I've learned, as I've grown older, that when depression strikes me, the best thing for me, personally(I can't tell you what's best for you-I'm no doctor, yo) is to just let go of all the things that can wait and, as the Beatles would say, let it be. I get through bouts much more quickly if I just let go of any expectations for the foreseeable future and just let myself work through it without putting any extra pressure on myself. Sometimes that means I sleep more than usual. Sometimes it means I get lost in books, I let the housework go, I spend more time outside or I eat a bunch of cake and drink a bunch of tea and watch a bunch of movies with my kids.
Depression flicks a switch in my body that makes me unbearably weak. I cave under the weight of my own self hatred. One week I was doing an hour and a half of the strongest yoga I've practiced yet, almost every night. The next week(this past week), I tried downward dog and crumbled to the earth in a sad heap, because I just could not hold myself up. I don't pretend to fully understand the mechanics of my disorder. And I don't beat myself up over it anymore. The depression goes away much more quickly if I just work around it and do what I can, rather than fight it with strategies that often make me feel even worse because I can't execute them in a manner that magically makes the depression flee.
So this past week, when depression sank her sleek, icy claws into my spine, I rolled with her. A few nights I couldn't sleep, so I binge watched season 3 of Parks and Recreation, which always makes me laugh. A few nights I went to bed at nine and woke up at seven with the kids, which is more sleep than I usually feel is respectable for a crazy, obsessed artist. One morning I was too exhausted to bake breakfast, so the kids had leftover chocolate cake. They were not upset by this. I even managed to paint the living room, I just did it so slowly, it was like something out of a lame prank pulling television show. Three walls literally took me all day. I would paint a quarter of a wall then sit down and watch part of season three of Justified, or read the next chapter of An Echo In The Bone(Outlander series), then get up and paint the next portion. My kids were at their grandma's house, so I had the luxury of being able to take all day. I didn't spend any time feeling bad about the molasses dripping pace or the intense fatigue, I just held on and went for the slooooooooowwwwww ride. And with lots of meditation, cuddles from my kids, chocolate, tea, and nature it was over almost as soon as it began. And I'm still here. And we all survived just fine.
In fact, my daughter commented at one point, "Daddy bought us a cake instead of you baking it because you're extra tired and sad right now, right?" And she said this as if it were no big thing, as if I wasn't baking it because I had a cold, or a migraine or the flu. And honestly, I think that's great. I shed tears at that observation, because it means my kid, who can't yet really fully understand depression(and we have talked about it at length), can at least understand that it is as normal a part of life as any other malady, and that the best course of action when dealing with someone who has depression, is just acceptance and love. Maybe she can't understand why I have this thing I have to deal with, but she can understand what having a bad cold is like, how it comes out of nowhere and makes her weak and not herself, and because she understands that, she can accept that depression is something that I can't help, or fully understand myself.
So here are a few snapshots from this week. I chose only happy ones, because despite this being a week of depression, there was much beauty and love and happiness to be found.
I spent last weekend binge watching Game of Thrones, so I had to start the week off by sketching something cute and sweet to try and shake off all the icky feels that Game of Thrones always gives me.
Is there any show less pleasant to binge watch?! So much hatred and violence and murder. Ugh. Outlander(my favorite!) can be equally as violent, but at least you have the underlying love story of Claire and Jamie to make you feel warm and fuzzies, in your belly.
I found these cute ice cream cone pens in the back to school section at Target. I know they are Chinese plastic junk, but I fell victim to their shiny, candy colored cuteness. I'm not proud.
I will keep them forever and refill them, though.
This little spider hitchhiked in on the mint I picked one morning. I joked that she was my doppleganger-so white she's translucent with a big ole booty.
My herbs have been a great comfort to me during times of depression. They smell wonderful in the garden, especially after it rains, and they give me something very methodical to do with my hands, a task that I don't have to think much about but can always feel good about when I have completed it. As I sort my dried herbs into their respective glass jars, I think of the warm tisanes to come and the comfort they provide, and I am granted peace and happiness and joy.
A friend told me that she had learned in an Indigenous Peoples class, that seeing a white spider means that goodness is coming, packaged in chaos. I find this terribly beautiful, and completely appropriate for my life. It also made me glad that I had returned the little lady to her residence in the mint patch.
Is there anything that sprinkles can't make just a little bit better?
My kids don't seem to think so.
These banana walnut chocolate chip coconut gluten free muffins didn't have enough crap in them, so the kids demanded sprinkles. I admit, they made everybody smile.
I drink lots of tea and tisanes when I'm depressed. Partially for the uplifting and soothing effects of herbs and honey and steam, and partially for the chance to use all my shiny, happy tea cups and tea pots. They are good reminders that there is silliness and color and joy to be found, even in the dark depths of depression. I try to surround myself with bright, happy things and colors, because my happy places are alternately super gaudy or super natural. I'm a libra. We're all about balance. Ha.
Cheesy french toast and turmeric spiced broccoli made me feel a little less guilt about all the chocolate and cake.
Sunday is Goodwill day.
Books are something I often don't take time for these days, so when I'm experiencing all encompassing darkness, and the fatigue that goes with it, I sometimes go buy books. If I can't get out of bed, I figure I might as well find something that I can do from there.
This week I found an extra super interesting stash of religious and philosophical texts. I think maybe someone must have been unloading their required readings from college courses.
How wonderful that so much education and enrichment can be had for less than a dollar a pop!
Sunrise and sunset, these things I take time out for on a daily basis They are constant and steady, and yet no two ever look alike. There is something very comforting and reassuring about that.
And my very best bet for getting through a bout of depression with as little damage and turmoil as possible? Hands down, it is nature. I live in a Mississippi River town, and though we make jokes a plenty about how dirty the muddy Miss is, I love the river. I love watching barges lock through the dam, I love hunting for rocks along the shore, I love examining the basic ecology of the river in depth and up close. I love picking up litter. I love it all.
Time stands still when you're listening to the waves lap against the sand or rocks, and the lazy shrieks of gulls or the brassy honking of geese. Especially when the river is high and particularly noisy-you can close your eyes and almost forget that you are sitting in little ole Iowa(or Illinois), and not on some exotic coastal beach a thousand miles away. It really is wonderful.
So I gathered up all the energy I could muster, and I went to the river with my little family this weekend. And those last little fingernails of depression reluctantly broke off, skittered down my spine, fell into the waves and rolled away from me, like so many tiny bits of broken shells and rock, dancing in the water as it crashed around my legs and feet.
I always bring a few small rocks home with me. They are beautiful reminders of where I've been, and how sometimes being lost and tumbled in the waves polishes out your sharpest edges and can make you even more beautiful, strong and accessible than you were before you were submerged in the chaos.
And mercifully, thus far, I have always made it back into the light.