All through quarantine, I keep experiencing these tiny little feelings similar to deja vu, slight little flashbacks when I find myself feeling something distant but familiar, comfortable and joyful. You know, the feeling when you smell something and you are taken back to a wonderful memory from childhood, the remembrance. I suspect I am experiencing this phenomenon due to the last two years I have spent dwelling in and coming out of a depression. Joy certainly stands in stark contrast to the feeling of not wanting to participate in my own life. Healing depression, has unfolded as a long journey. Spanning the past two years, I have come to grasping at anything that could make me feel better. I started with alcohol, the global leader in discomfort relief. Anyone who has tried to cure their depression with the beloved booze knows, it not only makes the feelings of desperation worse, it also attaches a colossal amount of unnecessary shame. When the shame spiral begins, you find yourself desperately trying to step off of a platform, moving at the speed of light- the chances of gaining a foothold under the numbing circumstances of alcohol or drugs is nearly futile. I was able to accomplish this feat, but not excluding the help of an antidepressant and NOT with the help of booze (unfortunately). What a second chance- being able to spend a lifetime screwing up your own brain chemistry only to have it corrected by man-made chemicals!! Anyone who walks beside me in this knows, antidepressants are a waiting game and never has a roller coaster metaphor become more appropriate; some days are great and some days you feel like you starting right back at the beginning. When you live in complete darkness, you tend to notice even the tiniest bit of light. Spanning the last few months, the light has become brighter and brighter and the moments of joy have become much bigger than the the ones without.
I’d like to think this whole quarantine thing happened just for me, because it feels so right. A forced time out from the world is EXACTLY what my family and I needed at this point in our lives. I have finally arrived at a place where the sun is shining so, so very bright majority of my days. Being able to focus on myself, my habits without the distractions of leaving and returning home several times a day has proven to be invaluable. My goal with all of this spare time was to move in the direction of replacing a bad habit or two with habits that propel my life forward.
Bad days still come, like an unhealthy friend popping their head in from time to time. For the most part, I encounter fewer bad days, easing toward non existent: days have become moments. I didn’t write at all yesterday, found myself forcing all of my actions throughout the day. I felt gloomy. I spent majority of the day in pursuance of a cause of the melancholy, as always. If there is something that doesn’t feel good, I want ta remedy- IMMEDIATELY. Having the time to fine tune what makes days “bad” for me is a blessing. I have come to terms with accepting some days will be better than others. Not everyday is going to feel like the first day of spring and maybe not every bad day has a solution. I am just grateful that feeling good is now the norm and today I feel GREAT.
My remembering the feeling of joy generated my deja vu-like symptoms. Unable to pinpoint exactly when things went wrong, I do know quite a number of years have elapsed since true joy grew inside of me. The flashbacks arrive so distant yet so pure. During this quarantine, I feel I have reached the pinnacle. I can adjust my emotions with ease. I can now call on happiness any time I want, and it arrives for me. If life gets better, which I plan on, I am further conditioned to wake up each day and greet my life with peace and curiosity. This spiral that spins me around in the light is such a better place than that of the shame spiral, which can only lead to despair and feelings of worthlessness.
Like most people who find themselves caught in darkness, I began my long journey to light with learning, reading, grasping at any education that I could find. At first, desperately searching, I literally felt like my life depended on finding balance and a cure for my depression. Now, without depression, I continue to search and likely will for the remainder of my existence. I absolutely adore LIFE IN THE LIGHT.
Here are a few reflections and “cures” that helped me to find and begin to love myself. After all, everything starts with love. So if you haven’t started to love yourself yet, then you really haven’t started.
- Mindset – so many points come to mind when I think of how much my mindset has changed in the past few years. I am no longer a victim, or complainer, or perfectionist, or a “someday I will” type of gal…ok, maybe I am all of these at times, but never for more than a split second. You (and only you) are in control of your mindset. How you perceive situations and what you dwell on all come from upstairs. Be mindful of what you are doing up there! I wish this were as easy as just saying it aloud, which brings me to my next point…
- Mediation – I don’t meditate to connect with some omnipotent source. I do it because it slows my brain down. I started sitting quietly and watching my thoughts two years ago when my depression and crisis hit their peak. In those early days, it was life or death, I would have tried anything. I began to notice space between my thoughts and instread of being reactive, I was able to choose how to react. My intention is to carry this habit into forever, as much as this practice has helped me, I would be a fool not to. Meditation helps you to sort and notice what thoughts are plaguing your brain. There is no right was or wrong way, just sit and observe. The more you observe your own brain, the easier it is to recognize when it is going a place that you do not want it to go. This is the training that helps you achieve a calm mindset and a better perspective.
- Yoga– I started doing yoga in 2007 at the federal penitentiary in Bryan,Texas. People always laugh when I say that. Maybe it’s me that always laughs when I say that- anyway, we won’t get into the details of that vacation here. Suffice it to say that the practice of yoga was a friend to me when I need it most and the beautiful art of breath and stretching has been there for me through every turn since. The reason that I do yoga is for strength and to be sure that I move my body daily. I believe anything that involves movement and builds strength is necessary, wether it be yoga or something else.
- Eliminate shame – Shame is a human torture device that everyone experiences. The irony of it: shame is never yours. If you feel shame form something in your past, you must find a way to release it. If you feel shame over something that you are doing to yourself, a bad habit, you must find a way to overcome it. Shame equates to a prison that we build for ourselves, we are the keeper of the keys. We can release ourselves whenever we want. I was able to work through my shame issues with mindset and writing. At times, a professional is necessary. The key is within reach, free yourself!!!
- Worthiness – Goodness in this world isn’t just for everyone else. Its there for everyone. Realizing your worth is the beginning of self love. You are enough and if you’re telling yourself you’re not, keep searching and practicing. A great life is too important to give up.
- Nutrition – Just a quick word about nutrition – we all know how important it is to eat healthy. Unfortunately, depression makes it extemely difficult to make wise choices, comfort matters more. Additionally, unbalance levels of neurotransmitters make one powerless against the cravings of certain types of foods. I personally continued to comfort myself with food. Once I reached a state of balance, nutrition worked itself out. Do not be too hard on yourself, don’t beat yourself up. If you work hard at creating peace in your life, everything else will fall into place.
Once you have found a routine and practices that begin to bring the light back into your life, be sure to complete the cycle by lifting someone else up. No one shares the same experiences in this world, something you have gone through will resonate and help a fellow human. We cannot change the world alone. Once you find a secure foothold, use that experience to illuminate life for someone else. After all, we are all in this together.