A beach scene at sunset featuring a white border and the words: "When Depression Returns Like a Wave: Recognizing the Signs and Making a Plan."
Everyday Life,  Mental Health

When Depression Returns Like a Wave: Recognizing the Signs and Making a Plan

As I sit with my big headphones on trying to write new blog posts, I find myself wanting to just dive into the music I’m listening to. I want to dive in and just crawl under my covers. Then I realize that’s my depression creeping in again. I’m so afraid lately that I’ve lost my path again, and that I’ll be swallowed up by unfortunate circumstances and my own fear. I’m afraid to come alive. I’m afraid to come out of my shell. I think I’m afraid to succeed and to be someone who people rely on. I’m afraid that if I come alive, I’ll become a new person and then I’ll have to live that new life and say goodbye to this one. I’m comfortable here in my misery most days. Most days I don’t even notice my own unhappiness, but then some days I hear a song that speaks to my situation and burst into tears. Of course, I immediately try to hide those tears from everyone, but they’re real, nonetheless.

One more day here and I feel as though I’ll crack. I have everything I could ask for honestly, but it’s so easy to try and fill your life with things in some misguided attempt to fill an unfillable void. So here I am on my fairly high-end laptop sitting next to my brand-new smartphone listening to a streaming music service that I couldn’t live without. But things are just things truly. We could do a lot without them, and they certainly don’t make us happy; at least not the kind of happy that lasts.

So, for what feels like the fiftieth time in my life, I’ve got to find a way to pick myself up out of this feeling and move on to my next plan. I’ve got to find real motivation, and I’ve got to do better. It’s going to be a one-step-at-a-time process like the kind I so wholeheartedly recommend to everyone who has ever asked me for advice and probably for some who didn’t. That’s a flaw of mine for sure…but I digress.

What Is Living with Depression Like?

So, depression is a lot of things. It can be screaming at everyone around you because you have no idea what you’re feeling or how to express those feelings. It can be hiding away with your thoughts and your dirty clothes and your dirty hair, neither of which has been washed in a solid two weeks. It can be a seemingly normal, quiet co-worker who comes in and does his job, and when he goes home, he turns on the TV to drown out his own thoughts. It can be that constant empty feeling or a full loss of your sense of self. It can be anger, tears, exhaustion, or frustration. It can be all or none of these things. It’s a beast who can show its fangs in an instant or sit just below the surface always threatening to interrupt your life.

Depression, to me, is a bit like a wave or a rising current. It’s always there ever threatening to pull me away from my life at any moment. When it does pull me down, I can feel that slow, sinking feeling just before I drown. It’s taken me years to learn to float above the surface. I’ve fought the exhaustion, loss of sleep, nightmares, anxiety, and emptiness, but here it is coming to pull me back under again. I have to force myself to do the things I love. Going out with friends has become a chore. My laundry sits clean but not put away for a week at a time, as embarrassing as that is to admit. I’m afraid to make plans, because even the smallest of goals feels like an insurmountable mountain.

But I’m trying.

Depression is like a wave
“Depression is like a wave, ever threatening to pull me away from my life at any moment.”

What Am I Doing to Fight My Depression?

Tonight, I’m writing all of this down. Expressing my thoughts and feelings has always helped me in the past. Sharing these with others will make it more real and will give me accountability. I also hope someone reads this and feels slightly less alone.

Tomorrow, I’m going to attempt to drag myself out of bed earlier than I usually do so that I can do a few minutes of yoga and breathing. This small ritual helped me more than I can express while I was weaning myself off antidepressants. So, that’s a good next step as well. I’ll leave the topic of antidepressants for another time.

Also, I’ll drink more water and take my multivitamin. Self-care is a big part of climbing out of depression for me. So, I’ll pick the little things to start with: like water and vitamins or washing my hair. Maybe I’ll finish my laundry too. I love the feeling of knowing I can go to my closet or dresser to choose my clothes. When things are in order, I feel a bit more like my life has order as well.

What Can You Do About Depression?

One little thing at a time. I try not to overwhelm myself with a hundred small tasks to do. If there are too many, my depression will let me get overwhelmed and I could end up not doing any of those tasks.

Choose some small task that makes you happy and force yourself to do it. This can be like my putting away laundry, which makes me feel tidy, or it can be practicing an art of skill you’ve been avoiding. It can be another small chore like picking items up off your floor or cleaning off a table and sitting down there to enjoy the newly tidied space. It can be making that cup of coffee or tea you used to enjoy.

Next, find some small self-care activity you can do. This includes a bath or shower you’ve been putting off. Use that favorite soap or bath bomb or pop some essential oils in there that you usually save for a rainy day. Do five or ten minutes of yoga or a workout you usually enjoy, and this can include dancing to your favorite song as well. Starting small is always my favorite way to go. Do a facial treatment, brush your hair, or put on your makeup; just do something that makes you feel a bit like you again. That’s the goal here.

Finally, find someone you can share with. This can be a friend or family member who is open-minded and kind. Some words of encouragement can go a long way even if it takes a while for your depressed brain to accept them. This can also be a therapist. So many of us have used a therapist at some point, and they are usually invaluable helpers. The goal here is to find encouragement and to also find someone who will push you forward gently. Most people with depression DO NOT respond well to tough love, insincerity, or being shrugged off as a complainer, so we are looking to avoid people who will do more harm than good.

Download and take a look at this free printable PDF I made. It’s a checklist of sorts with the above steps. Sometimes the simple act of putting words on paper can be enough to push us forward.

So, now, tomorrow, or whenever you start to fight your way out of your depression, know that you are not alone. You never are, even though that’s exactly what your depression will tell you. Try some of the things I’ve mentioned above, and just keep moving forward at your own pace.

As always, thanks for reading and stay curious.

I have Albinism and am legally blind. I have a Master's degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. I'm currently pursuing my passion of writing through this blog and for the Albinism InSight magazine.

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