The Nike slogan has always frustrated me. “Just Do It” is much easier said than done. There’s nothing worse than being mentally ill and being told to think more positively, be more mindful, get more exercise. I like yoga just fine, but if you suggest it as a way to cure depression I will scream.
“It’s all about mindset” can be a loaded statement. Annoyingly enough, it’s actually somewhat true.
But you have to be ready. You have to be in a place where attempting mindfulness will honestly be productive. For the majority of my time spent as a depressed person, I wasn’t ready at all. I was either angry and sad, or completely numb and unfeeling. For the first four years I wouldn’t even accept that I was sick. I thought I was just struggling with becoming an adult, and that I’d come right eventually. But ignoring the problem led me down a path of chronic, clinical depression.
At my first real low point, I was nineteen and I lost twenty pounds in three weeks because getting out of bed to eat felt too hard. I literally couldn’t be bothered to live. I slept all day and stayed up all night, watching TV or distracting myself with things and people online that were (just between you and me) a huge waste of time. Once, it took me four hours to do the dishes by hand — I had to stop and sit down on the kitchen floor for long stretches of time, just to convince myself to get up and wash another plate. It was rough.
Not long after that, I agreed to go on anti-depressants. I was ashamed that my brain was so broken that I needed medication just to be alive, but honestly? That’s how it goes sometimes. There’s no need to be ashamed. Some people have heart problems or kidney problems, and some people have brain problems. The stigma surrounding mental health issues is a real bitch, and it contributed to the length of time I went untreated.
The meds worked really well. But after four years of being emotionally suppressed and having no energy or desire to do anything, having all of that rushing back in was scary. It was the right treatment, but without proper therapy I wasn’t prepared to be well again. I’m also not sure if I wanted to be. I grapple a lot with the idea of failure and wasting my life and not being good enough, and so no longer being in a stagnant puddle of my own sadness had me slamming head-first into confronting those fears. So I stopped taking the meds, and went back into my pit of despair. It was more comfortable. It was my safety net.
It’s so weird to think back on, although my memories aren’t all that clear because depression literally depresses some brain functions, so I don’t recall a lot of being nineteen or twenty. But I really wasn’t ready. I wasn’t equipped for mindfulness or exercise or positivity. I wanted to get better in an abstract sense, but I didn’t want to have to deal with all the issues that came with being a functioning human again.
I’m a slow mover, and it’s taken a long time. I was actually doing pretty good, but about a year ago I fell back into the same pattern of being so sad that I couldn’t function. It was really bad, the worst it’s ever been. I’ve never been suicidal before, because I always assumed I’d get well again and everything would be magically better, but from February to July, I was very sick. I wanted to die. I saw no reason to be alive, no motivation to keep trying. I’d barely kept my head above water for such a long time that struggling felt normal, and then suddenly I was really drowning.
I built my house at rock bottom, and now I was somehow deeper than that, like I’d got out a pickax and dug a little pit of sadness to crawl into and die. But I pulled through somehow. I stopped my meds for a period, because I was forgetting them every other day and that’s really bad for your brain chemistry. I wrote a lot of bad poetry and started going to therapy again. I took each day a minute at a time, and I crawled out of the pit.
I want to live. It’s such a novel concept at the moment, and it feels precious. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older, or perhaps I just take an incredibly long time to process things, but I’m ready to try. Mindfulness suddenly makes sense. “Just Do It” seems like the clearest concept in the universe, like I woke up one day with the knowledge. I know I’ll have downswings again, but hopefully this new understanding can carry me through.
I have hope, finally. And isn’t that incredible.
Sad Habits Girl