self-care and mental health

I Know My Depression Frightens You: It’s Okay, We’re In This Together

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I notice friends dropping off the radar when I’m in a DOWN state.

For clarification, and for my own re-framing, my DOWN state looks a lot like some people’s GOOD state. I was describing my low to a friend and men’s writing colleage and he said, “Your THREE sounds like me on a great day.” I was surprised. I had to think about what he’d just said to me. And I had to reprocess the conversation I’d had with my therapist a few days earlier.

As I was describing my life from Nov 2018 – Mar 2019 I used the phrase “under a rock” to describe my DOWN state. She asked me to reconsider my own harsh definition of myself. “Let’s take a quick inventory of what you’ve been doing in your self-described depression.”

  • You made it to every therapy session – you weren’t ever late
  • You attended al-anon meetings almost every day – to keep from isolating in your sadness
  • You exercised 3 – 5 times a week even when you didn’t feel like it
  • You wrote, prayed, and processed what was happening in your life
  • You landed two new freelance clients and completed their projects
  • You applied for tons of new jobs
  • You joined a job club and were active with your teammates
  • You even started going out on “hello” dates even when you didn’t feel particularly attractive

“It sounds to me like you were highly functional. But you don’t see your THREE as a good enough state to be in. You call it depression when many people would be very satisfied with your behavior. I never really saw you depressed or dysfunctional. You might have been unhappy, but there were a ton of extenuating circumstances that could’ve contributed to your unhappiness.”

What I was doing was crushing my own spirit for not being at a SIX or a SEVEN emotional state.

Do you sabotage your own happiness by being down on yourself? Do you see moments of reflection and recovery as failures? Even Bruce Springsteen has months off. No one can perform at that full-speed-ahead level without some downtime. If you don’t give yourself downtime, perhaps your body or your mental state will do it for you.

How can we get better at supporting ourselves in all of our mood-states?

For reference, here is my mental health scale, when I’m assessing my mood.

Do you have any tools you use to keep yourself in the functional zone? Do you get frustrated when you’re not in the highly-functional and kicking-ass zone? I am happiest when I’m in the 6’s and 7’s. But I’m learning to love myself even when I’m in the 3’s. What’s your strategy?

Always Love,

John McElhenney – life coach austin texas
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