Today marks two years of (more) freedom. Today marks two years since I committed in permanent ink in my skin to cleaning up my self-talk. It’s two years of learning, of growing, of progress. Sometimes it’s felt like two steps forward, one step back. Sometimes it’s felt like three steps back, for that matter. But I’ve come a long way in my journey with depression and suicidality (for one thing, I can say/ type that word! It doesn’t feel like it holds the power or shame over me that it did… though it still makes me nervous!). Here are some things I’ve learned and worked to ingrain for myself…
- It doesn’t matter what others think. It matters whether or not I’m living up to God’s standards, and it matters what my husband thinks. Other than that, no one’s opinion matters even one whit (which is not to say that their advice is meaningless, unwanted or useless… but once a decision is made, others’ opinions become moot).
- Taking care of myeslf is not only okay; it’s necessary.
- It’s okay to have a down day, and it doesn’t have to be a down day by global standards. Denying a down day only makes it worse.
- Things don’t have to be perfect to work (see the flub in my tattoo next to the “y”?)
- An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Maybe two. If I keep up my self-care, or at least most of it, things go much better for me.
- Sometimes self-care isn’t fun, but it’s still necessary. (Flossing? Blah)
- Word definitions matter. Things get twisted on a blue day. Words that might be harmless one day get redefined, and turned into weapons. This is one of IB‘s best tricks lately. “Silly” means “fun” on a good day, but on a bad day, it means “frivolous and bird-brained” (don’t we say some ugly things to ourselves? I’d never call someone else bird-brained!).
- I can turn a down day around… at least somewhat.
- Some of my down days are hormonally related. It seems like since I had my youngest, depression is a PMS symptom for me. So is a SERIOUS hankering for chocolate, and when that time rolls around, I indulge moderately. Chocolate really is medicinal, y’all. ;)
My list could go on and on. But I’m so excited about this progress. There’s a passage in the book Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand** (it’s not in the movie) about the stranded soldiers in a partially deflated raft with sharks below, occasionally rubbing their backs on the bottom of the raft. The guys on the raft don’t know when a shark might jump over the edge and try to drag them down into the depths… and THAT is what depression felt like. It felt like one wrong move would bring the sharks. I felt the sharks just below the surface always. If they swam away for a moment, it wasn’t a relief, it was a terror that when they struck, it would be doubly hard.
But not so now.
The day after I got my tattoo, it felt like the sharks sank 10′ down. In sight, yes. But not so ever-present. Today, they usually feel out of sight. I don’t think it was the tattoo itself (ink in skin is not an anti-depressant). I think it was the acknowledgement of my problems and issues, and the irreversible commitment to (and thus the major step toward) healing. [I almost put “indelible” instead of “irreversible.” That would’ve been punny. ;) ]
Today I spent the end of the day by myself, out and about. Honestly, it took some pushing from my husband for me to do it. But I’m glad I did. This morning I decided I wanted to celebrate this anniversary, and I knew just how I wanted to do it. I feel like I’ve come a long way in fixing my inner monologue, cleaning up my self-talk, and now I want to shift my focus towards self-care. My plans were along those lines. I wanted to go get my hair cut (something I haven’t done in over two years) and I wanted to sit at Starbucks and reflect on & write about the past two years. Over the course of the day, IB did his best to turn my planned celebration and self-care into a silly self-indulgence. And it worked. Once I handed the kiddos over to Jeremy and was trying to pick out a new hairstyle, the twister’s twisting had done its work. But Jeremy encouraged me to go. And my dear best friend (who always takes his side!! Sometimes I tease her that I need a new best friend who will take MY side every once in a while!!) encouraged me to go. So I did. I got my hair cut. The sweet stylist didn’t even charge me for the shampoo & style that she should’ve, so I tipped generously and was still able to go get some of the products she’d used to fix my hair (in cheaper Walmart-available versions).
Then I took myself out to dinner, and did some journaling while I ate, and now I’m sitting at Starbucks in the warm July (amazingly bug-less!!) night air… writing this.
Before I sign off, I want to make something very, very clear. I am NOT saying that what worked for me will work for everyone. I am NOT saying that I have found the solution for depression and suicidality. I am saying that this has really helped me, and I’m glad, and I’m inviting you to be glad with me. That’s it. If any of it helps you, too, fantastic. But I have no way to know whether it will or not, so if you need help, then please, please, please GET HELP. Get whatever help you need, and the sooner, the better.
**I really enjoyed the book Unbroken, BUT… you’ve heard of cussing like a sailor, right? Well, sounds like some soldiers in the Army aren’t much different in that regard. There are definitely some R-rated things in there.