Depressive cycle and new tools

I think the biggest tools that I've gained from this round of counseling are mindfulness and intentionality.

Today, I don't feel well. And I feel that I should feel well, because I've been "taking it easy" for the past few days (not feeling up to par then, either), and isn't there stuff I could be doing besides resting? I mean, I took two naps yesterday and slept for 10 hours last night, for crying out loud! Shouldn't I be better by now?

Well, Brain says yes.

I've had a crystallizing moment of clarity over the past few days. I have known/suspected for a while that my health and my depression were interrelated, but I didn't know just how. Getting depressed makes me sick? That's what I thought. Now that I'm fighting the depression slide/triggers with new tools, however, a different dance has come into the forefront.

When I'm not feeling well, I have several symptoms that correlate with what I typically consider to be my depressive episodes-- fatigue, apathy, inability to be motivated, irritation, lack of appetite, etc. I have a tendency, however, to being "shoulding" myself and being very, very judgmental when I'm not performing at the level I feel that I should be. I'm thinking that, sometimes, (not ALL the time, necessarily), the "slide downward" begins when I'm just not doing well physically. Then the mental gymnastics kick into play, and I end up spiraling downward into a super dark hole that I can't seem to claw my way out of.

This last depression session was different than previous ones, as I noted. It seemed to be strictly biological, without any of the negative emotional flogging and dark, twisted recoil that typically accompany my spells. Apathy and fatigue, sure. Negative physical effects? You betcha. But the emotional involvement? Limited. It was there, I won't lie. But it wasn't like it usually is.

I think that the diminished health is the catalyst, and then the negative messages, harsh judgment, and unrealistic expectations are what send my soul into paroxysms of grief.

Back to today. Brain says, "You haven't done anything today. Why are you so lazy? You could totally be doing stuff. And don't give me that 'I don't feel well' crap. When do you ever feel well? So many excuses..." And so I start feeling guilty and thinking, "Mleh, I'm a poor excuse for a productive human being. This sucks. I suck."

When I finally made it into the shower today (yet another reason to feel guilty, because I didn't make it into the shower soon enough-- is that silly or what??), Voice of Reason spoke up. She said, "Can you be compassionate enough with yourself to simply inhabit this illness today without judgment?"

Something clicked inside of me. Yes. Yes, I can. I do not have any obligations today except those I've placed upon myself. My schedule is forgiving, set up in such a way that I can do this very thing-- have days where I'm just blah. I did that on purpose, and here I am resenting the very safeguards I built in? How silly.

This mindful breathing that I've been practicing is teaching me to simply observe without judgment. My counselor is teaching me to be compassionate with myself, self-aware, and self-affirming. (I'll admit- it's hard to be kind to myself on days when I don't feel like I've earned it... like today.) To be mindful- aware without judgment- and to be intentional with my compassion and self-awareness are the tools that I think will finally help break the mental aspect of my spirals of depression.

Today, I am experiencing many of the characteristics of a depressive slide. I am aware of this, and I recognize it. But I will not judge. I will simply accept. And I will be compassionate enough with myself that I can simply inhabit today (illness and all) as I need to without passing judgment.

Also, I had to realize that I am not a chronically ill person. I am a person with a chronic illness. Semantics? Possibly. But a very, very important reality shift.

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