Sometimes days don't go as planned. With my tic disorder and a sudden bout of depression, Sunday started off poorly:
Having a very difficult time with #depression today. Worst I’ve had in a while. So, sunshine & a mountain hike is my prescription.— Douglas Cootey (@SplinteredMind) July 31, 2016
That tweet was the turn around moment for me. Before that, I missed church because I was ticking, but I was also too depressed to get out of bed. I was wallowing!! When was the last time I did that? Since my daughter, Bri'anna Joy, was in town from Germany, we had planned a big daddy/daughter hike with me and my four girls, and there I was lying in bed thinking of cancelling. That thought was so distasteful to me that it shocked me into awareness: I was depressed. Once I diagnosed the problem, I began to think of solutions.
Get up. Eat. Shower. Get ready. Go have fun with your daughters!
I tweeted my resolution and got to work.
Identifying depression is an enormous step. It can slink up on us because the depression becomes a part of our sense of normal. Hey, doesn't everybody lie in bed feeling waves of despair and stay there just feeling miserable? Sounds normal to me! Developing the self awareness to recognize that feeling so much sadness isn't normal, or healthy, takes practice because we have to unravel our feelings, which seem intensely real, from our observation of our behavior. Lying in bed long after the day began it fairly obvious, but sometimes our behaviors are more subtle. Have we suddenly stopped enjoying something we enjoyed before? Are we thinking more negatively than we usually do. Are we thinking more negatively than we should? Is the amount of sadness we're feeling appropriate for the situation? These can be tricky questions for the person first beginning to take control of their depression.
Once you have identified it, take action. Even getting out of bed and doing something else is a step in the right direction. Get moving. Change your surroundings. Do something that will help you feel better. Call a friend. Watch a favorite TV show. Go for a walk. Move forward, reassess, move forward again.
Once I realized I was severely depressed, I sent the above tweet to commit myself, then forced myself to get out of bed. Wow, was that hard! I just wanted to stay there, but I slid out of bed, shuffled zombie-like into the kitchen, and fed myself. I felt as if I was dragging weights behind me, but I knew that if I got food into my system, I would start to feel better. Showering was next. I'm embarrassed to say it had been four days since I last showered. I hadn't realized how depressed I had been.
Getting ready took longer than I had planned. We were late getting up to Donut Falls, but the more time I spent with my girls, the less depressed I became. I've been in physical therapy for months due to a knee injury, so this was a risk for me, but I was determined to push myself. My daughter with cerebral palsy had a harder time. The going was careful and slow. We talked about a variety of light subjects, discussed my goal to start dating before my 50th birthday this December, helped each other along the trail, and laughed a lot.
We never did make it to the donut where water had worn a hole through the rock to fall below. I tried. I made it up to the falls. I stepped into the falls. I fell into the falls. I fell down the falls. Then the falls rolled me like a Dixie cup until I finally regained footing. I was so busy pushing, pushing, pushing past depression that I forgot to assess my tic disorder. My desires outpaced my neurological ability to keep up. Oh, well. A few scrapes is no big deal.
I gave myself a massive endorphin boost and reaped the benefits. Even later that night, long after Donut Falls had been left behind, depression couldn't take ahold of me again. Managing depression is a constant fight. Every once in a while I forget to assess how I'm doing and slip backward, which makes the fight to regain ground a difficult one, but it isn't impossible. It started with the simplest of steps. All I had to do was get out of bed.
You should read my book on fighting suicide. Not a single Dixie cup was harmed while I wrote it.