Imagine you believe that a fountain of youth actually exists. Wouldn’t you be tempted to forgo taking care of yourself physically in favor of searching for that fountain? All the obsessive time and effort would be worth it — if you find it. If not, with each passing day, your ability to age gracefully slips away. You’ll look back with regret at all the time wasted in your brief life.
For a long time, I believed in a similar fountain — one that was equally tempting and destructive. I believed that my depression was caused by certain problems in my life and that if I solved them, depression would never return.
But what I haven’t realized (up until now) is that it’s often the other way around. My depression skews my perspective and makes formerly manageable challenges seem impossible. The problem hasn’t changed, just my brain’s perception. It seems so obvious now.
So what does it look like if I give up the idea of “the fountain?” The next time I feel depressed, instead of trying to immediately solve the problem (whatever I think it is), I will try some simple mindfulness exercises. Hopefully, these will create just enough of a shift to tilt my brain back to balance so I can see clearly. Then if there really is a problem, I can address it without depression clouding my judgment. It’s the millions of small decisions that ultimately make the difference — just like making healthy choices every day is better than searching for a fountain of youth.
I want to bring myself back to the present and create a sense of connection — to my body, others and the environment. This will take me out of my head, where thoughts about the past and future conspire to overwhelm me. Since it’s difficult to get motivated when I’m in the midst of depression, I will do easy things like stepping outside to the balcony, listening to a guided meditation, calling someone, taking a shower, walking in the park or playing with my cats.
I am consciously choosing to be mindful of my illness — not constantly chasing the dream of a life without depression. There is no magical answer that will solve all of my problems and cure my depression. I need to do the hard work every single day of staying aware and catching myself before I fall too far.