Self-Care For Depression Relapse

Note: I am no trained therapist–this is just my thinking based on my own experiences. Depression can be life threatening. Seek professional help if you are not feeling the relief you need from self-help methods.

I was fine, living the single working mom life; busy, but hopeful. I married again at age 33 and decided to homeschool my then kindergartener. We had 3 more children during the next 5 years. Life got harder. Time alone was rare, and as an introvert, I NEED it. Marriage was not always rosy, and sometimes it has been downright torturous. My son grew into an adolescent and tested my parental muster hourly. Midlife was upon me and I felt I was not using my gifts and talents in the way God wanted me to. I felt myself spiraling faster down a dark abyss of doom. I had never felt so low and heavy before. It is hard to describe it now, because I am currently not feeling that hopelessness and sadness, thanks be to God. I sought help for myself even though it was a great expense and hardship financially because it was really alarming and affecting the quality of life for myself and family.

The therapist confirmed that I was suffering from depression, probably postpartum depression, as my baby is not even a year old yet. I think I was also struggling with a midlife crisis, trying to figure out what I am doing and why I am doing it, and what I ought to be doing. Talking to a professional helped me to identify what the problem was and therefore be able to seek resources to help myself. I began to feel better a couple of months ago. I don’t know for sure what caused me to feel better–maybe one or more of the following things that I have been doing:

acknowledging and learning about the depression to better help myself
taking good physical care of myself–regular exercise, high-quality vitamins, enough sleep
taking time to pray, think, reflect
taking action to create or move closer to the life I know I want–like starting this blog

So, I have been feeling better. I have had more energy and been better able to deal with the pressures and frustrations of stay-at-home-with-4-little-children motherhood. For this I am grateful. But, for the past few days, perhaps due to menstrual-related hormonal changes(?) or summertime schedule changes, I have been feeling a growing anxiety, impatience, and gloomy thoughts. I just feel angry, critical, frustrated, hopeless, sour and have been acting accordingly, having mostly bad interactions with everyone in my home. I feel like my life is just enduring one difficult time after the next–when the toddler grows up, then the teenager starts up, etc… When the laundry is done, then the toilet needs cleaning, and someone just broke the towel rack… The checklist, the enduring. When is the happiness supposed to happen? Surely not after everyone is grown and has moved out. This is no way to live. For a person without depression, these normal life occurrences can be dealt with in a healthy and even joyful way. For me, when I am experiencing the symptoms of depression, the normal trials of my life just feel overwhelming and suck me under. Right now, it feels like the depression is making a comeback. I need to remember to take care of myself.

When I was in the grip of depression before, I noticed something. That it comes and goes in waves–sometimes because of a trigger, it would start, then all would be gloom, then circumstances change, and I would feel lighter and able to think straight again. When a rainstorm comes it darkens the sky and sends down the rain–it eventually passes and the sky clears and the sun comes out. My dark moods also were like this. The mood darkens, the tears come, life goes on, I allow the mood to pass when it is done. I can choose not to cling to it or identify with it. I can be mindful of the state of my mind and give myself grace when the hard time comes. I can let it go when it passes. I can watch and learn from the state of mind I find myself in.

When you feel your mood darkening, you need to take care of yourself and remember to:

*be mindful of and acknowledge the “funk” and minimize any long term damage by not making any major changes or decisions–keep as much to the usual routine as possible, assuming you had healthy routines to begin with

*reduce your stress load as much as possible and practice self-care, taking any help that is available–example: I am not going to the meeting I had double booked tonight, but instead am just going to take my son to the class I signed him up for at the library and enjoy the quiet while I wait for him to finish

*remind yourself that this won’t last forever, just like in the past

*be careful what you put into your mind right now–example: for me, no Morrissey music (too much like my mood, prolonging the funk), no Joseph Campbell (too tempting for my religious weakness, leading me to a place of questioning everything and worse doom)–instead, choose things that have been uplifting in the past, keeping you on the path you have chosen and committed to previously

*no black and white thinking, but rather, chip away little by little, and count as success any small movement in the right direction–all is not lost if it is not perfect today

*give yourself a little leeway to not be SupermomwifeChristian right now–“When all else fails, lower your standards.”, said some wise person–just a little down time, wiggle room to breathe

When this passes, the blue sky will shine through again, and you can get back to your life in regular time. Perhaps this is God’s way of telling you through the funk that you need to step back, slow down, and rest a bit. Perhaps you are being called into the cocoon to be transformed and emerge a better and truer version of you. Heed the need you have to rest and trust that this too will be used for your good.

Romans 8:28
We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.

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