With depression and COVID-19 swirling around, it is easy to forget the one thing I can control.
Approaching my first anniversary of being diagnosed with MDD, major depressive disorder, I am glad that I have learned many coping statements for depression. This and other tools have given me a firm foundation as I build my new life with my disease.
Now I am adding in the specter of a world pandemic.
The entire world is faced with death and sickness on a scale scarcely imaginable. And the long-term impact on our lifestyles is only beginning to be understood. Sheltering in place and social distancing are the new buzz words. Coronavirus has closed schools, non-essential businesses and restricted public gatherings of 10 or more people. My son and future daughter-in-law’s wedding date is now a big question mark.
So much has changed even since February 14th, when I was in a venue with thousands of other people to see Trevor Noah do live stand-up comedy.
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Now all these types of events are canceled. Even golf’s Masters in Augusta, Georgia has been postponed until November. If you follow any sport, it has been postponed, canceled or ultimately will be contested, but without an audience present. “What a world.”
This begs the question, “what do I think about all of this?”
Figuring out how I will face my depression has been a work in progress. I have read books, gone to therapy, seen a Psychiatrist for medication, gone to a SMART RECOVERY Conference in Chicago and have taken three classes in conducting SMART Meetings. My schooling in how I can live a balanced life with depression has also included WRAP training and the creation of my personal wellness recovery action plan.
One bright spot is the tools I have learned to help me lead a more balanced life with depression, are also tools I can use to develop a personal response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Whether it is unhelpful thinking styles, catastrophizing or time traveling, I have explored ways to cope with these. Having coping statements for depression gives me the basis to develop similar coping statements for COVID-19. This becomes one of the bright spots in learning to live with and face my depression.
So, I get to choose my attitude.
I always get to choose my attitude, but I do not always do it. This leads to me feeling sorry for myself, or much worse, not taking accountability for myself and instead, blaming others for situations. This is much more than just is the glass 1/2 full or is it 1/2 empty?
Working on a CBA worksheet, I am exploring different options for how I will approach the coming days, weeks, months, years. Understanding the costs of thinking a certain way and the benefits of that give me a way to explore each attitude I could choose.
What are the benefits of being afraid of coronavirus?
Are there benefits to not being afraid of coronavirus? Here’s where I can decide how I answer this and not just have knee-jerk reactions to the latest death toll or lack of test kits or constantly worrying about the daily danger our medical professionals and first responders face as they deal with the crisis.
I get to decide how I think about this.
Then, I get to say how I will feel, what I will let bother me, and what I will not be bothered by. My mind only has so much energy to give in a single day. So I get to choose where I will spend it. If you think about it, we all do this when we decide what stores we will shop in, what music we will listen to, or what foods we will eat.
None of this is done in a vacuum.
We carry along with us much baggage from the past, a filter if you will, that helps us decide what is important for our safety and wellbeing. And this filter helps us exclude certain feelings that do not conform to our past. Our ancestors used this to decide whether to choose fight or flight when confronted with a saber tooth tiger.
We still use this mechanism to assess danger.
But our survival instincts can sometimes cloud better judgment. Very few of us face saber tooth tigers daily, weekly, or even once in a lifetime. Yet our bodies still are ready to fight or flee. And these feelings can sometimes get in the way of making rational decisions.
I know for me; I have fled rather than face situations.
Depression has helped reinforce that no one is to be trusted and that I must be constantly ready to run. Confiding in others will just lead to me getting hurt, emotionally, and who needs that. I run towards those things that make me feel safe, and away from those things that make me feel uncomfortable or threatened.
So COVID-19 and depression have a lot in common.
And I am glad that I have the tools to help me work through unhelpful thinking, so I can make better decisions about what my attitude will be towards both.
But don’t worry, while I am working on my attitude, I am washing my hands.
My concealed depression is written under the alias “Depression is not my boss.” I have certifications in SMART Recovery and am a Global Career Development Facilitator.
Last year, I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder.If you know someone who might benefit from reading this, please share. And your comments are always appreciated.