It’s a regular pattern, but I can’t recognize that in the moment. When I start to feel it coming on, the irritability, oversleeping, lack of motivation, eating garbage, racing, uncontrollable thoughts, frequent panic attacks, I think, this is it. I ruined everything, and all of the stuff I’ve worked towards is meaningless. The strategies I tried didn’t work. I failed.
It’s awful enough just to have those feelings, but it’s even worse whenever it feels like all of the good steps I took prior amounted to nothing and ultimately failed. That’s how I view it. I see my downward spirals as signs of failures of whatever I was doing beforehand.
This thought seemed totally reasonable to me. If something works, it works. It fixes me, and I’m all better, and as long as I can keep it up, I’ll never have a rough spell again.
I’ve been thinking about it this time because I’m in the middle of a good period right now, and I’m on a new craze where I’m focusing on sustainability and only eating foods that are in season and unprocessed. This hype I’m on has given me more energy and optimism, so I’ve also been waking up early (willingly!), exercising, and reading more. I’ve felt great, and it’s costing me substantially less money, so I feel less guilt as well. I started to get worried, though, because I was wondering how long this was going to last. It seemed far too extreme to be sustainable, so there was bound to be a breaking point where I would sink back into my despair and abandon all of my new habits.
Then I had this radical thought. Or I should say, a very obvious thought that shouldn’t have even been a question, but for some reason seemed very radical and exciting to me.
I can just go back.
If I get depressed and lose control and turn into a sloppy puddle for a few weeks, I can just come back to what I’m doing now after the depression passes. Sure, it doesn’t help my coping in the moment, but it’s a light at the end of the tunnel. I don’t have to reevaluate my life and come up with a new approach every time I slip up. I can just come back to what I’m doing right now.
So now I’m starting to think of my mental health not as an inevitable spiral into complete incapacity, but a sine wave. I oscillate between very good and very bad, and it’s flexible. I can’t prevent myself from feeling depressed, but I can come back from it. I know there will always be another down turn, but I also know there will always be another upturn as well.
Basically, it’s allowing myself flexibility and forgiveness for things that, as of right now, I can’t control. I’m taking steps to try to control it, but it’s a slow process, and I’m not going to be able to just flip a switch to make it better.
Three weeks ago, I went on another mega Dorito binge. A few weeks before that, I was eating well-balanced meals and exercising three days a week. A few weeks before that, I didn’t get out of bed for three days straight. A few weeks before that, I was meditating and practicing mind-body connection. It’s a sine wave.