navigating depression

Not Taking the Death Pony Ride into the Darkness

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Not this time.

I’m happy as hell to report that my dark moment, my dark night of the soul, or my little slip, a few nights ago has passed. (See also: A Moment of Silence, Followed By… (checking-in on holiday depression))

The trick is breaking the cycle. My little death pony had me on his back and was telling me all kinds of lies about my failures, my upcoming failures, and my ultimate demise as a failure.

This time I was able to go META, but I was unable to completely pull myself out of the spiral. I did get glimpses of the madness, as I was able to say to myself, “My brain is telling me some messed up stuff.” But I struggled a good part of the night. Perhaps, next time I will take one of my pharmaceutical friends, designed just for this purpose. But a few nights ago I toughed it out.

I did break denial a bit by writing about it. Admitting my fear and anxiety to everyone. And even as I was writing that post I knew I was healing myself. I was physically checking-in as I was writing about checking-in. (That’s pretty damn meta.) But, the best thing I did, as a response to my momentary loss of reason, was not to freak out. Not to take any massive action towards or away from the depression. I just slowed everything down. Said the Serenity Prayer a lot, and waited for the darkness to lift.

I noticed that I stayed in bed a bit later than usual. That I was pissed off at the puppy for being so restless and wanting me to get up. And I gave myself a loving break.

Just like having a migraine headache, for me, for days afterward I’m a bit fragile. It’s as if the depression is still close. Or like the chemistry that went so wonky still has traces left in my system. So, yesterday I took it easy. I was accepting of my fragility. And I did some loving work towards my own shame around having this momentary breakdown.

That’s the big WIN.

It was a temporary breakdown. A 7 on the Richter scale. And today, two days later, I’m back to full-power and feistiness. That’s it. A win. An interruption of the descending spiral that can lead to depression. While I was unable to fully contain my freakout while it was happening, I was able to lean away from the pull. In the past, several years ago, I might have leaned in. I might have fallen into the downdraft and given up. That’s the request of the depression. “GIVE UP.”

And while I could not completely reason with the mad voices that were rooting against me, asking me to jettison everything good in my life, I was able to stop the potential cycling into depression. This was a complete WIN.

My process for addressing anxiety and crisis in the moment:

  • Stop
  • Breathe
  • Try and see the emotional event as something fascinating and separate from reality
  • Relax into the flow, and if you can’t detach from the emotional crisis, then at least label it as “not reality”
  • Take no actions that are not loving and supportive to yourself
  • Ride it out as best you can (if you have meds, consider making use of them at this time)
  • Regroup and reset (in the new day you might be able to get some objective distance)
  • Be good to yourself
  • Break isolation
  • Celebrate a victory with your team (you do have a team, right?)

Sure, this is just a list. But it’s my path towards health and recovery and away from depression and giving up. Just turning the tide away from the death spiral may be enough. Stopping the slide. Refusing to get on the death pony is my new phrase. Today, I’m not getting on any grandiose unicorns either, but I’m doing well.

And every rerouting of those neurochemicals into a better result is a recognizable win.

Stay tuned. And stay in tune with yourself.

Always Love,

John McElhenney – life coach austin texas
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