I live in the northern section of Minnesota. That means right now if I go outside I am cold. Not just a little cold. I am talking walk out the door and you gasp kinda cold. Even when I am indoors there is still this chill that never goes away. I am pretty sure that is because my body doesn’t actually thaw from being outside.
In a way this is much like my depression. When it hits hard and I sink down to a low it is overwhelming. Much like walking out of the door and getting the air taken out of my lungs from the cold; often my depression is sudden and to the core of me.
The sun is shining quite brightly today and with the snow on the ground I need sunglasses more now than I do in August. However because of the angle of the sun and my placement on the earth and other science stuff I don’t really care about right now, the sun isn’t giving off the heat it does in August so I get no real relief from it. Much the same as when my depression creeps in and all the laughter in the world seems to fall flat. It is like the angle of the sound waves are causing the happiness to glance off of me. I should be happy. All of the ingredients are there in my environment. I can even smile and laugh but that’s just a cover. It’s sunshine on a winter day; it looks good but doesn’t mean anything.
So what am I supposed to do?
If it is winter I have to get out of bed. I don’t want to but I need to. Hot showers help to add some of the warmth I just lost by getting out of my oh-so-comfy fleece pajamas. I add extra layers of clothes since I am not covered with fur. I have a furnace in my house so that goes on and hums some warm air through vents that reach through my walls. Blankets are good because they add insulation and hold in the heat that your body naturally produces. If I am lucky I get to sit next to my wife on the couch and lean on her for a while. I put on a coat that is really puffy and a hat that makes my hair look stupid. I do what I have to do to stay warm. It is either that or I die.
If it is my depression I have to get out of bed. I don’t want to. But I need to. Hot showers and brushing my teeth are important because self-care is vital especially when you don’t really care to see that self in the mirror. I dress in clothes that make me “ready for the day” because I need to remind myself that I have value. I take the medications that help to balance the chemical levels in my brain. If I can’t regulate my mental thermostat I need to find a dial that will in a way that is actually beneficial. I lean on my wife, because she knows me more than anybody, and one of the few people I can actually hear talk to me when I’m like this. I do what I have to do to get out of the pit. It is either that or I die.
When you see someone who is struggling, remember. Remember how much it took for them to be where they are. Remember that they are “pulling themselves together” in the best way they know how already. Remember that you can’t just “get over” something that you are underneath. Remember that they are trying, so they need a cheerleader, to remind them not to stop. Remember that not everyone has that person to lean on or the medications that they can afford, so you may be that support system. Even if it means you didn’t say hurry up when I was in the way at the grocery store aisle when my mind was so overwhelmed I couldn’t choose what kind of soup I wanted. Remember your actions matter. I say enough mean things to me; I don’t need your help with that part, thanks.
Remember that sometimes the pit is so dark that it may be too hard to see the hand in front of your face. I may not even know that I am in that pit in the first place, or that a place outside the pit exists, or that there is anyone outside the pit who cares. Remember to be patient when this is the umpteenth time you have reminded me that you care.
Remember that I matter. Remember that I have a purpose. Remember to reach out to me. Remember to ask me how I am doing and wait to for the reply. Remember to remind me that I shouldn’t give up. Remember how hard I fought to brush my teeth and don’t give up on me.
National Director of Mental Health for Celebrate Recovery