You only get what you give.
It’s one of the universal laws: the law of attraction. If you are putting out happy and confident vibes, the world will resonate around you and begin to align with your positive energy. Conversely, if you’re down and walking around with a cloud over your head, the world seems more glum, and the people around you will actually feel a bit more drained when they are around you. It’s okay. It’s not your fault. This is the universal law of being a human being. We feel each other. Even when we’re trying hard not to feel anything (addiction, alcohol abuse, adrenaline highs) our energetic bodies are putting out and receiving billions of micro connections. Our souls are singing with each other, regardless of what you believe or what you feel.
It just so happens, I’m in one of those hot ascending orbits of joy. And, if I’m not careful, I am liable to scorch some innocent bystanders and perhaps even friends and family. If you are part of my inner circle, you know I have highs and lows. (Don’t we all?) And you’ll recognize when I’m in a UP phase, as I do. And, my self-management strategy is to begin reducing all stimulants (coffee, sex, fatty foods) and paying attention to my sleep, exercise, and mental health. I can actually have a huge influence on my own mood by paying attention to what I’m telling myself about my current state, my trajectory (upwards or downwards), and how long my course correction will take.
What is Bi-Polar Depression (Otherwise known as the artistic temperament)
Let me tell you a story of the last few months, and why I might be pretty bummed out going into the 2018 holidays:
- My brother (8 years older) succumbed to lung cancer this summer
- My sister (10 years older) had a fatal mental health event 35 years ago on Christmas day
- My remaining sister (6 years older) was going to be away for Christmas with her two kids
- My ex was taking my kids (16 – 18) off to visit her new husband’s family for Christmas
- My family for most of December was going to be my 86 year old mom and myself
That’s a sob story, right? Well, not really. But I sure felt a lot of sadness. But here’s the hardest part: I was telling myself I was seriously depressed and almost nonfunctional. My internal story was about a dark crisis and hopelessness. The reality, as observed by the people (my care team and family) around me was this:
- I made it to all my meetings, appointments, commitments
- I landed two large new business clients and was able to launch their sites successfully
- I got out of bed every day, showered, shaved, made my bed, and often went to an Al-anon meeting
- I showed up to every therapy appointment and worked hard to articulate my situation, and worked to improve my mental and spiritual state
- I suffered from being alone, but I never gave up the idea that I would find another companion, at some point in the future (the distant future)
- I exercised 3 – 5 times a week, regardless of how I was feeling
When we are battling a low mood, or clinical depression, the challenge is to keep ourselves moving and motivated. And when you are depressed, motivation is hard to come by. And sure, there were mornings when I stayed in bed rather than getting up and ready and heading to one of two Al-anon weekly morning meetings. Sure, I slacked. And at times, I was concerned by how much I was letting myself get away with. BUT… And here’s the big but… About 80% of my struggle was with my own internal thoughts and my own internalized shame around being depressed yet again.
Here is another truth about depression: It is very likely I will suffer from another period of dark moods in the future. My reaction to that mood shift is 99% up to me. There is a chemical component to what happens in my physical body. But the majority of the work is going to be accomplished by me and my actions. I might pray a lot. I might write gratitudes as a way to contradict my hopelessness. But my actions are going to determine the depth and length of my depression.
Recovery from my Seasonal Holiday Depression this Year
- Al-anon meetings – almost every day (every time I was feeling isolated I went to a meeting)
- Prayer – I deepened my spiritual practice, asking God for an ever deeper understanding of his/her will for me
- Gratitudes – I wrote 5 gratitudes every morning as part of my routine
- I played tennis every chance I could get – especially when I was not feeling like getting any exercise
- I streamlined my diet and ate a simple, mostly vegetarian diet, watching my sugar and caffeine intake
And all those routines and efforts were essential to me feeling better. BUT THERE’S MORE.
Getting Proactive In Spite of How You Feel
While I was waiting for the meds to make me feel better, and for my prayers to be answered, and for the Al-anon fellowship to tell me exactly what to do for my recovery… While I was doing all these things. I had to make the final effort, starting in February, to TAKE MASSIVE ACTION towards my goals. What this looked like for me hinged on two big holes/needs in my life:
- A job with a sustainable wage and healthy life/balance schedule
- A relationship where I could begin to get some of my touch needs met (non-sexual to begin with)
You Can Do This
My recovery focused on a lot of supportive activities and rituals. The Al-anon meetings provided a healthy and spiritual community for me to stay connected. My Al-anon sponsor continued to show up in my life as a guide and cheerleader. I took the time to work out, to eat healthily, and get enough sleep. And all of that was not quite enough to push my momentum back towards a POSTIVE life.
In spite of what I was feeling, I still applied for jobs I was certain I could not manage. I also launched dating profiles on several apps and went on a few “hello” dates. This is even when I’m feeling like a 100% failure. I still asked the girl out. I still asked for the job I didn’t want. And in response, the universe shifted in subtle ways. Until I got the YES on the job, followed shortly by the YES from a woman… And lest I jinx it, I received a few more bit YES indications from my higher power.
If you’re happy and you know it, the world will reflect happiness back to you. If you’re dealing with a serious bout of depression or bi-polar illness, remember the same rules apply. Either way, happy or sad, your actions (what you physically do, not what you think about doing) are the way out of your dark hole. Make believe as if you believe, is the motto for someone working with their own depression.
As I sat across the table from that first “hello” date my mind was fascinated. Hm. It appears she sort of likes me, even though I’m feeling like I’m about to throw up. Lesson learned: my thinking is not always accurate. In fact, my thinking about feelings is almost always skewed and biased towards the negative. It wasn’t until I started pretending I was okay that I began to be more okay.
Today, I’m a little too okay. I can work with that as well. And remember, if I can support you in any way, please reach out. I do 2 – 3 free phone calls a week. I’m here for you, happy or sad. I wish only the best for you. And if I can help you in any way, just ask.
As a certified life coach, I’ve been helping men and women find fulfilling life after divorce. If you’d like to chat for 30-minutes about your dating/relationship challenges, I always give the first 30-session away for free. LEARN ABOUT COACHING WITH JOHN. There are no obligations to continue. But I get excited every time I talk to someone new. I can offer new perspectives and experiences from my post-divorce journey. Most of all, I can offer hope.
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Limited-time Offer: schedule a free 30-minute coaching session now. (What do you need help with, right now? Let’s talk about it, for free, and see if we’re a fit. I work with depression, dating, divorce, co-parenting, and parenting issues.)
- Get It Done When You’re Depressed
- An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness
- Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness
- Listening to Prozac: The Landmark Book About Antidepressants and the Remaking of the Self
- Against Depression
- How I Stayed Alive When My Brain Was Trying to Kill Me: One Person’s Guide to Suicide Prevention