I discovered this week that I have readers I didn’t know about. Mostly because people kept asking me if I was feeling better. Apparently they read my little December rant a few days ago. (This is probably useful as an early warning system to allow people to approach me with caution.)
Anyway, the answer is yes. I am feeling better.
Maybe not quite as gleeful as that picture would indicate, but coping.
So how did that happen, exactly?
I suspect that I’m not the only person who has ever descended into a funk and had to find a way out. I suspect that I’m not the only person doing it right now. So here are some of the things that I do. These are not new ideas. They’re all things that people told me to try along the way.
***THIS IS IMPORTANT***
These are just things you can try if you are in a funk. If you are clinically depressed, what you really need is help from a professional. Even though it’s scary and upsetting and you don’t want to believe that you need it.
I can tell you this because I have been down in that scary dark hole, and I did not find the way out on my own. I got help. If you think maybe you need help and you don’t know what to do, I would be happy to point you to some places you can start. No one will ever know that you asked. (Despite my general lifestyle of oversharing, I can keep my mouth shut when it counts.)
So here are the things I did this week. If you are having a terrible, horrible, very bad, no good week (or month or whatever), maybe one of them will help you, too.
- I stopped pretending.
I have this friend Jan. She loves Christmas. I think it’s her favorite thing, seriously. She wants Christmas to start in August.
I am never going to be like Jan.
There is a lot to enjoy about the Christmas season, I find, as long as I am not pretending it’s going to be the best thing that ever happened to me. I find December difficult, but I can find things to appreciate and enjoy even in difficult seasons. The minute I stopped pretending I would ever reach Jan-like levels of joy, I felt better.
It’s okay not to be okay sometimes. It’s okay to tell someone that you’re not okay. (You don’t have to publish it to the world like I do. You can just tell a friend.)
- I took care of myself.
There are things that I do on a regular basis that I know will make me feel better. When I get in a funk, I find it harder to do these things. (Kind of seems like a mean trick from the universe, no?) It helps if you have someone who will gently encourage you in this. Paul is pretty good at this. “How can I help you get to the gym today, dear? You’ll
be much easier to live withfeel much better if you do.”
This looks a little different for everybody, and has changed for me over time. Right now, taking care of myself looks like getting to bed early, lifting weights three times a week, and not eating things that numb feelings on the way down and cause regret later. A treat is a good idea. An entire pint of Ben and Jerry’s in a single sitting just causes nausea (physical AND metaphorical).
- I decided to forgive myself.
For not being Mrs. Claus, for being kind of a mess, and for the pint of Ben and Jerry’s, even though I knew better. I’ve discovered that I can’t hate myself into being a better person. (SPOILER: You can’t either.) Today will be a lot better if I forgive myself the imperfections and idiocies of yesterday.
- I accomplished something.
I picked something very, very small that I needed to do. Then I went and did it. A lot of a blue funk for me is the feeling of drowning under all the stuff I need to get done. Moving one thing off the list, even a teeny tiny thing, makes me feel less hopeless. And it makes me feel like I can tackle the next thing.
- I found something to look forward to.
In this case, I actually went ahead and created something to look forward to. I texted two girlfriends and said, “I need something to look forward to. Can we have dinner in early January?” (Note that sending this text required not pretending that I was okay.)
This is not to say I am not looking forward to all the holiday things happening in December. I am. All those events, though, carry expectations about what I will bring or do or be. Some of those expectations are external, from other people, and some of them are internal, from me. Either way, they’re real, and they are a large part of what gives me the crazy eyes this time of year. There are just too many ways to disappoint people.
I can look forward to this dinner unreservedly because I don’t have to bring or do or be anything particular. I believe if I were to show up in pajama pants and three-day old hair and cry through dinner, I would be offered not censure, but empathy. (Also probably cheese dip.) This might not sound like a party to you, but to me it sounds like freedom.
It’s a lot of common sense, I think, but occasionally I get so busy freaking out that I cannot locate any kind of sense. It helps to have a list. Hope it helps you, too, if you need it.