Being in control is powerful.
Feeling helpless, not having control can be debilitating and unhealthy. I have been on both sides of the aisle lately. Sometimes I have felt in control and at other times have allowed myself to feel helpless, to be the victim in the situation.
Linking my control issues to depression has been a real eye-opener.
Sleeping habits seem to be more about control than about the getting too much or too little sleep. And eating too much or too little is a way to have control over your body. Over the years, I have noticed times when I seemed to be going to sleep earlier than normal.
My defense for that was that “I needed my beauty rest.”
When over sleeping went on week after week, month after month, I just never faced why that was happening. In fact, if at all possible, I didn’t face it at all. It sort of happened and I sort of let it happen. Was I exerting control over something I could make an impact on, my sleep patterns? Was this more about my ability to control something, anything in my life?
One of my triggers I am on alert for now that I have a WRAP (wellness recovery action plan) plan, is changes in my appetite. In the weeks leading up to my hospitalization for major depressive disorder, my appetite had gone to zero. I was forcing myself to eat and dropped 15 pounds within 3 weeks.
Could this have been a way my body was fighting back against depression?
With depression getting the upper hand, being able to say, “I will not eat” and then doing that seems like a control issue. Well, now that I am six months removed from the event, I can see it really was about exerting control over something.
My mental reserves where stretched to the breaking point and I was having trouble seeing a way forward. In fact, I was up against the wall. Not eating was something I had control over.
Knowing this now gives me a trigger to watch out for.
If my appetite decreases dramatically, I will need to phone a friend, use a lifeline and alert the media. Healthy eating has been a focus of mine for quite a few years now. It took decades for me to see the value of eating in a more thoughtful way. It was then that I finally began eating breakfast every day.
For years, I would drink two cups of black coffee in the morning, go all day only drinking water, then come home famished. I would eat way more than I needed too and would feel bloated for the rest of the night.
Next day, I would do the same thing.
One morning, I said “breakfast is the most important meal of the day. I am going to eat breakfast every day going forward.” And I have! First it was honey nut cheerios, which by the way, my dog loves. She would help me eat my breakfast, waiting patiently for me to give her an “O” or two.
Lately, I have been making protein shakes for breakfast.
A banana, a scoop of protein powder, a cup of blueberries, or blackberries, or raspberries, or strawberries, and then a cup of water. I hit puree on the blender, and I am good for a couple of hours. My dog doesn’t understand why I am not still giving her Cheerios.
My eating during the day consists now of small snacks every two hours.
An apple, a handful of almonds, pecans or walnuts, a carrot cut up, or dried mango slices, rice cakes, granola bars, and other types of fresh fruit. These small snack/meals hold me until I have dinner. I’m pleased with how it’s working, but I am wishing I would eat more vegetables.
Before ending up in the hospital, I knew something was different when I stopped eating.
The truth is, by that point, I was toasted. My brain was fried, and I had nothing left to help me with rational thinking. This last episode of depression was by far the worst. It took me to places I have never been and never want to visit again.
But up from the ashes, come the roses of success. (Thank you Chitty-chitty-bang-bang)
Understanding that my life was not going to change unless I changed what I was doing, I went to the emergency room. The result is I am now beginning to understand my relationship with depression. I am facing it, calling out its name, keeping an eye on it, and learning everything I can about it.
As I say I am learning everything I can about depression, I know that this is not 100% true.
While I am attending therapy sessions, taking my medication, visiting my psychiatrist and journaling every day, I am not digging into the workbooks as much as I did when I first came home from the hospital. Right now, I have a list of five books I want to read. And I am only halfway through the SMART recovery facilitator’s guide.
Control is being exerted by depression, and I make excuses for why I can’t read.
Just like my eating and sleeping, I must take back control over what is important to my recovery. In the end, I am responsible. I took the actions that got me here, I went down all the road’s depression steered me to, and I must face the consequences of my actions.
This whole business of control can be complicated.
Seeing my situation from the 20,000-foot view, I know that there are things I must do to live a balanced life. And I have or are taking many of these steps, sometimes daily. This has been a huge help in my continued recovery. So, one of the ways I can have control over depression is to continue my self-care. And to continue to read and learn what I can about depression.
Loving learning my entire life, I would be most happy as a professional student.
My first major run-in with depression could have started because depression was jealous of my love for learning. In fact, it still is miffed when I tell the world my motto, “I love getting up in the morning, because I learn something new every day.” Depression hates that.
My ability to take back control of my life from depression is what I am all about these days. Keeping depression from getting the upper hand, keeping it from being in control is a daily task. And I am doing it.
What things do you find you must do daily to live a balanced life?