Things to do when you're feeling blue
If you’re reading this, you know I’ve got an anxiety disorder. I’ve made my viewpoint on the topic clear, and I’ve vowed to be open about the struggles I’ve faced. What I haven't touched on are the countless side issues that come along with any type of mental illness. It’s something I’ve neglected because I haven’t felt anything other than my anxiety in a long time. Well, in the name of honesty, here’s where I’m at.
My freshman year of high school I was diagnosed with depression. This was long before I knew I had an anxiety disorder, and at the end of the day, I was originally misdiagnosed. But we’ll get to that.
I spent countless hours in therapy trying guided meditation and venting about my freshman-year unrequited love which seemed to be the only thing I could amount my constant sadness to. I don’t remember much of that time aside from the words I’ve found in journals from the time and this repeated image I have. In the image, it’s late. My parents have already gone to bed, but my mom awakes to meet me in the kitchen. I’m sitting on the kitchen counter in my pajamas, crying, and I can’t explain why. My mom makes me a cup of tea and I return to my bedroom where I sit on my cold, wooden floor in silence. I don’t remember anything but that moment and moments of manically scribbling my thoughts into those journals to try to get them out of my head and into the universe who, hopefully, would take them from me.
The weird thing about this sadness is how it completely eliminates the concept of anxiety. I’ve noticed this as I’ve felt a sadness return, again for no apparent reason. Lately, I’ve been down, and what’s so frustrating is how much it changes my personality. Without my anxiety, I feel unidentifiable. Yesterday I went for a run, something I rarely do because I hate the feeling of my racing heart. Instead of the normal panic that arises from a lack of breath, I pushed myself even harder because the idea of some sort of medical emergency didn’t bother me. To anyone who knows me personally, that’s crazy talk.
Feeling out of touch with yourself is so concerning, especially when you’re meticulous about self-care. So, I’ve taken some time off from publishing my writing and tuned into some extensive “me” days. I’ve filled these days with things that make me happy, and even when that happy feeling is absent, I know I’m doing what I need to do to heal.
I am not clinically depressed. I never have been. Any person can find themselves in a slump of depression, especially us folks with other varieties of mental illness. I spent years trying to treat my unidentified anxiety as if it were depression. While there are huge similarities between the two, each is its own being, and I realize now how important it is to know what you’re dealing with and take the defined steps to deal with that individual beast.
I’ve listed a lot of care techniques for individuals with anxiety and panic disorders, and these I’ve used for sadness are similar but different. The key when dealing with a deflated personality is to comfort it. It’s okay to take some time alone, to say no to plans, and to put yourself first. These are all important in anxiety treatment as well, but the main difference is with a low mood, it’s okay to ignore exposure practices. It’s more important to take time to fix yourself than it is to fix the problem. Sometimes all you can do is take that time...and more time...and more time.
For us anxiety folk, waiting is the last thing we want to do. In case you’ve found yourself in a similar situation, here’s what I’ve been doing to combat the empty feelings and make each day feel worthwhile.
Fill your life with life
Isolation is common when you’re feeling down. If you can’t bring yourself to socialize, bring other forms of life into your solitude. For me, this is plants. I’ve always wanted to be a plant lady, but if I’m being honest, I don’t have the best track record with keeping plants alive. I amount part of this to the lack of sunlight in my bedroom, so in adopting new greenery, I made sure to get plants that require little sun and little maintenance (except for my jade plant which I bring into the sun daily.) Succulents are a great choice because they’re cute (and trendy) and don’t require too much care.
If you’re not up for plants, try a pet. Maybe you’ve already got one, but if you don’t a fish is a good option. Both the water and swimming patterns are tranquilizing: that’s why you always see fish tanks in doctor and dentist offices. For me, my dog Wrigley is a constant support. He can sense when I’m not feeling well, and he doesn’t leave my side, except to bring me every teddy bear in his toy basket. He’s the perfect companion when I need a little extra push but am not ready to venture into the world. He also encourages me out of the house to take him on walks around the block.
Just make sure before adopting any life form, you do some research to make sure you’ve got the time and financial allowability to keep your new friend healthy and well-loved.
Lessen your commitments
It sucks to cancel plans, but sometimes it’s necessary. Put yourself first. As long as you aren’t hurting anyone, it’s okay to be selfish. For me, school and work are a priority which are never canceled, but it’s okay to say “no” to an extra babysitting job or a friend’s suggestion for a Friday night event.
That being said, getting out into the world can be healing if you’re feeling up to it. If any part of you wants to be social, listen to that instinct and meet up with friends. Then, allow yourself to leave if you’re not enjoying it. Make sure you give your friend(s) a heads up ahead of time. If they’re good friends, they will understand you leaving early.
It's also okay to sleep a little more when you're feeling down. Spend time in bed. Just don't neglect your responsibilities.
Do something nice for your skin
Skincare isn’t a go-to for everyone, but for me it’s therapeutic. When I’m sad, I take a number of showers a day because the hot water is not only comforting but rejuvenating. On any day, a shower can change my whole demeanor, so I give into that as much as I need to when I’m feeling less-than-me.
If you wear makeup, don’t pressure yourself to wear a full face every day. Stripping down your routine can be renewing, and your skin will thank you for a few days off. If you’re going to a social function though, you may feel better with a little bit on. A quick pop of lip color and sweep of powder may be enough to make you feel fresh and presentable.
Surround yourself with happy media
Checking your social media every 15 minutes to see the success and enviable lifestyles of beauty bloggers won’t make you feel any better. Put your phone down, and if you can afford it, delete social media apps. Strip your phone down to the basics and only use it to contact those you love.
Make sure if you’re watching TV, you’re watching uplifting things. My recent favorite is Queer Eye which is funny, emotional and always leaves me feeling happy.
A movie marathon is never a bad idea, either. This week I watched Call Me By Your Name, Lady Bird, and had a Harry Potter Marathon with my parents. It was all much better than watching people I don’t know post perfect photos on Instagram.
Read yourself to a clear mind
Reading is one of the best ways to calm a racing mind. I’ve been reading “In The Company Of Women,” “Where’d You Go Bernadette,” and a big pile of magazines, from Cosmo to Real Simple. Just make sure what you’re reading is lifting your spirits, not dragging you into a deep story with negative feelings. I opt for female empowerment and humor.
Be honest with yourself and those around you
It’s okay to not feel okay. Don’t try to hide or invalidate those feelings. For me, writing is how I get in touch with myself. If you blog, it’s okay to not publish them. Open a word document or a notebook and just let your hand move across the page (or keyboard.) Don’t worry about punctuation or grammar, just write. In reading your words back, you may find a missing link that connects your emotions or at least may feel like you’ve got an understanding of where you’re at.
As hard as it can be, be honest with those around you too. The people who love you are there to support you. From a significant other to your parents, those closest to you should know where you’re at so they can help and understand. This is especially important if you do need some time in isolation to be renewed. Let them know what you need, and make sure you’re giving and getting just that on all fronts.