Trigger warning: this piece discusses themes of depression.
At the peak of my depression, I felt very much alone. I lived 1-2 hours away from my familial support systems. I was in a new city in a new job, freshly separated from my fiancé, and while I was seeing a therapist once weekly and had outreach support from a DHB social worker, what I missed most was soundboarding with my mum, my sisters or friends.
While obviously, they are always a phone call away, in that particular season I felt very much ashamed to admit to them how badly I was struggling. But in fighting for wellness, I learned I couldn’t go it alone.
I remember the discomfort in telling my mum and my siblings. I could see their visible shock when I told them how out of control I felt my depression had become, yet I also felt a huge weight lift off of my shoulders.
With every new friend and colleague I share my battle, the weight becomes lighter and lighter. As the old saying goes a problem shared is a problem halved. My depression ebbs and flows. My mind ruminates and some days are still an immense struggle.
I knew when I decided I needed to give myself a fighting chance at managing my depression that I needed a game plan.
I am someone who can’t sleep with a busy brain. So, when bedtime comes and my brain is over-active, I dump all of my thoughts and ideas down in a journal. I don’t often read it back. It often makes no sense. But it’s a weight I have put down and packed away (even if only for a short time) in order to give myself sufficient rest which is also important in healing.
The Big 5
Sometimes, everything feels like it’s out of my control. The lack of control feels overwhelming. To manage it and feel like I’m not drowning in it I list five facts about myself, a trick my therapist taught me.
- My name is Naketa
- I was born in April
- My favourite colour is pink
- I have two sons
- I like to read
These are five simple facts that don’t change and aren’t going to trigger a downward spiral. I list them and list them on a loop until my heartbeat slows, my breathing regulates, and, eventually, the heaviness of my worry lifts.
A ‘Today I Will’ To-Do List
We all have a notes app on any one of our devices. Or if you’re like me you’re a pen and paper girlie. I write down things I need to do in a day to ensure my mental wellness is always in check.
Today I will:
- Drink two litres of water
- Take my medication
- Read one chapter of my book
- Stretch for five minutes
- Reach out to a friend
- Take a walk
I know these may seem obvious, basic even, and the list isn’t always the exact same. Some of the tasks are non-negotiables and I’m never hard on myself for not completing it all but it gives me a daily goal to prioritise myself in an achievable way.
This to-do list has saved me more times than I can count.
I think back regularly to the peak of my depression. I used to think my fate was sealed. That I’d always feel like I was swimming against the current. And now I’m floating along, supported by the metaphorical water around me.
Helen Keller once said, “Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.”
And while it’s a constant work in progress, it’s happening!