It’s no secret that this winter has been a tough one, and I feel like I have complained my fair share about it in this blog… but I guess I am about to do it some more. I have struggled with anxiety for some years now (arguably since my childhood, but we won’t cite my therapist here), but this winter was my first time battling depression… or at least a bad depression. I spent months wishing time away, not wanting to go to sleep because that would only bring on the next day, then not wanting to wake up the morning after, and on and on in a never ending cicle of dread and tears.
I am still working my way through it, but I am definitely better. I have less bad days, and even when I do have them, they are less bad. I still have tears, but no migraines at the end of the day because I have cried myself dry. And even though I feel like I cannot really take credit for my progress (most of it is due to the fact that the sun decided to come back and the restrictions are finally lifting in Germany), I like to think that there must be some small things I have been doing, that have actually helped me feel better. I have compiled a list of said things, so I can look back at them when I am in a dark place again, and maybe find some comfort.
1. Exploring nature more often
Of course this goes hand in hand with the weather getting better, but it also takes energy to plan everything, look up the train schedules, figure out where to go… Might seem simple, but it seemed like quite a task to me when I wasn’t doing my best. I am now trying to push through it, to text several people about the plans hoping that someone will join me (I still haven’t mastered the courage to venture on my own), and I am trying to do at least one nature trip per month.
This month we went to a nearby lake called Kochelsee. We did a 4 hour hike to a peak closeby first, and then rewarded ourselves with a dip in the cold waters of the lake. It was pretty tiring, I am not gonna lie, and my hips and knees hurt like the old woman that I am, but that lunch at the top of the mountain with the views of that beautiful lake was totally worth it.
2. Getting back into reading
This was also something that I found really hard to do when I was not feeling well. I needed something louder, something that would catch my attention and not let go of it, so I could stop thinking about all those things that made me sad. It was too hard to concentrate on the words on the page, too hard to care about the character’s problems.
But I hope in the future I remember: a phone or a tv screen will never soothe me in the same way a book does. The silence, the piece and the quiet I feel when I manage to concentrate on a story, and fully submerge in it, is somehow therapeutic to me.
The title for this post is actually inspired by the great David Sedaris who titled a chapter of his book Calypso “A number of reasons I’ve been depressed lately”. I am currently reading another of his books Let’s explore diabetes with Owls. And I have to say, both great light-hearted books for the depressed folk.
Yeah yeah yeah I am yet again that annoying person that raves about how great exercise is and how it impacts my mental health… But I guess there wouldn’t be so many people saying it if it weren’t true. I run two or three times a week, and it never fails to make me feel better than when I started the run. I do have to remember to stretch before and after every run, though, because I am afraid my form is not the best, and I did get injured last summer. Other than that 10/10 would recommend!
I actually did a lot of this when I was at my worst. I felt really bad complaining all the time to my close friends, mother and boyfriend, so sometimes I tried journaling instead. Meaning I was journaling every other day, pages full of depressing stuff that I will probably never read again, and then I stopped. I stopped because I got better, and didn’t need to vent as frequently, I guess. But also because I started associating journaling with being sad, and that made me not what to put pen to paper anymore.
I am now trying to get back into journaling on a more positive note. As per my therapists advice, I write good things that happened on a particular day, people I am thankful for, and how I show them my gratitude. I have also slowly and shyly started planning for the future again… dreaming on paper about the nice holidays I could spend with my friends in Spain or with my boyfriend in greece… I guess we shall see.
I am afraid the dark days will come back, maybe with the return of winter, or with a new rise of infections… but I am trying to hold on to the small happy things, hoping that even if they do come back, I will manage to find some light within them.