It’s week three! So far in our journey together, I’ve asked you to start getting more exercise to help you foster a better connection with your body. I’ve also asked you to start using meditation and mindfulness skills to support that connection with yourself. If you’ve been doing both of these, it’s time for step three.
(If you haven’t started the other two, go back and start there!)
Yep- it’s time to own your sh*t. What does this mean? Well, it means a lot. So let’s dive right in.
Depression is a thick, sticky, exhausting mud that can feel overwhelming to sludge through. When we’re low, nothing sounds good. We feel like we can’t seem to get anything done. The mere thought of getting off the couch can feel like three days worth of energy. With this, comes a lot of beliefs. Skewed beliefs can be one of the most debilitating symptoms of depression.
“I can’t…” I can’t seem to get on top of my to-do list… so I just won’t do anything at all.
“It won’t work.” I just know it.
“I’ve tried.” It might have been just that one time, but it didn’t work.
“What’s the point?” What’s the point of cleaning up? It’ll just get dirty again.
“I’ll get to it later.” Later sometimes comes, right?
“I can’t do anything right.” This current situation is just one of many examples I could probably come up with if I tried.
“I’ve always felt this way.” I was born depressed and I will die depressed.
These are just thoughts (as we talked about last week) – they needn’t be believed. Each of these thoughts can feel so justified inside in the darkness of the moment. Yet we might find that when we express them out loud, others don’t seem to understand. Heck, sometimes when we hear them out loud we don’t understand them.
Owning your sh*t is about letting go of defending depression. It’s time to remove “I’d do that, but I’m just so depressed,” from your internal repertoire. Depression is already skilled at coming up with excuses, it doesn’t need your help. What it needs is a parent (you) to come in and help it learn how to take accountability.
One of my favorite ways to look at how we treat ourselves is to imagine how we would respond if it were a child we were interacting with instead of ourselves. If a child came up to you, tearful, and said “I can’t do anything right,” or “I tried to make it better once, but it didn’t work,” what would be your response?
“You’re absolutely right, kiddo. Life is hard, and you should just give up right now. It won’t ever get better, and if you tried just once and it didn’t work, now is probably the time to quit. Especially since you can’t do anything right.”
Uh… no. I like to think that if a kid comes up feeling desolate and lost, we offer a little more than that. We (hopefully) would listen to the kid, empathize with their experience, and ultimately tell them they’re amazing and that though life can be hard, it’s worth fighting for. Then we’d help them come up with a way to both express those feelings and take tangible steps to improve things.
Right? So why don’t we do this with ourselves?
Look around your life. What looks like depression? Does your house, work station, car, refrigerator, social calendar, thought process, relationship, or outward appearance look messy, chaotic, or neglected? Does it look depressed?
At some point you have to decide that living the depressed way isn’t good enough- that you deserve better. It’s time to do something about it in the same way we would encourage a kid to. We acknowledge not wanting to do something, having our bodies feel like lead, and our fears that we won’t be good enough. Then we challenge them.
“I can’t.” – Yes, I can. I am a survivor. I am capable and strong.
“It won’t work.” – I’m worried it won’t work, but I don’t know what will happen until I try.
“I’ve tried.” – It takes perseverance and commitment to change things. Trying once won’t be enough. I’ll need to keep at it and experiment to find what works for me.
“What’s the point?” – The point is I, as much as everyone else in the world, deserve love and happiness. And that starts within me.
“I’ll get to it later.” – Or I’ll do it now, because otherwise things will pile up and I’ll feel weighed down.
“I can’t do anything right.” – Except for the following three examples of times I’ve done something correctly in my life.
“I’ve always felt this way.” – Nobody ever always felt anyway. Both the good and the bad come and go, it’s the fluidity of life. It’s what makes life precious and beautiful.
If you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right. – Henry Ford.
In order to let go of defensiveness, we have to do its opposite: take accountability. This can be a wildly painful process because it requires that we lean into our fears in order to prove them wrong. We must stand steadfast and brave against the tides of depression trying to take us down. Depression has a cryptonite – it’s called courage. And it has an achilles heel – it’s called self-love. Feel the waves of depression try to hold you back, then do those healthy and loving things instead.
What is a tell for depression in your life? How can you take steps to change that today?
You deserve a happy life. You can do this.
I’ll be over here holding hope for you until you can feel it for yourself.
Until next week, be kind and gentle with yourself.
p.s. This is hard work. If you need help, find a counselor near you. If you need immediate help, contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255.