Embracing Depression - Gratitude Journal #7

posted on: February 22, 2012

When I was depressed, I never could have written this blog post. I had no motivation to do anything, let alone write about what I was feeling. I could hardly express what I was feeling other than "not myself", or just not wanting to do anything but live inside my head wondering why I didn't feel right. I felt like letting every part of my life fall away from me just so I wouldn't have to deal with it or care for it. I knew I didn't feel right, but I also didn't want to take any drugs that messed with my brain chemistry. I'd seen what drugs did to other people, and it seemed like while they felt like they could function better, the underlying "not right" feeling never actually went away. I kept waiting and waiting for the feeling to end- it took two years.

Black & White Stormy Farmland in South Dakota

I did little things that I knew made me happy when I felt normal. I drank mocha frappuccinos, put on awesome music, laid in the grass under trees, and yet I remained disappointed that they didn't make me happy like they did when I felt normal. I did things that I thought would make me happy based on chemistry- like going to the gym regularly to get my blood pumping and my endorphins naturally drugging my body into happiness. It didn't work and I didn't lose any weight. I didn't want to see friends or family because I knew that I wasn't going to have the same excitement. When they'd ask how I was doing, I'd say fine... but they'd know I wasn't fine because I never said "fine"- I always said "good" with a big smile when I felt good. I still hosted Boston PUG meetings, which I loved when I was feeling good, but I was barely there, merely showing up and doing what was necessary and no more. When people asked me about my business, I told them I was thinking about giving it all up. My business wasn't actually suffering as much as I felt it was at the time, but I knew I wasn't serving my clients as well as I could when I felt healthy and happy. The thought of meeting new clients or having anyone rely on me for anything stressed me out, because I just didn't feel capable or motivated to do anything more than wake up, shower, force myself to the gym, and go to bed. This feeling lasted about 2 years- and you can see noticeable drops in my blogging when I was depressed. I couldn't write about it then because I didn't understand it.

Luckily I had a husband and friends who cared about my wellbeing and getting me out of the house and out of my own head. Even though I never wanted to go to social gatherings when I felt depressed, it was one of the few things that reminded me what happiness and love felt and looked like. Even if I couldn't feel it myself, I could see it in other people, and by proximity maybe even absorbed a little bit of that good feeling. After I'd spent time with friends, I was so grateful that they were there and still cared about me enough to invite me out even when they knew I just wasn't as happy-go-lucky as I used to be. Rather than jumping in and getting excited about a conversation, I'd sit back, nod, and maybe answer a question if I was asked, but was otherwise just existing in the same space. I think my husband needed that friend time too because he wasn't getting it from me, and I'm glad he wanted to share it together rather than leaving the Debby Downer at home.

Brothers Walking Crane Beach Ipswich, MA

I kept trying to find reasons why I was depressed. One that seemed interesting was the "Saturn Returns" idea that occurs in everyone's late 20's and early 30's that makes you revisit and question if you're on your life path or if you feel like you're aligned with your life's purpose. The idea is that the large planet returning to the position it was at your birth makes you revisit everything you thought you wanted, and take stock in things that make you happy and things that seem like just another wall to climb with little reward. I realized there were things left unfinished or incomplete in my life that I needed to resolve before I could move forward. So, I embraced that idea and looked for things that I'd put off, or were never high on my priority list when I was feeling motivated to start new projects.

Depression is actually a pretty good time to tie up loose ends and work on old projects that were left unfinished. Since you're not motivated to start anything new, you can at least feel productive finishing old projects. Depression is also a good time to work with other people and find collaborations, since you have no motivation to trail-blaze your own ideas. It's a time when you don't feel bad about turning down projects you don't like to do anyway- and these are hints of things that you need to let go of and find other people to do in your life so that you can focus on the very few things that bring you a sense of happiness. Depression is a good time to journal, and to reflect on how and when you've put other people ahead of your own needs and priorities. It's a time to take people up on their offers to help you and to let other people do things for you when you normally wouldn't feel comfortable with others caring for you. Depression is a time to decide what it is that really makes you happy to get out of bed in the morning, and to figure out how to have more of that in your life.

Rainbow Clouds Over Brisbane, QLD Australia

For me, depression helped me learn that I only want to work with people who appreciate everything I have to offer, rather than people who just want me to show up and do a job for money. It helped me learn that friends and family are a big source of happiness in my life and that I needed to create more room to spend time with them on a regular basis, finding ways to make THEM the priority, rather than money or work. It helped me realize that I may actually have a chemical need for caffeine, since my days with caffeine are always better than my days without it... but that having it in moderation and not after 2pm allows me to sleep better at night. Depression helped me realize that more than anything, I just want to help people find a sense of happiness and purpose in their own life. It made me realize that if we could all just do what we love, the world would be a much more happy and peaceful place. It sounds utopian, but from my own experience, I feel like I can handle so much more stress in my life when I'm happy and doing what I love, rather than feeling like I'm just working for the money and trading my health and happiness away.

Why be grateful for depression? Because it gave me the time to work on myself and reevaluate what really wasn't serving me in a positive and constructive way. It gave me time to eliminate things that stressed me out, to seek help from others when I had a hard time asking for it, and to focus the limited energy I had only on what made me happy. If I had just kept going, or if I had just kept waiting for it to pass and didn't do the self-work, I would have stayed unhappy and unmotivated for who knows how long. I'm pretty sure those are the real life zombies- people who choose to ignore their soul's desire. If I could give you one piece of advice, it's to write down everything that makes you happy, and then find a way to make a living from it. You can start here. In the blog comments, I'd love to hear just one thing that makes you happy just to think about it....

7 comments, to add [click here]:

  1. Hi Anne,

    I can't tell you how I came across your blog, but I've been following it for awhile. I confess I'm not a very good "commenter." But when this post's title caught my eye, I had to not only read every word, but leave a comment.
    Recently,I was diagnosed with depression. While I'm going about treating it a little differently (I'm learning that what works for one person, may not be best for another), what I appreciated most about this post, was that you not only put some of my thoughts into words, but you also made me feel like I'm not alone.

    While it was hard to hear, it was also freeing for my counselor to tell me what was really going on - depression - because like you mentioned, I didn't know why I was feeling the way I was. It's also freeing to hear you talk about your experience. I can sigh in relief that I don't have to do everything or try to figure it all out.

    Anyway, I practically wrote you a novel, all to say, THANK YOU for sharing your experience!


    ps - I love the happy thought idea: sunshine, swinging, green tea lattes, and flowers are some of my "happys" :)

  2. Micalla - it means SO MUCH to me that you're sharing your experience. I agree with you- everyone needs to find a coping method or healing strategy that works for them.

    Your happy thoughts are lovely... I'll be sure to share some sunshine and flowers post soon!! Are you on Instagram?? There are lots of those lovely images there!

  3. Anne... thank you.
    I went through something similar a couple of years ago, and came through it with the help of therapy. I didn't do as much soul searching though until more recently. I'm happy to be doing this "figuring it out" stuff while I'm feeling so happy, but I'm constantly reminding myself to be careful not to let that pull me back down. I nodded my head the whole time I was reading and filled up a few pages in my notebook so I can be a little more clear on what makes me happy. Thanks so much for sharing and being such an encouragement to so many people.
    The simple answer to what makes me happy is, 'creating something that is good.' I mean that in every area of my life. Thank you for helping me along the way=)

  4. Anne- You are so brave and insightful in this post. Having been a follower of all your work since we first met in 2005, I've seen you through your ups and downs, and the one thing that always remained true is your sincerity and willingness to share your experiences with others, so that others may learn or benefit from them. I'm grateful to have you as a friend, and even though we're not in the same state, we can easily stay connected no matter where our paths take us.

    Writing down what makes you happy is not an easy task, but one I will be sure to keep working on every year. For now the things that immediately come to mind that make me the most happy are my husband, my family, my friends, and helping people through my work and in my spare time. And I really love my Madagascar Vanilla African Rooibos tea from Celestial Seasonings. My day is not complete with at least 2 cups of this stuff!


    Much love,

    Your friend Sally

  5. Anne
    I found your blog page really interesting, and loved your photographs. Every day brings things to be happy about - at the end of each day I pick out three things that have made me happy - seeing one of my family, making bread or scones, or a lovely sunset.
    One regular way that makes me happy is to say thank you to someone who serves me in a shop for the lovely smile they have given me that has brightened me up --- and seeing how their eyes light up with pleasure.
    I'll visit you again. Jez

  6. Anne-

    No instagram for me :( My smart phone is unfortunately not an iPhone. BUT I am on Twitter, so I occasionally get to see some fun pictures!

  7. Anonymous8:02 PM

    the look on the face of a child when you find them the most perfect book in the world; or the exact answer for the stumping question for the adult who just got some new piece of technology from their adult child; or the feeling you get when you made all the numbers work and everyone got to keep their job and no one had to give up their favorite time at the library. My job. my passion.


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