my depression story.

“Whatever you are feeling right now, there is a mathematical certainty that someone is feeling that exact thing. This is not to say you aren’t special. This is to say thank god you aren’t special.”

Neil Hilborn

TRIGGER WARNING: SUICIDE, DEPRESSION, BINGE EATING, AND RAPE. Reader discretion is advised.

Left: Me at the height of my depression. Right: Me at the mentally healthiest I have ever been

I hate talking about this. Not because it is painful, but because it is exhausting. Which is really rather symbolic of what depression actually does to a person. But it is world suicide prevention day, and as a wounded healer, i find it to be really important to discuss this topic.  People think that folks just wake up one day and decide to complete suicide. Sometimes, this can be true. But there are warning signs. Mainly, I feel that the only way to prevent suicide is to address the imbalance that ultimtely leads to it and that is depression. There is a huge misconception when it comes to depression. Many people think that when you have depression you just get really sad and wait for it to be over. I will talk about all of it here, and what my experience has been with it.

I have not always been mentally healthy and most days, I find myself wondering if I ever will be. Because even on my best days, I rarely actually feel like I am at my best. On my worst days, I am lucky if I can muster enough energy to get out of bed to drink some water. But depression really looks like so many other things too and it is painful and exhausting and it is repetitive and constantly wondering if there will ever be a day when life doesn’t hurt so badly. The best way that I can describe depression is not a cloud, it’s not constantly feeling despair. It’s the absence of feeling. It’s numbness. It’s not caring about anything, even when you want to or when you know you “should”. It’s forgetting to brush your teeth or your hair. It’s a total lack of energy and interest. It’s waiting for the days to pass in the hopes that “this shit just gets easier”. It’s mood swings and irritability that is expressed through interactions with those who love you most, but really you’re just mad at yourself “because why am I like this?”. It’s wondering what the point of everything is. 

My “diagnosis” is clinical major depressive disorder. It is chronic. Which means all the time. My first encounter with depression was when I was a child. I don’t remember the exact age. My father had been diagnosed with cancer, for the second time and I don’t remember what led to it, but it was bad enough that my mother brought me to a therapist. I remember not knowing how to connect with this person and then becoming angry with myself for that. Throughout my life, I would try several therapists and eventually feel like “therapy just doesn’t work for me–I am too hopeless” (the irony of this is not lost on me). At this time, I developed severe anxiety. To the point where I would rip my clothes and my socks up. I would make tiny rolls of paper and rip that up and roll it back up. I became unable to sit still for any amount of time. Around fourth grade is when I was put on my first antidepressant. Zoloft. 11 years old. I don’t know what my primary care doc was thinking, but it  had an adverse impact and so I stopped taking it. This led me to believe that “pills don’t work and I will never use medication for this again”. This is when I started with my next therapist. Once again–it didn’t work out and I stopped going. 

This is when the bullying started. I went to Catholic school. The kids were mean. Really mean. I would get beat up, and shoved around and made fun of for being an artist. I wish I were kidding. I was an early bloomer. Full-chested at 11 years old, and my first period at the age of ten. My emotional and chemical balances were super out of whack. I took to my art as the thing to help me through it. I would watch other kids laugh and enjoy the company of one another and find myself feeling bitter at the ripe old age of 13. I tried to join in on things with them but never really felt like I quite belonged there. I turned to writing. I turned to art. 

What i didn’t realize was how normal I was. That all of my insecurities were the insecurities of all the girls around me. That my body was telling me it was ready to live a life of fruitful growth, and that I did not need to hide. I wouldn’t realize this until i was 28. And It would get much worse before it got better. 

Depression is different than being depressed. To be depressed is having symptoms of depression short term. Depression is deeper. Sharper. Thicker. Muddy. The time leading up to a deeper bout of depression is uncertain and scary. My awareness of it now, allows me to depict it as a circus bear in a tutu with a bowl of oranges on its head. The bear is riding a unicycle. But he is circling a ditch. And he is so busy worrying about the bowl of oranges on his head that he doesn’t realize the ditch is much deeper and much closer than he realizes until he falls in. There is a sinking feeling that happens when you notice you’ve lost your footing and suddenly you’re falling into that ditch whether you were ready or not. You don’t know how long you will fall, how deep or how the hell you’ll ever get out. 

Cut forward a few years. I’m in college. I’ve just survived an abusive relationship. My uncle just died in a tragic car crash and my dog just died from cancer. At this point, the depression was so deep that even when i expected to feel sad, I couldn’t. I went numb. It hurt so much that I shut it off. Depression is dissociation as well. It’s living life like you’re watching a movie. You can see everything happening from outside of your body. It’s being so exhausted from the pain that you have to turn it off.  Sometimes that means numbing your feelings. Some use substance, or sex. Some use art. Others just wait. I used art. I always had art. Art has always been my therapy, and my best friend. It’s always honest. It’s always a holding space and I never have to hear the bullshit. 

It was at this point that I tried my fifth therapist. She was the first therapist I had met that I had seen that allowed me to feel felt. I can’t remember her name. But I can remember the impact she had on me. I was still vehemently against using medications but working out and exercise was not working for me anymore. Art was barely doing it. There’s that ditch again. I felt alone. I could sit in a room full of people and only be able to connect by using self-deprecating humor. I would hide behind my appearance, dying my hair, changing my makeup, complete style makeovers. I would do ANYTHING to hide the fact that I felt like I was a human shell. I stopped being able to laugh. But I kept going. I had to find things to hold on to. There were countless days that I spent in my bed. Thank god for my friends. My people, my community. My sister. These were some of the people that kept bringing me back when I would get too lost in my head. I came out of it and I committed to trying to make my life better. I got scared to keep going with therapy so I stopped. I kept using art. I kept asking questions. I had life talks with my professor. I graduated college. 

In all of this time, I don’t suppose I ever really knew how to describe what I was feeling. I eventually stopped trying. I spent so much time thinking happiness would be a destination that I grew impatient with the present. This has taught me to be a firm believer that staying present allows you to drop some of the pressure of the future and the weight of the past. 

Cut forward to the summer after college graduation. It was my third year working with New York State Summer School of the Arts as a Head Counselor. This work was hard work but it was gratifying work. I loved working with those kids and to this day am ever grateful. This was the summer however, that was a turning point for me. This was the summer where one of my students told me I was a safe space for him. It was right in this moment that I thought, I need to become an art therapist. I had spent my whole life thinking about how to make my own life better, and all of it came to a head when i realized my life would become better by helping others make their own lives better. Most therapists you know have experienced some serious shit in their lives. Just an FYI. 

I got a new therapist. This is the one i see now and i have to say, this woman is a saint. I will never not say that. She introduced me to a concept I had never really understood. The power of asking questions.

I went to grad school. Second semester in, the same student who told me that I was a safe space for him died by completing suicide. It broke me. I felt grief unlike any other grief I had ever felt. “But he was so happy! So sweet! So Sunshiney!”. And that’s the thing. Depression does not just show up as a pain and suffering. In fact, most of the time those with depression go through every day overcompensating for how fucking miserable they are. They go out of their way to make a positive impact on people’s lives because they know how hard life is. They go out of their way to make others laugh because laughter is too hard to come by in their own lives. They go out of their way. Often times what happens with people who are contemplating suicide is this: They may start giving their possessions away. They may seem “off”. They may be really sad. They may be. Or they may be extremely happy one day. In fact, so much of the time, you will hear their loved ones say “ But I saw so and so yesterday and they were SO HAPPY!”. BY this time, the person has likely already planned their death out. They see an end in sight. They have accepted it and are looking forward to relief from their pain. I know this can be hard to hear, but this is the reality of it is and I need you to understand how HARD life has to be at this point for it to get to be this way. Because unless we know what the signs are, we cannot step in and help. Because people who are depressed aren’t going to reach out. A lot of the time they function just fine in the day to day and then go home and sleep the rest of the day off. Maybe they stop doing dishes for weeks at a time. Maybe they forget to eat or they eat too much. 

My first thoughts of suicide were when I was in grad school. I had been living on my own. I had been raped about three weeks prior. I remember the exact night. I don’t remember the date. But I was absolutely hopeless. It was the first time that i couldn’t see the future.  And if i could, i had decided it wasn’t worth it. I didn’t have a plan, but I also couldn’t feel anything. When I reflect on all of this, I realize that all the trauma I have experienced and inherited finally came crashing out of the floodgates. I told myself I wouldn’t deal with my student’s death until after grad school. I told myself I couldn’t let myself deal with the rape until after grad school. So instead I ate. I ate and ate and ate. Eventually i gained more weight than i had ever gained in my entire life. In addition to everything i’ve already mentioned, my depression has always looked like food binging and over consumption. I know I am depressed by my increase in food intake. I isolate. I stop wanting to see people. I give up on myself. 

 I can tell you what saved me: Curiosity and my community. This is why curiosity is so important to me. Because I was always way too curious about what would happen next to complete the act. It was 4:00 am. I was thinking about all the things that hadn’t managed to kill me, and how i wished they would have. I couldn’t sleep. I called three different hotlines that night. Finally, i called my parents. I couldn’t stop crying. My parents showed up at my apartment, and I cried. We came up with a plan. I would make an appointment to start taking meds. I felt desperate. I felt angry that it had to get to this point of desperation. But i did it. I got on 75 mg of Venlafaxine and I waited. I went to therapy as often as I could get in. I forced myself to make art. This is when I started relying heavily on boundaries and only doing what felt right in any given moment. 

*I want to be very clear here. I used to think that medications were bad. I still think there is a huge factor of responsibility that comes with them. I do believe medications can help bring you to a baseline where you are actually able to focus on healing your pain. This is exactly what it has done for me. I know how stigmatized medications can be in the world of psychology. But they do play a role, just as any other medicine does, and if you feel you need to try medications to give you relief until you are able to tackle the underlying issues, then please, do not let anyone convince you otherwise. But do understand that the medications are a temporary fix for a long ass  problem, and when paired with therapy, and changes in diet and exercise and sleep and social habits, there is a massive amount of success. This is coming from someone who was dead set against medications. But I really don’t think I would be here if I was not taking my medicine, going to therapy, and meticulously tracking the things that work for me and exploring my identity all in tandem. Sometimes we reach a point in life where we feel weak when we ask for help, or when we have to do the thing we said we would never do. This does not make you weak. This just means you are changing. Every version of you is good enough. You are not less than for needing help.* 

The body holds on to trauma with everything it has. Even when you think you’re “over it”, you’re not. You feel it in your shoulders. You’ll notice you clench your jaw, or maybe you’re suddenly terrified of impact noises. Maybe the idea of someone being confrontational makes you have a panic attack. Whatever it is, it is real and it hurts. Until it doesn’t anymore. When I take time to think about how far I have come, I can’t help but be moved to tears. I still have my days. I call them “mushy days”. Days where there is leftover pain. Because like i said, depression is not a singular event. It is chronic and it creates brain fog. Maybe you’re more forgetful when you’re in a dip, or like you can’t pay attention to anything. 

The trauma that I have inherited goes so deep it is in my blood. When i think about it that way, It is no wonder that every bone in my body hurts on some days. And when that happens, I accept that that day is going to be a slow one. It does not make me less than anything. It does not mean I am weak. It means I need to listen. Because my brain and my heart and my body are asking for something to allow for healing. So I listen. Whether it’s tea, or soft clothing, or a cold shower and forcing myself to stand outside in the rain. All of these things heal. All of these things create moments of tenderness that were never given to you in the first place. These are the things that allow softness. You do not have to be coated in a hard exterior all the time. Depression is what happens when  trauma, and pain go unhealed. There is a reason it is hereditary. 

You need to know that you do not need to be strong every day of your life. You do not need the pressure that is placed upon you to stand in the font lines for everyone around you all the time. You are allowed to rest. You are allowed to check in with yourself and explore your needs. You are allowed to do that. 

I will never lie and say that it “just goes away”. It doesn’t. But there are ways to manage it. Sometimes it is clear and easy to figure out and other days it feels like you’re running uphill on a -40 degree day with a tornado coming right at you. Some days we are the circus bear and we fall in. Other days the bear’s circus friends help him out and others you create a ladder out of that unicycle and get your own damn self out. All are viable and all are okay. 

There are a lot of things that depression has taught me. There are a lot of things I do to manage my depression. So I will talk about that  here.

Things that work for me:
1) Telling people as soon as I wake up and notice I am feeling low.
2) Breathing. Focusing on my breathing and various other grounding tools.
3) Singing. I sound like a dying whale but it heals.
4) Smoke and Water cleansing. Drinking water. Bathing in water. Water. Sitting by it. Looking at it. 
5) Tea.
6) Dogs.
7) Family. My partner.
8) Sitting outside with my eyes closed.
9) massaging my face
10) crying 
11) writing, art, movement, stretching 
12) cooking a delicious meal 
13) researching my ancestors–understanding my community, and where I come from. It has helped me feel connected to the world in ways I cannot explain. 
14) Laughter. I literally LOVE looking at baking fails. Cry laughter is so real with that.
15) Distraction. No joke, I play Zoo Tycoon and Nancy Drew games like a mother. 
16) Listening to slam poets ( Neil Hilborn is AMAZING for this)
18) Soft textures–clothes, blankets, pillows.
19) Podcasts ( Hey,Girl-Alex Elle specifically)
20) Curiosity and Chocolate

Things that depression has taught me.
1) Patience & Acceptance. With myself. With the world. With the seasons. With Loss. Depression comes when it wants to, but if you pay attention it does have a pattern. It has taught me the importance of cycles and how to accept when those cycles begin so that I can plan and prepare ahead of time. 

2) Gentleness is the best medicine. I used to be so hard on myself for my depression. But the best treatment works slowly and over time, with soft and subtle changes. Abruptness is almost never the way. 

3) Healing is a community job. It takes a small village to build something strong, and that includes the people within it. Find your people, and be people for someone else. 

4) Healing is coming home to yourself every damn day with the deliberate intention of loving who you are no matter how you wake up. It’s making peace with your body, with your mind and with your spirit.

5) Things that are out of our control are not things that deserve the time. You can only control your next step. If you have a big plan, your very next step is the most important one. Focus on that. You can’t get five steps ahead without that one. So slow the hell down. 

6) Not every day will be your day. There will be days where getting out of bed is the biggest thing you do and that is okay. Your worth is NEVER tired to what you produce or do in a day. You being here is plenty. Any person that tells you otherwise is not your people.
7) It is hard work. Somedays you’ll be all about it and others will have you saying fuck it. And Both are fine. 

8) Take. Care. of. Your Vessel. Clean food. Clean sheets. Clean hair. It makes a world of difference.
9) Break it down. If it seems too big, simplify. What can you do right now? My dearest friend  Lena always used to ask me “What can you do right now?”. And I swear it has helped me understand how to prioritize in ways that have literally saved the day at times. You don’t have to tackle everything today. Try one thing. 

10). Be. Fucking. Curious. Curiosity is planting seeds for tomorrow, and in order to see the plant grow, you need to keep going. You need to wake up. Those seeds need you. Ask yourself questions. What do you want for dinner tomorrow? What is the weather tomorrow? Who invented the pillow? What is the distance from China to England? Get into the habit of asking questions. Then ask yourself more questions. Ask yourself about the quality of your questions and how you can improve them. My reason for this is that this instills a sense of awe and wonder. The most important question you will ask yourself every day is “What do I need today to safely make it through?”. The reason questions and curiosity are so important is that it leads to creative solutions to difficult and temporary problems. It can serve as a grounding distraction. But mostly it allows you to plan for the future and the present in a way that keeps you involved and engaged actively in your own life. It allows for reconnection. This is what has saved my life. 

There is so much more I could say on all of this but this may be my longest post ever. I hope that on this day, you are safe, and comfortable and healthy. And if you’re not any of those things, I hope you are able to be gentle with you. 

Ever curious, with warmth and love–

Gina


** If you or someone you know is having suicidal ideation, thoughts or considering please call:

National suicide prevention line:1-800-273-8255
Crisis Text Line — Text Hello to 741741
YouthLine — Text teen2teen to 839863, or call 1-877-968-8491

Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline — 1-800-422-4453
National Domestic Violence Hotline — 1-800-799-7233

National Deaf Domestic Violence Hotline — 1-855-812-1001

RAINN — 1-800-656-4673
The Trevor Project — 1-866-488-7386 or text START to 678678
Trans Lifeline — 1-877-565-8860

SAMHSA National Helpline – 1-800-662-4357

https://www.self.com/story/bipoc-mental-health-coronavirus

psychologytoday.com

On depression, the ten essentials and self-compassion.

Trigger warning: Themes of depression, and hopelessness. Discretion is advised.

“ Once it snowed, and it wasn’t that I felt great,
because I felt awful, but awful is better than nothing.
Depression wasn’t an endless grey sky,
it was no sky at all. ”

Neil Hilborn, “Our Numbered Days”.

I took a break this week.

It was Monday morning and I had just had blood work done and I had had the flu shot on Friday but was still feeling like garbage. I could tell internally that something was not right with myself and my soul. I felt off and sad and angry. So I did something I am not used to doing. I checked in with my supervisors, called my clients to cancel and went home and slept. I slept for three hours. I got up, took a shower and slept some more.

It helped. Positive re-enforcement for the fact that listening to your body is, in fact, a good thing.

I was feeling sad and down and depressed. But on the way home I realized something. I felt guilty for leaving unless I had a physical reason to do so. Me, a mental health provider, felt guilty for leaving work because of mental health. I could only warrant it because I had physical problems going on too. Perhaps a harsh realization of the fact that I have been living within a version of stigma and not aware. But why?

I have a clinical diagnosis of major depressive disorder, anxiety, OCD (in remission), trichotillomania (also, mostly in remission), and PTSD (growing all the time). I struggle with my anger. I struggle with boundaries and people pleasing (getting better every day). I’m a chronic worrier. When there is nothing to be worried about, I worry about the fact that I have nothing to worry about. If my environment isn’t perfect, I will freak out in less than .25 seconds. Too hot? Open all the windows right now and give me a bag of ice. The bed comforter is a little askew? I’m not sleeping until it is perfect. The lighting too bright? I will literally hide and/or cringe until it is better. These diagnoses are all like waves. They come and go and through the years I have gotten better at not waiting around for the next wave of whatever DSM-5 delight is headed my way.

I have carried each of these diagnoses for some time. But, the oldest book in my bag is depression. I don’t remember exactly when it “struck”. I just remember that my lows got to be really, really low at some point. It became harder to come out of it through the years. For the longest time, I fought medications. I didn’t let myself go to therapy–I had been in and out of therapy throughout my life and never felt like I had accomplished anything. I was skeptical about the efficacy of anything but my own brain. But I had a chemical imbalance. I still do. It is a psychological illness. And I refused to do anything about it for a long friggin’ time. If this were a broken leg, I’d have gone and seen a doctor. Gotten an x-ray. Plopped a cast on it. Went to physical therapy. So why is a chemical imbalance any different? Because we can’t see it? Because we aren’t trained to identify when something feels wrong? Because we should be able to just “suck it up”? Because having depression is “just self pity”? Because? Because what?

Depression. It’s the unwelcome guest that crashes the dinner party late, comes a little drunk, and brings up your most embarrassing stories for all to hear. You want to take it and shove it out the window and tell it you’re breaking up with it forever. But maybe at some point you realize you can’t ever fully kick this person out of your life, so you stop reacting and just wait for it’s spiel to be over. Your dinner party guests get used to it, and offer to help clean up the mess. You offer a half smile and say thanks, and begin cleaning up in a pregnant silence, wondering when your drunk friend will ever get their shit together.

Depression. I think of the word and I instantly feel my shoulders slump over. I immediately slow down. My breathing becomes less involuntary and uneven. I want to crawl under the sheets and turn the lights off. I just want to hide. I know we all experience sadness. And maybe most have been depressed for a time a two. But there is a major difference between feeling depressed and having depression. Depression is rarely something that just goes away. Mine took four years of weekly therapy and a nice dose of 75 mg of Venlafaxine ER nightly to stabilize. I’m still not 100%. I still see my therapist every month, and the meds are the same.

I often envision my depression as a ditch, or a sink hole and I am a circus bear dressed like a cute little clown on a unicycle just wheeling around in circles around this ditch. I could lose my balance and drift right in at any time. Sometimes I am able to keep upright. It used to be that even the slightest thing could send me right into that ditch. And there are days where this is still the case. I wake up and I know instantly where I am at for the day. But that’s just it. I know where I stand for the day. THIS is progress. I gave up a long time ago on the expectation that my depression would ever truly go away. But I have learned to approach every day with the mindset of meeting myself right where I am.

Some days are so productive and so alive and so fruitful for so many reasons. And other days, I am lucky if my greatest achievement for the day is getting out of bed. There is only one major thing that has changed throughout all of this that has made either outcome something I am okay with. I stopped getting mad at myself for not being able to (insert daily tasks here) because of my depression. I stopped getting angry with myself for having a chemical imbalance. I stopped becoming frustrated when I couldn’t focus because I was too sad. I started to listen to what my heart and brain and soul required of me every. damn. day. Sometimes it is ritual. A cup of tea made slowly for the sole purpose of showing my body nourishment. Sometimes it is a pint of ice cream. Sometimes it is just letting myself feel how I feel. Sometimes it is total isolation and other times it is surrounding myself with love, soft blankets and wearing cozy clothing. But in order to have this knowledge, I had to stop and really really listen.

Depression. Ugh. There are hardly words to explain what it feels like. It’s heavy and dark. It doesn’t let light in, and when it does, the light is usually too bright anyway. It’s controlling and doesn’t let you see your friends. It takes all of your energy. It requires every ounce of strength from you and the some. It makes itself known in every way it can. It has a grasp that is cold and menacing. There is a gravitational pull that happens with depression that is a force to be reckoned with. It is messy. It is not showering for days. It mood swings, and weird cravings, and also you’re not hungry at all. It’s staring at walls wondering if the paint can hear your thoughts or if you are going crazy. It’s staring out windows and finding yourself leaving your body. It’s watching life as if it were a movie. It’s “never being good enough” to be a part of someone’s plans. It’s fear that you will “just bring everyone else down”. It’s not being able to speak because it might take up too much energy. It’s feeling hollow and empty. Like really, really feeling like there is nothing inside of you. It’s not being able to speak because words aren’t there any more. It’s focusing on absolutely nothing and not being able to focus on anything. It’s dark humor. It’s not being able to sleep or sleeping so often you lose track of time. It’s crying. So much crying. It’s crying so much you can’t cry anymore. It’s being numb. It’s not feeling. a. damn. thing. It’s wondering what the hell is wrong? It’s changes in grades or work performance. It’s self-depreciating statements. It’s constant second guessing. It’s wanting to change but feeling like you don’t know where to start. It’s wondering if days ever get better and also not caring. It’s wonder what your worth is. It’s feeling pain all over your body for “no reason”. It’s having skin that feels like it is full of needles and not knowing where or how to fix it. It’s not being able to find the light in a room made of light bulbs. It is exhausting. It is invisible. And if you think you have it, I believe you. Because it is real. And it is painful.

Depression. It is heavy. It’s clunky and doesn’t fit well in any space. It seems to be attached to you wherever you go though, so “it has to fit somewhere“. Right? Maybe. Maybe it is something you can allow space for. Maybe it isn’t something you need to eradicate from your life. Maybe it is something you simply need to understand rather than try to “fix”–you’re not broken. Sometimes, we need to be curious about why things happen or are coming up for us. Depression does not have to rule your life. I’m not saying it ever becomes easier. I think we, as humans, just get better at learning the nature of depression in the way that we experience it as individuals. We come up with tools along the way.

I often equate this to camping. It is suggested and good practice to pack a bag at the beginning of a hike with the “ten essentials”. These are ten items you would utilize to prevent an emergency or to handle an emergency should one arise. Things like extra water, hats, a knife, food, a first aid kit, fire starting materials etc. But take a minute to remove yourself from the hiking mindset of it all to a mindset of mental well-being. If your wellness journey is similar to that of a hike, which ten items (concepts, coping skills, resources etc.) do you require to ensure a safe travel? Keep in mind that these ten essentials may change as we are fluid beings, our needs change with the tides. Whenever I bring this up with clients, I ask them to really be specific, because ten items is both not enough and too many at once. Some find things like “hope”, “support”, “family”, “friends”, all fit into their wellness journey bag. But something I NEVER hear is self-compassion. People just don’t go there. I often wonder if this has anything to do with why people are depressed in the first place. It might be. But I haven’t conducted that study yet.

Why is it so scary to be self-compassionate? Why is it so difficult? Hell, what does it even mean? Self-compassion. It does not mean being easy on yourself or taking the easy way out. Self-compassion is approaching your own being with that similar to how you would a friend or a loved one (that you have a good, healthy relationship with). It’s opening your eyes each day and choosing to show up for yourself however you might need to on this day. It’s asking yourself about your needs and giving you those things. It’s advocating for yourself when no one else will. It’s acknowledging that maybe you are doing too much right now and it might be time to take a step back. It’s making a love offering every day for the person that you are. It is choosing, each day, to strive to understand you a little bit more. It’s asking the right questions. It’s thinking and exploring the person that exists within the vessel of flesh and bones and water that makes you you. It’s doing something that is meaningful to you. It’s creating ritual to allow for positive nourishment of the self. It’s regressing and not becoming angry about it. It’s acknowledging any progress you have made. It’s changing the language you use with yourself conscientiously so that you are not being mean to you anymore. It’s not speaking to yourself in your abuser’s tone of voice anymore. It’s choosing to identify one thing abut yourself every day that makes you worthy of what you seek. It’s creating healthy boundaries in your life so that harm cannot befall your soul. It’s not standing in lies, and living your truth to reclaim your power. It’s not forcing anything. It’s allowing emotions to come and go. It’s greeting challenges like old friends, and lending them an ear so that they can feel heard. It’s being honest about who is in your life, and why. It’s making a plan to try your best which is much different than making a plan for “success”. It’s understanding that the original plan for success will change thirty five times before you realize you are standing in it one day. It’s being gentle with yourself. It’s loving caresses on your own skin until you believe it exists for more than the criticism and pleasure of others. It’s acknowledgement of any effort, and identifying areas of growth. It’s finding your passions through trial and error. It’s having courage to try things you won’t be good at. It’s being fine with not being good at some of those things. It’s dropping expectation, altering standards, and seeing what happens when you provide a safe space void of judgement for yourself to grow. These things are meeting yourself where you are. And it is the only way, I have found, to really make a dent in managing my depression.

I used to find self-compassion difficult and sometimes it still is. It is work. It is not an easy practice. I had to change the language I was using with myself. I had to stop becoming so reactive to my own actions. It took me a long time to become okay with saying something kind to myself. And if this is a struggle you have, I would encourage you to consider this: If hearing positive feedback in your own language and voice towards yourself is too difficult right now–whose voice must you hear it in to believe it to be true?

Circling back just a bit to the idea of the ten essentials, I want to take a quick second to speak on what to do with the things you have to take out of the bag. We often, as a society, talk about what else we can take on to make our lives easier. But what about what we need to take off? What is in your bag that has been in there for way too long? Is it still serving you? Did it ever serve you? How did you wind up with it? What are you going to do to take out? Who was the original owner? Maybe it is time to give it back. It is not your responsibility to take things on that do not belong to you. Part of self-compassion is recognizing what is rightfully yours to take on what is not. You are not required to share anyone’s load. If you so choose to, keep it on a timeline be firm about it. I believe you have superpowers, but this is not one of them. So get rid of it. Give it back. Do whatever the hell you have to do to give it back.

Depression does not change all that much. But you do. You gain insight. Your days become less agonizing. You find your worth again. You actually start to believe it is possible. The next time you feel like you might need a day off, or some time–take it. Spend some time being compassionate with yourself. A chemical imbalance is JUST as serious as an injured leg with worse long term impacts if left untreated. If you disagree, I am open to a debate at any time. If your boss disagrees, send them my way. The things that need to get done will get done. But do not put yourself at risk of mental decline to do it. Nothing is more important than your mental freedom. Depression is not about picking yourself up and dusting yourself off. It’s about sitting in the dirt for a second to assess if you are alright, assessing why you fell in the first place, and following your gut in what to do about it. Sometimes you will need help. Most times, actually. And that is actually fine and great. It’s okay to rely on a therapist for a bit. It’s okay to need medications to get you to a point where you can even pick up the phone to call a therapist. It’s okay that you don’t want any of it. No one does. But they will be there when you are ready.

When was the last time you allowed yourself to be gentle with you? Last week? A month ago? A year ago? Ever? How do you choose to show up for yourself every day? What do you need to let go of? What do you need to give back? How are you going to empty your backpack? What will you replace those items with ? Will you replace them at all? What are your ten essentials? What language do you use to speak to yourself? Does it need to change? How? When are you going to allow yourself to be more self-compassionate and gentle with you? What does that mean to you? What steps can you take TODAY to start?

Love, warmth and cozy feelings on this Sunday morning,

Gigi.

If you or someone you know struggles with depression or thoughts of suicide please contact:

Lifeline: 2-1-1

National Suicide Prevtion Hotline:
1-800-273-8255

pyschologytoday.com (has amazing resources that can allow you to search for a therapist by zip code, insurance, and specialties)