Depression and the Power of Opposite Action
Let's just get to it. I've been depressed. Mild seasonal depression has started to slip a little deeper into some moderate depression.
My largest painting was stolen, a podcast episode was lost, our finances took a major tumble and the mild manageable levels started to get a bit less manageable.
In group therapy, we were taught first and foremost, awareness. How to tell you are slipping into a spiral, before you hit bottom. At the time I did not understand just how many times this would save my life.
So what popped into my awareness? What clues told me I needed to start paying attention and actively working against this current?
Sleeeeeep. I have craved more and more sleep. Struggled to wake every single morning. No amount of sleep feels like enough. My usual 8-9 is a joke, 10-12 just makes it worse.
Eating. Feeding myself has become an absolute chore. I have no desire to eat. Everything tastes like cardboard. And just why, what's the point?
Enjoyment. This is an interesting facet of depression because a lot of people think you are sad all the time. Not so. It's the feeling of complete and utter numbness that gets most of us. Nothing is enjoyable. Nothing. Our plants wither, our books lie unread, our hobbies shrivel up and die.
And here is where the body may start to kick in and help the depression along. Headaches, migraines, body pain may pop up and help keep you in bed a little longer. Help you give up the things you love for another day.
Opposite action is a DBT therapy technique and it works. It's annoying how well it works. But make no mistake, it is NOT easy.
Whatever maladaptive impulse you deal with. You do the OPPOSITE of what that voice says.
Simple. Not easy.
So that voice persistently says "go back to sleep, give up, isolate."
Today my little half blooming migraine came online. I skipped my first yoga class. And then I dragged my ass to Hot Yoga. Very very opposite of sleeping and staying isolated. And bonus for me: I have to sign up for this class weeks in advance, and get charged $10 if I miss it. Excellent. I need the push. I am the driver of the struggle bus.
Dragging my ass to class, plop down on the mat. We start, and at first, the headache worsens. My body starts to complain. I think, "I can't do this, not today, I should just leave."
And joke of the Universe, the message given today is perseverance. The opposite of the my heavy give up depression vibes. So, fuck it, I persevered.
And halfway through, something kick started, my body released energy. My headache faded. And at one point in sleeping pigeon I quietly sobbed into my sweat towel.
My friends hugged me. They know I am on the struggle bus, and they whisper keep going, they see me. I did the thing. I feel better than I have in weeks, and the movement helped some of the body pain subside.
Is it a magic cure? No. But it is a POWERFUL tool in my vast toolbox of depression.
I am essentially training my brain to not listen to that voice. Deep pathways and grooves laid down by decades of depression are being abandoned. New trails are blazed and some of my opposite actions are becoming second nature.
What else am I doing?
Eating. I ordered pre-made nutritious meals for our house weeks ago. So I can still nourish myself, even though I literally cannot cook at the moment. I know others who have had success ordering Huel or liquid nutrients at this stage as well. Your brain needs vitamins and healthy fats to function. Give it those things. Find a way to get them on easy mode when it's needed.
Accepting. I have a much better perspective on depression after dealing with it for so long. I accept it, and work with it. I know it is temporary. I know it will pass, and using my tools it passes quicker and does not plumb the depths of despair.
Sharing. I tell my people. They watch out for me and encourage me to take good care of their friend. I'm telling you. I feel less alone, and that is in itself a powerful tool.
Opposite action my friends. Let me know if you try it.
As always, be kind to yourself. Sometimes that means doing the hard thing that will nourish you. So do that.