂

When I was in hospital last year, I attended a course on self-compassion.  I attended with the obligatory cynicism, and indeed, managed to get through the whole course maintaining this cynicism.  I was so proud that I hadn’t been brain washed into self indulgence.  Self-compassion is the realm of those who believe they are worth a damn.  Those self-indulgent people who chose to look after themselves and sometimes (shock of all shocks) put their needs ahead of others.  Like anyone could ever persuade me this was a good thing.

Except that now, many months later I finally get it.  I actually get it, and I am trying to do it.  And I’m getting there.  I still feel a bit guilty, a bit self-indulgent, and sometimes a bit silly, but I get it and I’m trying it.

Let’s take a step back and explain.  Self-compassion is about allowing yourself to be treated in the same way that you treat others.  Allowing yourself comfort, from others and from yourself.  If a friend told me they were feeling low, I would drop everything to help them out.  I wouldn’t think twice about it.  I would want to provide them the comfort and support they needed at that time.  If they needed to talk I would listen.  If they needed comfort I would hug.  Turn the tables round to me though and you have a different story.  I would never call for help.  I didn’t deserve help.  I was wallowing in my own self-pity and needed a good kick to get me out of it.  I was weak and just needed to (wo)man up.  No-one would want to listen to my misery anyway.

Reading this back now makes me feel sad, although these thoughts can still inhabit my mind from time to time.  I’ve been seeing a counsellor for years and really thought I was opening up to her.  I thought I was allowing her in to help me and I was paying her to do so.  The payment was important as this was a business transaction and not someone putting themself out for me.  I thought we were doing good work and she was certainly, for the most part, keeping me on an even keel.  But I realise now, that I was just telling her things, with a general feeling associated with it.

It’s only since my hospital admission, and subsequent treatment, that I have really understood what letting people in means.  And when I talk about letting people in, I include myself.  I’ve shut myself out of this as well.  It’s not about remembering past experiences and saying how awful or great they were.  It’s remembering past experiences and remembering how you actually felt at that time.  Sad, helpless, proud, ashamed, inspired, happy, worthless, worthy….the list goes on.  And experiences do generally involve a huge mix of emotions, some of them even contrasting.  

So, with encouragement, I have slowly started connecting with some of these feelings, and sharing them with close friends and family.  I don’t mean just rushing everything out…but if they ask how I am, I stop and think, and try to tell them how I am actually feeling.  And no one has run away from me, or told me to stop wallowing.  I haven’t gone as far as letting them comfort me but we are taking steps in the right direction.  I have to be honest, thinking about and identifying emotions is one of the hardest things I am having to do.

The other change I have made is that I provide myself a little comfort and try not to feel guilty.  I booked a day off work when I felt things were getting a bit much, and spent the day watching movies.  I even made popcorn and really indulged….or at least as much as a novice can.  I couldn’t help feeling a little guilty and self indulgent but I would remind myself why we were doing this (‘we’ being my old and new self).  I make myself a list of ‘healthy’ activities each day, and make sure I do them in an effort to take care of myself and maintain my health.  If I don’t do one of them, I don’t berate myself and wallow in guilt, but think about how I can fit it in the next day.  I went to a jewellery shop and bought myself my first ever piece of ‘proper’ jewellery, just because I could.  I wear and notice it every day.  It reminds be to be kind to myself and start to believe that I might actually be worth it.

So, how does this resonate with you?  Are you a doubter, believing this is the realm of self-indulgence?  Or are you an advocate and implementing some self care and spoiling?