It’s Saturday morning. It’s raining outside. I’m still feeling pretty shitty from drinking too much a couple of nights ago. I haven’t exercised all week. And I haven’t cooked a single meal. All the good habits I usually use to keep myself on track seem to have picked up and left. Oh…and I have to go out and socialise later which feels about as appealing as a root canal.
In case you hadn’t already guessed, I’ve had a pretty bad few weeks. My depression crept up and caught me by surprise and I’ve been pretty much floored by it ever since. It kind of feels as though all the good progress I’ve made has just evaporated and disappeared.
But I can’t say that I’m not a little bit responsible. Whilst I’m not exactly sure what triggered this latest little episode, I am sure that my methods of coping with it haven’t been the most healthy. In fact, I’ve slipped right back into some pretty damaging behaviours which no doubt have prolonged the crappy feelings.
Drinking Too Much Alcohol
Let’s start with this shall we. Given that yesterday was spent in a hungover haze and I’m still feeling the effects of a heavy Thursday night.
I’ve always enjoyed having a couple of drinks every now and then. I love going out and sharing a really nice bottle of wine over a meal, or spending the day vineyard hopping when I’m on holiday. And most of the time, I do so in relative moderation. I have a few drinks, get a little tipsy and head home.
When I’m depressed however, it’s an entirely different story. A glass of wine can turn into one more, then another, and another, whilst I try to numb whatever it is I am feeling at that particular moment in time. It’s much easier for me to slip into excessive drinking when I’m feeling so down.
But of course, alcohol is a pretty big depressant. And the day after I’ve gone a bit overboard I wake feeling full of self-loathing and utterly depressed. In fact, it often takes a good few days for my mind to get back to where it was before drinking. Over the last few years, I’ve come to learn that when I am struggling with my depression it’s actually much better for me to steer clear of alcohol completely. Advice I clearly didn’t heed on Thursday.
Spending Way Too Much Time in Bed
When I very first developed depression, back when I was living in New Zealand, I remember quite often coming home from work, shutting the blinds and climbing straight into bed. The sheer effort of trying to appear normal all day was just way too much for me. As my depression progressed, I spent more and more time in bed, trying to shut out the World outside.
This is unfortunately the one habit that has endured most during my past few years of depression. On really bad days I will come home and head straight to bed. If I had the option to I would quite happily stay there all day.
It feels good at the time. It feels safe and helps shut out everything outside. But it is not at all good for my mental health. Instead of taking active steps to try to improve my mood, hiding away in bed just makes me feel even more down.
Far from the social butterfly I once was, I am now much more introverted and find it difficult, exhausting even, to go out and socialise. It’s not that I don’t want to, it’s just that it uses up so much energy that I don’t always have.
And yet, getting out and seeing friends, exhausting as it may be, only ever lifts my mood. I never come back from an outing with people feeling worse than before I went. But whilst I know this, the problem lies in actually making myself do it in the first place. In the actual making of and sticking to plans. When I’m feeling shit, socialising feels like the most difficult thing in the World and I’m likely to just hole up at home and hide away.
Eating Unhealthily and Not Exercising
My physical health has a huge impact on my depression. When I feel unhealthy and unfit in my body, my mind soon follows suit. This is heightened by the fact that my depression is inextricably linked with extremely poor body image. When I’m not feeling good about myself physically my self esteem plummets and depression sets in.
Most of the time I maintain my physical health very well. I’ve spoken before about how essential exercise is to managing my depression and on a normal week I usually exercise four or five times. I generally tend to make all my meals fresh and from scratch and find cooking pretty therapeutic.
But these last few weeks, I can probably count on one hand the amount of times I have cooked a meal. My exercise has dropped off considerably. And I have eaten so many takeaways. It comes back to that feeling of exhaustion that hits me at the end of a bad day. There is simply no energy left to do all the things I need or want to do. The result? Feeling more lethargic, less healthy and more mentally unwell.
Playing the Comparison Game
One of the things about depression, is that you end up in pretty negative thinking patterns. One thought can spark another and another and before you know it you’ve spiralled into a deep dark hole where everything feels completely shit.
I am guilty of this a lot of the time, but especially when my depression is at its worst. For me, I end up comparing myself and my life now to, well, literally everything. I compare myself to other people, to how they look, what they are doing with their lives and how seemingly happy they are (the joys of social media). I even compare myself to myself. To the past when I (falsely) perceive myself as being happier, when I weighed less and when my life felt generally more exciting.
The irony of that being, I was never actually happier during any of those times. I always had extremely poor self image, regardless of how much I weighed. I suffered from depression whilst I was travelling the World. It’s very easy to look back through rose tinted glasses and see only the good times, forgetting about the times when I would have complete breakdowns. I know all this. But when my depression is in full force, it’s all too easy to forget.
So there we have it. No doubt there are a ton of other things that I do on a day to day basis that aren’t great for my mental health, but those are the things that have the biggest impact and the things that I have to actively try to manage to keep myself on track.