Happy Friday, everyone! I hope you all have an amazing weekend ahead of you!
For those of you who may not be aware, this week is Mental Health Awareness Week, and Wednesday was Mental Health Day. There have been so many people sharing their experiences, tips for living with mental illness, and inspirational stories of overcoming it all over social media.
And I wanted to give my two cents on the mental health conversation by sharing how depression affects me and my life as a blogger. Because the truth is, a lot of us are affected by mental health issues, but as bloggers we sometimes feel the need to be perfect. So I think it’s important to be open about our mental health so we can take some of that pressure off each other, and off ourselves.
So without any further ado, here are some of the ways depression affects my blogging, and some ways I combat it.
As anyone who deals with depression can tell you, it can leave you with good days and bad days. I’m lucky, because, for the most part, my good days far outnumber the bad ones. But there are still times when my depression gets the better of me, and knowing how it affects me helps me prepare for bouts of depression, and helps me pull myself out of them faster.
Depression saps my energy.
There are times when I’ll have a really productive day planned, and then I won’t actually get anything done. I’ll wake up, and it takes almost everything I have just to get dressed and eat breakfast. On these days, just thinking about leaving a single comment on someone’s blog is EXHAUSTING! To say nothing of actually writing a post of my own! No matter how much I want to do those things, or how much my blogging schedule says I should, I just don’t have the energy for it.
It lowers my interest in things I usually love.
Sometimes I may still have the energy, but won’t know where to send it all. All the things I usually love (reading, blogging, gardening) will suddenly hold no interest for me. I know that, on a good day, I would love to write a few blog posts, or blog hop, or spend a little while getting my hands dirty in the garden. But when I wake up to a bad day, the thought of doing any of these things is just… ugh. I may have the energy, but have no interest. I’d be forcing myself to do things I usually love, which can lead to me resenting them.
Sometimes, it convinces me there’s no point.
There are times when depression will convince me that putting any amount of work into my blog is pointless. I’ll start to think that no one really cares what I’ll have to say, that no matter how much work I put into it, my blog’s stats will never improve, that spending my (already limited) energy on blogging is a waste of time. Even when I know that’s not true, sometimes my depression will creep up on me and try to hold me back by saying it is.
So what do I do about it?
Some of you may be thinking that I paint a pretty bleak picture. Some of you might be nodding your head and thinking, “Yeah, same here.” Whatever the case, just know it isn’t always bad; there are things you can do to combat episodes of depression.
Pick a single, super simple task, and do it.
On the days where I have no energy, I take the smallest task on my to-do list for the day, and do that one thing. And when I say small, I mean tiny. Past examples have been: brushing my teeth, get dressed, make a cup of tea, cross off the date in my calendar, leave one blog comment on someone’s blog. On a bad day, I will pick one of these tasks and make that my whole goal for the day.
This usually helps me in one of two ways. Either, it gets me moving and builds momentum. I’ll brush my teeth and discover, “Hey, that wasn’t as hard as I thought, maybe I can get dressed, too.” Basically, if I can accomplish one seemingly monumental task, maybe I can convince my brain to do just a little more (like Newton’s first law, but for people).
But, even if it doesn’t build that momentum, picking that one task keeps me from piling guilt on top of depression. If I can get that one thing done, even if I do nothing else, I can say that I did something that day. Even if the something was just brushing my teeth. At the end of the day, I can say I accomplished everything I set out to for today.
Practice “Tactile Gratitude” (sounds official, right?)
That’s what I call it anyway, but I totally made up the term (and it definitely sounds a little weird till you try it). So, when I say “tactile gratitude,” I mean go around your space and be grateful, even for the tiniest things. I know that’s easier said than done. Because I can’t just conjure up feelings of gratitude, I’ll say it out loud, “Thank you for my teddy bear. Thank you for my copy of Six of Crows. Thank you for the bed I’m sitting on.” And on and on. Even if you think there’s no one to thank, say it out loud. At first, it might feel silly. But saying it out loud will activate the gratitude center of your brain, which in turn will release dopamine and serotonin, making you feel better.
Now the “tactile” part of this is that, for every thing I’m trying to be grateful for, I reach out and physically touch it if I can. Having a physical sensation of touching whatever I’m being grateful for 1) helps me reach a place of feeling grateful much faster, and 2) makes me far less likely to get lost in my own depression-driven thought spiral that usually accompanies the bad days; that physical sensation keeps me grounded in what’s around me. When I add the gratitude and the touch together, it pulls me out of a bout of depression much faster than I would be otherwise.
One of the things that happens to me on the bad days is that I start to feel guilty. “My life’s not that bad, I shouldn’t feel this way.” “I have a blogging schedule I need to stick to, it shouldn’t be that hard to write one post.” “I haven’t commented on anyone’s blogs in days, people are going to get mad at me.” Again, it’s one of those fun times where Logic-Ryann knows my depression is lying to me, but Emotion-Ryann is convinced it’s the truth.
When I’m at that point, I never tell myself I shouldn’t be feeling this way, because the fact of it is that I do feel it, whether I should or not. Instead, I remind myself that I am more than my bad days. On the worst days, I’ll repeat it to myself again and again. #1- It acknowledges the fact that I’m having a bad day, without making me feel guiltier than I already do. #2- It reminds me that my depression does not define me. It may be a bad day, but that doesn’t make me a bad person. And honestly, sometimes that’s all I can do: Remind myself over and over again that I am not my depression, and do my best to weather the storm.
***A friendly reminder that these are just from my personal experience! Psychiatrists and therapists know a great deal more about the brain than I do and will be able to help you develop your own tactics for dealing with depression. If you’re struggling with mental illness, don’t be afraid to seek help! It’s what they’re trained to do, and they’ll probably be better at it than I am!
Thanks for reading!
What’s your experience with mental health? Has mental health ever affected your blogging life? What are some of your tips for dealing with the bad days? Let me know in the comments below!