So I heard some pretty shocking statistics about Covid-19 and suicide the other day. Being someone who has a long relationship with depression, it made me concerned for those out there who are isolated. It compelled me to write this in the hope that somebody out there who could use some extra tools in their mental health tool belt right now, might relate to this. Maybe they are sick of being told to be “ grateful” (although the studies say this works) and just need a different perspective.
Over the last 7 years I’ve had my fair share of lows. I had experienced bouts of depression before having children but the perinatal and postnatal depression after having both my girls were more intense than I had ever experienced before. It’s crazy to think that you can go from being so good, to so 'not okay' in such a short space of time. Often the only thing that forced me into action was having to show up to life outside the home, which made me realise how dangerous it can be for people who are isolated.
For me there are multiple factors that contribute to my periods of depression including (but not limited to);
A sensitivity to hormone imbalance produced during menstration, pregnancy and postpartum,
Avoidance of properly processing emotions and stress,
Learnt critical behaviours and negative inner dialogue and perfectionism.
Luckily I’ve had loads of support and have worked hard to understand what helps me during periods of depression or recognising early markers. Some key things that helped me significantly were;
Understanding what’s happening in my brain - this is super important. It takes the mystery out of why I’m feeling the way I am and puts me back in a state of curiosity. The more I learn, the more understanding and tools I will have to equip myself next time I'm looking down the barrel of a really shitty time.
Phsychotherapy (specific to your needs) - Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and practicing changing my thought process. This is a slow but absolutely life-changing process that reprograms your inner dialogue and negative patterns.
Learning how to process emotions. Life is full of ups and downs. That’s normal. Learning that having emotions is a big part of life but most of us were taught to bottle them up and contract against the discomfort. We have to learn to stay with it and let it flow through us and move on, although this is often not something we are accustomed to doing.
But a huge thing and a consistent thing in my life that helps me move from ok to good to amazing is creativity. It also gives me that extra tool to stay on top of the game.
Harnessing the power of my brain to create. Look for solutions, not obstacles. Make my brain go to work for me and not against me. Life in a state of creativity and growth will fill your brain with opportunity.
When my brain is being creative it doesn’t have time to think about all the shitty things I’ve done or all the things I 'should' do - it just goes to work and man, can it do some cool shit. I truly believe that our brains are the tool that transcends us into higher more meaningful existence and if we tap into that power, incredible things can happen. If we let our brains just run on auto and do whatever they want to do, in my experience, we are more likely to end up having to dig our thoughts out of the shitter.
We have to direct our brain to be wired for growth otherwise it will take the easy “ auto" option and always play it safe. In understanding that when we create, we are experiencing our most advanced capacity - the capacity to consciously create and to observe. This is that which sets us apart from any other species on earth. That is why we have evolved to where we are now and that is what will take out out of this current state of depression and living on auto. The more I create the more I’m helping my brain direct it’s focus. Even if I’ve creating from a place of pain or discomfort, the emotion is being processed in a pro-active and directed way, through some sort of outlet as opposed to just thoughts spiralling out of control.
So be pro-active. Definitely feel the feels but do it while you’re creating, making or working on something with your hands. Funnel it into meaning and even better, share it. Name it. Describe it. Does it have a colour or a shape? Now try to re-form it and play with it. That feeling is your experience and only you can see and feel it exactly your way. When we take these experiences to a creative place in our brains, we give our brains a chance to process the emotion and open pathways for growth and new cognitive patterns.
You might paint or write something incredible, or complete and utter shit but at least you’ll be moving forward and staying away from the spiral of doom.