I was talking to my friend Jeanette (her name is not really Jeanette but, ya know, anonymity), she is really drowning in her struggle with mental health, she has been for years. It seems she keeps falling down the rabbit hole and can't climb out or stay out. Depression is pernicious and debilitating. Despite the stigma, I am open about my history with depression.
Jeanette asked me about my depression, she wanted to know how I stay afloat. Gratefully, I have been on solid ground for 30 years. It's not without effort. I have a very healthy fear of that dark place. It's that fear that keeps me moving. I have a few things that I have to do almost daily, they are like my medication. I am not a depression expert by any means Ijust know my story.
My own struggle with my depression is where I found that exercise had a huge impact on my emotions. I dove in and played with strength training, running, swimming, rollerblading and walking. I immersed myself in movement. It connected me to my breath and calmed me down. I liked solitary exercise, I didn't want to be with big groups of people or any people for that matter, I wanted to think.
In that conversation, I realized I could break down everything I do into 3 key components. These are my constants, my medicine. They have been working solidly for 30 years
I believe wholeheartedly in the mental and emotional benefits of movement. Its benefits are far greater than weight loss or physical change. I LOVE exercise, specifically strength training. It makes me feel powerful. This chick right here has a strong history with self doubt and limiting fear. When I am able to lift heavy weights properly and effectively I realize my own strength. I lift, I breathe, I ground. My mind connects to my body in the present moment. Strength training enables me to explore the edges of my capabilities.
I recently went on a yoga retreat where I learned that yoga is everything and anything we do that connects us to our breath and who we truly are. I really don't use the word SHOULD much, it's a bullshit word BUT, I do think everyone SHOULD be strength training, the benefits are really far reaching. I grabbed onto strength training with both hands when I was 16, and I am continuing to learn more about the art of strength training with each passing year. It it meditation, it's not just about the muscles (okay, I am a huge fan of the muscles too)
Journaling meditation practice-
I don't just journal, I am not writing a diary or shit like that. I write for about 30 minutes daily. The most important part of my journaling practice is my gratitude list.
Gratitude- Years ago, when my father got sick with cancer, I felt sad, angry and desperate. I didn't want to fall down that depression hole. So rather than list all the things that were hurting, I listed things I had to be grateful for, 21 to be exact. For 3 years I would write 21 things I was grateful for. This part of my journaling practice transformed me more than all of my years of therapy. These days my journaling practice has become even more extensive, I have added a few more sections.
forgiveness-I have collected a bunch of resentments over the years that I don't want to keep anymore, they hold me back so I have added a forgiveness section to my practice where I write out a prayer and list the names of the people I resent, as I write each name I think of their burden that they carry.
Reflections- Next in my journal I write a reflection of any lessons I learned the day prior. I have this built-in forgetter and sometimes I learn lessons that I don't wish to forget so I got those down too.
Affirmations- The most difficult part of my daily practice is listing 50 positive attributes about myself each day. This is really challenging. My entire journaling meditation practice takes about 30-45 minutes each morning. I do it as I drink my coffee while I prepare myself for the gym in lieu of social media. When I told jeanette about this part of my practice she was terrified and said she would probably struggle with finding one so I offered her a few and explained that my list started with one and it used to take me a really long time to find all 50 but thats the point, when you have to find the 50 you have to think, reflect and find all 50.
Don't let mean people in my bubble-
This is the hardest and most crucial piece of my practice and I am far from perfect at this. I am very comfortable letting people puke their toxic on me. I am admittedly a co-dependant, enabling, caretaker. I wrestle this one daily, This is the one thing that I really need to be on my guard with. Anytime I waiver, when I trade my peace, I pay the price immediately and I always feel it. I can't flourish when I am allowing bullshit to be thrown my way.
If I want to be healthy, truly healthy that means all of it, spiritual, emotional, mental, physical…all of it. One kink in the chain affects the whole chain and disrupts my damn flow and I lose my power and I start to crumble internally, my energy fades and becomes scattered.
Health is all encompassing, holistic, comprehensive, whatever you want to call it. We just can't pull out one piece and focus only on that piece. All of it feeds all of the parts. If we feel like shit about who we are and we feel we may sinketh down the black whole we should probably address that first before attempting to make our bodies look a certain way. A gorgeous body won't bring happiness but happiness can lead to a healthier body.
We are whole people with so many parts. We get busy and neglect entire parts of ourselves, we let shit fall out of balance and THAT is how we crash. We feel like shit, spiral, negatively and get stuck in the mud. Nobody can do any of this for us. People may offer us tools. We can collect the tools, we can fill the toolbox. We can have the world's cutest and fullest toolbox but if we don't take them out and use them, they are completely useless. We have to do it ourselves. Health is giving a shit about your whole self and taking care of your WHOLE self.
This is my recipe for fighting my depression.