Mental Wellness Challenge – 2021, November 23
It has been longer than usual since my last post. Life’s thrown me a curve ball or two – and I am incredibly distracted. I’m finding it super difficult to maintain any real sort of focus…
I’ve lost an important person in my life… It’s going to take me some time to move through this… as it does for everyone. I’m being careful to do what I can to NOT allow my grief to pull me towards my darkness… Its fine and expected that I allow myself to grieve, but I must guard against allowing the tragedy to draw me into a difficult/deeper depression.
In my last post I challenged you to:
- Hold someone’s hand. A friend, a loved one… just hold someone’s hand – feel connected.
- Do my mirror talk exercise. Look in the mirror in the morning and again in the evening and tell the person you are looking at “I love you and I’m proud of you.”
- Make love. Ya, ok you can do that too – but let someone you love know it! Make them a dinner, a handwritten card, was the floors, vacuum, change their tires over, clean a window, make their bed… hold them in your arms and let them feel your caring – your love.
How did you do?
I was intentional about the holding hands piece. I shared hugs and hands with my kids, my grandkids and my wife.
I kinda wiped out with my mirror talk exercise for past few weeks. Too hard right now.
I certainly could have done more with the making love piece too. I did do some chores around the house – poked away at some lists… but I certainly haven’t been super good at being intentional in the chores business. I have been making sure that I am telling the folks that I care about, that I love them.
It’s been difficult for me to even set to writing – to getting the ick out of my head… I’ve worked at this post for far, far longer than I usually do. My words are stuck… I can’t/haven’t even just journaled… even the time that I usually take to “think” has been messed up…
Certainly – I am sad – grief stricken… I’m also starting to see pieces of my depression sticking out… kind of like chunks of rock sticking out of a ploughed field… “Do I see them because I am being intentional about looking for them or am I seeing them because I am emotionally a bit tattered? Hmmm…
Depression and Sadness… I think it important to share a little about my experiences with being sad or down because of a situation – and – being depressed. I’ve grown the understanding that sad, happy, angry, etc. are states of emotion. Depression, to me, is more a state of emotional unwellness…
For me, when I am “in a depression” or “am depressed” most emotions I encounter are dulled. Depression takes away most everything – as far as emotions go… the predominate emotions I experience when I am depressed are fear, anger, disgust… I don’t specifically feel sadness. For that matter, I don’t feel happiness much or joy… just the dark.
It is important that I pay attention to where my emotions take me. Not easy for sure – especially when something happens, and I feel very deep sorrow. I try to work at this from a “mindfulness” point of view – The sorrow is real, I acknowledge it, I accept it and I release it… I don’t want to trivialize this… this cycle of acknowledgement, acceptance and release goes round, and round and the releasing of the sorrow is difficult to do.
I can experience the same cycle with joyful experiences too. The difference for me is that when it’s a joy filled event, I tend to not cycle through the release part. The more positive emotion is one that I tend to hang-on to.
Hmm… Everything in moderation… not just for the table or the glass…
I know – from my own journey – that my emotions tend to be more fluid, sometimes fleeting, sometimes enduring, always temporary. Major depression isn’t like that for me, and I suppose that IS the difference between being situationally saddened (depressed) and being clinically depressed (ill/sick)…
I’ve encountered many significant losses along my way… from the loss of friends, family and other loved ones to massive changes in employment with job changes that were outside of my control to being the victim of crime… and certainly many significant reasons for happiness and joy.
Thinking back to some of those instances – and looking back to instances where I had those experiences while in a significant depression… the “sharpness” of those big emotionally charged events was dulled while I was very depressed. In one way, I recognize that the flat emotional state (affect) my major depressive episodes bring could be looked at as a… blessing of sorts. For instance – when my father passed away – I was in low place, I was depressed. I can remember getting the news while I was at work and I didn’t feel the same emotional “cut” that I experienced say – when my mother died. I was in better shaped mentally when my mother passed than where I was when my father passed… and certainly – the my mothers death seemed to be more difficult to process for me.
Losing my buddy really, really hurts. It’s been tough for me to process. I am a little embarrassed that his death has effected me as much as it has. I’m not even sure why I feel embarrassed – but I do. In some ways, moving through this loss is more difficult for me than when either of my parents died… Ya – I don’t know… it’s a tough spot.
The point I am trying to make – and am likely not doing a very good job of it… is this…For me, DEPRESSION isn’t SADNESS. Depression is a long term state of mental wellness. Sadness is an emotion that tends to be less “involved”.
Why is this important? I believe the distinction is important because being down in the middle of a depression is not the same as being sad. Not for me anyway. I suppose that I could also throw into the mix, the different types of clinical depression… again – I can only talk about my experiences and I’m not a psychiatrist or psychologist – just an old electrician… The “colour” of depression that I most often get/have/experience is called “ATYPICAL” … and from what I know – this means that I can/do still experience positive events while being depressed. I still experience the increased appetite, lethargy, hypersomnia, agitation, dysphoria, sluggishness (feeling like I am trying to move through mud) and all the other things associated with Major Depression. [The Atypical doesn’t signify that its anything special or odd… its still major depression – perhaps a little more difficult to nail down]. So, depression isn’t something that a I can just snap out of… and the fact that I can experience some pleasurable circumstance while I am depressed – isn’t a sign that I am “all better”.
I get it – its confusing.
So – if being depressed is one end of my mental wellness spectrum – being the negative or contrary end of things – what’s the other end? Hmmm I don’t experience any sort of mania… but I think that would be the other end of my mental wellness continuum… What’s in the middle? Contentment… If I had to give that middle of the road a name, it would be contentment… and really – that’s what I strive for.
I don’t try to be “happy”. To me – Happy is a positive emotional state… Happy is an emotion that I might even experience while I am in a depression. BUT – its short term.
I am really trying to get to: I AM ENOUGH! I am content!
All of the emotions that happen along my way certainly bump into my mental wellness. Along the way – I’ve discovered the very real difference between my emotions that come and go – and my mental health. So – being mentally well is my goal – and I sincerely believe that I am more resistant to becoming mentally ill (DEPRESSED) than I have ever been… again – my mental wellness is on a continuum – a scale and I am certain I’m currently not in the middle of that scale… I feel like I am more on the dark side of things…
I know that my buddy would NOT want his death to be any part of me moving towards my darkness. I know it. So I need to keep my chin up… and move forward.
I will remember him with fondness – the pang that I feel is a reminder of how important he was in my life. He was a wonderful, cheerful, kind, caring, loving soul and his shining light was extinguished far, far too early.
Thanks for all the wonderful memories, Randy! I’ll always love you. My world was a better place because you were in it.
This week – I’d like to challenge you to:
- Tell your friends that they matter to you.
- Show some kindness to a total stranger – pay that compliment, hold that door, let that person merge into traffic, tell someone you appreciate the work that they are doing… just be kind.
- Cut yourself some slack! Its OK to be just who you are!