Today is one of those days. I've been going non-stop for the last two weeks because my sons started school two weeks ago and I had a training last weekend that cut into that time I need to get emotional reset for another busy week. So I entered this week already feeling a bit worn down. Despite all this, it's actually been a great couple of weeks for me. School is going well, our new dog is settling (slowly) into our house, and my mood has been pretty steady and generally up. But when I run myself a little too ragged there is often an emotional dip once I finally get the time to breathe. Today is that day.
Thankfully I have not had a major episode of depression in over three years, but I do still have days or even several days where I struggle. I do feel some symptoms of depression today. I'm easily frustrated, I've been overreacting to things with my family, and I just feel kind of down and have low energy. The negative thoughts are spinning around my head. In the past, it was easy to let a day like this snowball into several days of it or even a longer episode of depression. I'm learning that one way to keep it from spiraling further is to just let it be and acknowledge it without judgment. I'm not perfect at it, but I'm also not piling guilt and shame upon myself for having a bad day and feeling bad about myself. I know it will pass. Even as I'm in it, I can see beyond it.
As a teen and young adult trying to survive with depression I learned a lot of habits and thinking patterns that are not very useful now. Because I felt, with good reason at the time, that I needed to hide my depression and keep my negative thoughts and feelings from others I learned to deny my actual reality. It was very damaging for me to have to pretend to feel different than I actually felt. It led to further shame, lower self esteem, and would often move me towards episodes of depression. Slowly I'm learning to accept my negative thoughts and feelings and not push them away or deny it altogether. It is such a simple concept, but owning and accepting whatever I'm experiencing is incredibly difficult and takes effort. It is effort well spent.
This journey through depression and anxiety has been incredibly painful and challenging, but it has also made me grow in ways I likely would not have if I had never experienced it. It has allowed me to more fully realize who I am and become comfortable in my own skin. I has given me a level of compassion that has made me a better teacher, friend, father, and husband. I have made connections in real life and through social media that would not have happened without depression and anxiety being a part of my life. Being in the light with my struggles and having communities of fellow survivors is a blessing. It feels like home in a way that nothing has felt like home before. And thanks to that I can even feel a little hopeful and connected on a down day like today.