30 May 2013

Depression is an Ongoing Battle with Strange Triggers.

Before I begin this post, please let me be clear and emphasize how much I love and appreciate my family, my friends, my acquaintances, my boyfriend, and even strangers on the street. Even though occasionally they are triggers to regressions (through no fault of their own), they are my strongest support. The people I have been blessed to be surrounded by never ask me for a reason for my inexplicable bouts of intense sorrow or self-doubt. They are never afraid to remind me that they love me, and that they support me, and that they'll be there for me no matter what. I could not be the person I am today without them. When I just need a hug, a blessing, or a cone of ice cream, they're there with open arms, access to the priesthood, and a supply of ice cream--or a lactose free alternative. I know that they don't always realize what a help they're being--in fact I'm sure they're seldom aware. They have helped me to overcome, and to grow to become a much stronger person.
Even when I'm not receptive to their help, they have never given up on me. I get emails, random texts, and an excess of hugs when I don't even think I want them. Of course, I always do, but sometimes I don't realize how much I need it until they force it upon me.
I am also so eternally grateful for Christ and the Gospel. When I feel absolutely alone, He is there reaching out to me. When I sink into the deepest and darkest holes of myself, He alone truly fathoms my despair. He alone can lift me and comfort me at the level I sometimes need. I truly believe He inspires my friends and my family in their actions, and I am so eternally grateful to be surrounded by strong members of the church, and worthy priesthood holders.

I have officially struggled with depression for several years now (in hindsight, however, I suspect I have struggled for much longer). The longer I struggle, the easier it gets to resist the urges to hate myself or lash out at those I love. In fact, I have a pretty good handle on the chemical imbalance in my brain now because I know what I need to do to stay on top of it. I eat balanced meals often, I get enough sleep, and I do my best to get outside-alone-in-nature time frequently. Most importantly, though, I have adopted several habits and safeguards into my life.

  1. I turn to the scriptures often. When I am at my lowest, I have bookmarked scriptures that I can just flip to and get lost in. I do not let myself wallow in dark and desperate thoughts; I keep my scriptures near me always, and use them frequently. All of Psalms, all of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Chapter 4 of Second Nephi. These are the scriptures I turn to. They are the most loved books in my scripture set. 
  2. I do not let myself be alone when I am struggling. Of course this is much easier said than done. When I am at my darkest, I don't believe anyone loves me and I don't believe I'm worth the time of day--and I think that I am a huge and overwhelming burden. This is when it is most important to be near people who know that sometimes I struggle, and who don't mind me crying in a corner of their home while they go about their day-to-day business. It's a safeguard for myself. I am not going to harm myself when others are around, and it's harder to focus in on negative thoughts when there's someone nearby who is preoccupied with the seemingly meaningless activity of everyday life. Just participating in someone else's everyday life-activities can help pull me out of the darkest places. Go grocery shopping with someone, run to the post-office with a friend. Bonus points if it's a friend who doesn't care if you're still in your pjs. Help do the dishes, or fold laundry.
  3. I express my love for others often. It's a safe and non-needy way to ask for expressions of care and love. When I honestly and sincerely express my concern and well-wishes towards those I care for, they usually express the same sincere sentiments in return. There is, of course, a balance to strike in your well-wishes...but you'll learn that through time and experience. 
  4. I Have a playlist of quiet, uplifting songs that I can cry to but that won't draw me into a more negative thought process. Not angry or negative songs--I've learned that those never help and only speed the downward spiral. I have a playlist entitle "You Are Worth It." that I put on in the background when I'm sad or stressed--times when I'm likely to slide into a negative space--and I sing along with the songs and use up a box of tissues simultaneously. The release of negative emotions with positive background helps to lift me out of downward slumps without having to stuff icky emotions somewhere inside to explode out again.
  5. I am aware of my triggers. I avoid them, and when I can't help but face them, I turn to one of my safe-activities. 
  6. I'm not ashamed of my emotions or my need to express them. I cry a lot. A LOT. And I've learned that this is okay. Yes, there are people who think it's ridiculous how much I cry (or emote in general), but you know what! They're not people I need to surround myself with, and if someone I spend time with tells me that I need to be less emotional, I immediately begin phasing them out of my life. I am not capable of holding emotions (especially negative ones) inside, that's just who I am, and that's okay! I have a lot of friends who are considerably less emotional than I am, and that's okay, too! What's important is that we respect each other's emotional needs. I guess this bullet would be more accurately labeled as...
  7. I surround myself with people who respect me and I respect them. This was a hard transition to make because I haven't always done this. One day, I decided that if someone made me feel bad about myself or doubt myself, I wasn't going to waste my time with them. Admittedly, it was the hardest time in my life because I had to change my entire friend group. I felt entirely alone; I had to swallow my anxiety and say hi to people I didn't know; I sat alone sometimes. The biggest help was in being respectful of people I met. Some of the new friends I made were interested in things I didn't like, but I gave their stuff a shot and they gave my stuff a shot. We have since found new interests, and grown as people--and we've garnered new respect for each other.
  8. I am open about the things I struggle with. If I can't handle getting out of bed today, that's okay, and I'll let my friends know. Usually I'll send a text that says something like, "Hey, I'm not really feeling good emotionally today, can we reschedule our plans?" or "I'm stuck in bed today, and need some uplifting thoughts. Help?" and because I've established a relationship of respect and concern with my friends, they are willing to help me. In exchange, they ask me for help on days they aren't feeling so hot--because everyone has days of sadness and depression. Granted, a neurotypical person's depressed days aren't necessarily as dangerous or all-consuming as a person with depression's day might be, but that doesn't matter. It's still a struggle for them, and I've learned that having ups-and-downs is a human thing. Additionally, I love and respect my friends, so I want to be there for them no matter how trivial their struggle might seem to me.
So today, I encountered a trigger I couldn't avoid and slipped further down a slump I've been fighting all week. After wasting a lot of time in bed crying and wallowing, I started to act on my safeguarding habits, and realized that maybe it would be beneficial to someone out there if I talked about them in a public forum--I was especially prompted by this talk from TED: 

So what was my trigger?
Yesterday, I borrowed the peanut butter from my family's pantry so I could make lunch away from my house with some friends. This upset my dad and my brother--understandably, since peanut butter is a staple in my home--and admittedly, I didn't think about them when borrowing the peanut butter. I made a mistake, which I have since apologized for, and we've come up with ways to avoid stepping on each other's toes in regards to peanut butter consumption in the future.
Anyway, I didn't get back to my house until late, late last night--which means I had the peanut butter ALL day. And since it was late when I returned, I was too tired to even think about returning things to their proper places before dropping into bed.
So this morning, before I was awake, my dad frustratedly came pounding on my door and woke me up. He demanded the peanut butter and gave off a lot of frustrated/angry vibes while he was in my room...and since I had just been sleeping, I hadn't had time to establish my wall against negative actions (which, perhaps, I will discuss in another blog post if you're interested in learning about it). This means I encountered two triggers before I was equipped to handle them: an angry male figure, and "failure" or disappointing someone I cared to be esteemed by.
I spent the next four or so hours angry at my dad, angry at myself, in tears, feeling sick to my stomach, feeling like an absolute worthless failure, and wanting to say horrible things about my dad--whom, let there by absolutely no mistake, I love and respect very very much. After watching a whole bunch of TED talks on mental illness and spending an inordinate amount of time sobbing and using up a tissue box, I stumbled upon the TED talk posted above, and decided I needed to positively release my emotions in a way that could, hopefully, help other people because, much as I respect Spiderman, I'd like to be Iron Man.

I hope this helps you as much as it helped me. And as a final note: Here's an excerpt of my You Are Worth It. playlist:

Stay positive, lovely. :)


  1. Loved reading this and getting inside your head and heart for a bit. Love you, Sophia!