The holiday season can by joyous, stressful or depressing depending on many factors. Whichever it is, there will be a post-holiday reaction, whether it be let down or relief. This will be followed by the inevitable January (new year) excitement/terror/unrealistic expectations and then the always delightful February blah’s. I think February should be removed from the calendar entirely. The month seems to have no purpose other than bad weather and depression (don’t even mention the “V” day word!).
Given this trifecta of stressful months, even the cheeriest of people can find themselves a little down and for most of us riding in the middle of Susy Sunshine & Debbie Darkness land it’s a dangerous time where mild disappointments, bad weather and ill conceived “resolutions” can turn our world upside down.
For those prone to depression, this is a time fraught with danger of falling back down the deep, dark hole of despair (which is nothing like the rabbit hole to Wonderland except for how out of proportion everything becomes).
Having had some personal experience of the severe ups and downs depression can take you on and having managed to climb out of that horrible deep, dark hole only to end up back at the bottom again, I’ve learned that like in poker, we all have our “tells”, personal signals that all is not well and darkness is digging beneath us. The key to fighting back before the fall is to identify your “tells” and find ways to combat them before they undermine you.
These “tells” are as individual and unique as each person and everyone’s is different. It could be anything from alcohol and/or drugs to something as innocent seeming as a hidden object game (my own depression laundry chute). When trying to locate your depression weak link, addictive behaviour is the key. Don’t make the mistake of thinking “addictive” only means alcohol or drunks and fall into the trap of thinking your own “innocent” habit holds no danger.
Addictive in this case simply means something you are compelled to do. Make no mistake, if you are spending two hours or more a day or something unnecessary, it’s a compulsion. The same goes for eating or drinking too much. Addictive behaviour is present when you are doing anything out of the ordinary. You may say “so what I’m watching every episode of Buffy back to back, what’s wrong with that, I feel like some vampire kicking fun?”. It’s not Buffy or my nemesis the hidden object games that are the problem, it’s the fact that you need them that’s the issue and why. The why is your need to get lost, to hide, anything but face the loneliness, problem you can’t solve, loss, physical and/or emotional pain or just a feeling of helplessness that has become overwhelming.
It’s a lot easier to make these feelings go away by hiding behind something that requires concentration, zones you out or makes you impaired. Whatever your trigger of choice, you won’t be thinking about the problem or problems that were taking over. These addictions, some which seem so harmless, make it all go away as long as we concentrate only on them. That all seems fine until the day we realize we’re playing 6 to 7 hours a day of hidden object games a day, have carpal tunnel in one wrist, haven’t spoken to another human unless forced (the phone likely goes ignored) in weeks or months and the problem or problems not only haven’t gone away, they’ve left you down so deep you can barely see any light above.
The good news is there are ways out once you realise you’re in the deep, dark hole of despair. Knowing indicates a desire for change, wanting to be in the light again. Of course the best scenario, the one we are discussing here, is not ending up down the hole at all. Instead, we learn to identify and reverse the process.
For example, hidden object games are not my friend. Once upon a time there were a nice mental distraction, a way to keep the mind sharp and to have a little break when overworked. Then things changed, loss, injury, problem upon problem and the once innocent fun became a way to escape all the scary questions I couldn’t answer.
So I played and played and played. Someone could be standing right next to me and talking but I had to finish the level, after all I didn’t want to start all over did I? The worst time of day was when I couldn’t hold the iPad anyone (cue eventually carpal tunnel) and had to stop. The choices then were crying/binge watching/oversleeping, usually a combination of all three. The came the moment I hit bottom, somewhere in the despair I realized the danger I was in and how far away the light was and I found my way out (this website gives a lot of clues about how I managed that, which is another story).
However, unless some miracle comes along and makes you a permanent resident of Suzy Sunshine land (which is actually quite an annoying place), you will always be in danger of back sliding or drifting into depression’s downward pull.
I’ve had two partial relapses and am always watching for the next. I was up to two hours a day of hidden object games not long ago. The holidays were approaching and depression with them, my addictive avoidance mechanism went into auto protective mode.
Fortunately, I had already identified my triggers and in the early stages saw them for what they were. Unhappily knowing doesn’t make it any easier to stop. I knew where the hidden object road would lead, but still played. I was conflicted about it, had the sense to recognize the danger, but it took a lot more strength to stop, delete the suckers from my phone and iPad and say “no more”. Carrying out a hard choice you don’t actually want to make is the first step.
Phase 2 I have found is not, as conventional wisdom would suggest, facing the problem head on. Doing that without giving yourself some kind of buffer is about as smart as standing on the tracks in front of an on coming train with a piece of paper to keep you safe. You need to find and save happy moments, some kind of inner space where you can be peaceful and people or places that bring you up, rather than pull you down.
Give yourself a little time with this step and be ready to try new things and take some chances. You already know what the worst is, the deep dark hole, you really don’t have much to lose in trying out new hobbies, meeting new people or trying a new kind of healing.
Reiki and the kind of mindful meditation I learned with it helped give me the tools I need to fight back the darkness hiding behind an innocent looking game. Maybe they can work for you, or maybe you need something else completely. I know people who’ve found the answers in places as diverse as roller blading, hiking, volunteering at animal shelters, trying something they were afraid of and travelling to new places. The one action that seems to be universal is finding some type of inward looking meditative practice that lets you see both yourself and world more clearly.
I have learned to take even the smallest piece of happiness wherever I can find it and store up the light of it’s memory to push back the darkness. You never know where moments will present themselves, so always be open and looking. A not so great sounding day with an unpleasant medical appointment, followed by physical therapy turned out to offer hours of pure happiness at no cost what so ever. Having to go downtown is not something I look forward to at this point but I came out of my appointments to find the sun shining brightly on a cool, clear December day. The mountains seemed drawn onto the sky and the water was gleaming. It’s a plus to live somewhere beauty is so prevalent you can literally trip over it unless you’re so closed off you see nothing.
But geographic luck isn’t necessary and there is beauty everywhere. Sometimes you just have to look a little harder for it. You may need to take a drive, walk or bus but I’m sure you can find someplace that it makes you happy just to be. Beauty can be in nature, art, architecture, wherever you find it. The beauty might even be kind gestures or words from strangers, hearing music that inspires or playing with a puppy you meet. Be open, be light and light will be drawn to you.
So now you’ve identified your trigger(s), you’ve done what you can to neutralize them and its time to face your personal depression monster(s). I wish I could give you all the answers, I’m still looking for mine. What I can say is that if you are ready to face the loss, pain, stress, loneliness, etc. and at least try to look for answers you are on the right path. Try and break the issue or issues down into as many pieces as you can and look for answers one at a time, never try and take on the mountain in one piece. It’s much bigger than you, that’s how you got here in the first place.
Make goal one to pick a piece of a problem and come up with a list of possible solutions and they start trying them out. Some of the possibilities may be easy, other’s painful, but nothing will ever be done until you simply try.
The basis of all Reiki is intention, as long as you have the intention to want to do something to help yourself, your mind is already working for you instead of against you.