Wake Up Steps from Rock Bottom Depression: What Does & Doesn't Work in Change
When I was doing an internship working with people who had mental illness and an addiction to drugs and alcohol there was a saying that people in the program would hear a lot and that was, "Keep doing what you are doing and you will keep getting what you are getting." It was a great epiphany for people when they made that realization that their despair and suffering was a wake-up call for change. For some, they would need to hit rock bottom in order to listen to that wake-up call. My hope for you and everyone here who is dealing with depression is that you will not have to experience a total breakdown in order to make the necessary changes in your life.
In honor of the New Year why don't we talk about the potential for personal change. And I do realize that change can be scary and/or difficult. I know from firsthand experience that it is even harder when you don't know where to begin or what would help. But do know that change cannot happen on its own. You have to act at some point or things will remain the same.
One of the other adages I learned from my time spent with people who were battling addictions is to "change people, places and things." With regard to addiction this makes a lot of sense to stop hanging out with people who enable you to do drugs or drink, to stop going to the places where drugs and alcohol are easily gotten, and to get rid of drug and alcohol paraphernalia. But I do think there is wisdom to be gained for using this philosophy in the treatment of depression as well but in a slightly different way.
I am going to ask you two critical questions which will help you to begin this process of heeding your wake up call.
1. What things in your life are working right now? (What elements of your life help you to feel good about yourself, help you to move forward in your life, and decrease your feelings of helplessness and worthlessness?)
2. What things are not working in your life right now? Specifically, what people, places, and things are not working?
I ask these questions of myself every year instead of the traditional New Year's resolutions that everyone, including myself, tends to forget after a week. If you want to make true changes in your life you have to figure out what is working and what is not working for you. I want to warn you though, that this exercise will only work if you are brutally honest with yourself.
For both of these questions take a look at all the big broad areas of your life including relationships, work or life pursuits, your physical health, where you live, what you do for fun and relaxation, and your current treatment for your depression including things like therapy and/or antidepressants.
It is good to take stock of all the positive elements in your life which contribute to your feelings of well being and promote growth such as having supportive and compassionate friends, the ability to get out into nature, or having a job where you feel like you make a difference. I would strongly recommend that you take a look at your positives list and make a vow to spend more time with the people in your life who are good for your mental health. Also invest more energy into those activities and things which do make you feel better. Seek out peaceful and beautiful places which nurture your soul.
After completing the positive list it is now time to look at all the people, places, and things which emotionally drain you and hinder your progress towards recovery from depression.
Some examples of people that might not be "working for you" include relationships with people who are toxic to your mental health. Perhaps these people are friends, bosses, your mother or even your spouse. One small change you can make with regards to such persons in your life is how to decrease the energy and time you spend in trying to change such people. You can only change how you react. Remember that is no right or wrong answer, just intuition as to what makes your life happier and more fulfilling.
An example of how a place might not work for you is where you live. Maybe you live in a big city with lots of noise and stress and you long for quiet and peacefulness. A move to a more rural area might make the difference in your quality of life and ability to feel emotionally well.
Sometimes the things in our life are not working for us. There may be someone out there who might be addicted to acquiring more stuff and working long hours for a job to buy material things that do not bring much joy. It might be your real desire to get a less stressful job and lead a more simple life. Another example of a thing which may not be working for you is your particular antidepressant. Maybe it is not working as you had
hoped it would and you need a change. Other "things" which might not be working is the food you eat. Maybe your diet consists of junk food which contributes to your low energy and depression. Now is the time to start looking at these things in an honest way.
Make your two lists and if you are very brave we would love for you to share them with us. This is just the beginning to a better future. I am here to tell you that no matter what you are dealing with or have gone through, you can always start over. It is never too late. Yes there will be setbacks and challenges as there always will be, but there also is the possibility for getting to experience happiness in your life. Your depression may be more than a chemical imbalance. The feelings of angst, sadness, and despair just may be your inner voice telling you that something has to change.
What is your inner voice telling you today?