Let me begin with a confession: I am struggling. I have been for some time. I find myself filled with self-doubt and immersed in a deep lethargy. I find myself experiencing some bleak and dark thoughts.
I also find myself having difficulty with writing. The lethargy I spoke of is coupled with an intense lack of motivation. For this reason, this post is perhaps too short.
My research has shown me that the recurrence of depressive episodes is not uncommon, particularly when there is a history of long-term suffering. Additionally, the research shows that darker thoughts are more readily visited by those who have entertained them previously. I have both a history of depressive episodes and a history of entertaining darker thoughts. I ruminate and brood.
I am, though, not without resources. Since September 2014, I’ve accumulated a great deal of information including a variety of tools to help me during periods like this. My tools are being severely tested but they are working. I know this because I retain hope. I know this because I see the bleak and dark thoughts as only thoughts, not facts.
Nonetheless, yesterday I found myself thinking that I needed to regroup, to go back to the basics of my recovery. In essence, this is what my Self-Care Protocol (my Crisis Plan) is all about.
I recognized that my level of distress was relatively high so I immediately turned to that part of my Plan wherein I use my Wellness Toolbox, in this case first revisiting my journals. My journals contain my notes distilled from my research and from my initial counselling sessions. They consolidate all of the information gathered in the initial stages of my recovery. They are the basics, the foundations, from which my recovery grew.
In them I found reminders to myself to remain vigilant in my recovery lest the darkness return. I admit, I’d become a bit complacent and overlooked this advice. In my complacency, I’d neglected to remain vigilant and the darkness has returned.
My journals contain my impressions on the research articles and books I’d read. My journals contain observations on the effects of interactions with pets, moods after meditations and the commonalities between different sources of information.
It was my son who first pointed out to me the joy I received while playing with my parents’ dog. He’s encouraged me to get my own pet now that I have my own apartment. I’ve been complacent in following this advice as well.
Since I haven’t yet followed my son’s advice, I next turned to a CD in my Toolbox of guided mindfulness meditations that were included in the book The Mindful Way Through Depression. As I listened to them, I found myself remembering the value I’d discovered in the book and the added value of the meditations themselves. It was this book that first reminded me that thoughts are not the same as facts. Some thoughts are lies. Many of the thoughts experienced in a depressive episode are not facts, although they take on the guise of facts.
The included CD of guided meditations reminded me of a time in my life when I practiced meditating. Over time I’d fallen out of the habit. To reconnect with the habit was/is a pleasure.
My journals also contain some of my impressions from the intensive out-patient treatment I’d received through my local hospital. These impressions are extracts taken from the materials we were given so I next turned to the binder of handouts I’d compiled. I was reminded of the joy I experienced while attending the group sessions, the freedom in sharing my struggles, and the excitement at learning new ways to cope with my illness.
Next, I reviewed the connections between disparate sources I made note of in my journals. My research included websites, books, videos and disclosures in group. Sometimes, an offhand remark reminded me of something I’d come across in another area and I made note of these correlations in my journals. They added to the sense of interconnectedness that mindfulness had brought to mind.
It is early in my going back to the basics of recovery but I have already experienced a benefit. While my struggle has not ended, I am feeling a sense of confidence that by going back to the basics, by revisiting my journals, and meditations and out-patient materials, I have arrested the downward spiral. Alongside continuing hope and a recognition that thoughts are only thoughts, revisiting my journals has served to remind me that my tools do work. For this I am grateful.
About John Dickson
A lifelong battle with Major Depressive Disorder resulted in a suicide attempt. That attempt taught me the danger of being silent about my personal struggles with mental health. I've had to learn to be more open about my struggle. I now choose to reach out with the hope that someone will be inspired and end his/her own silence. I'm a dad, a blogger and a new convert to the power of social media.