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What It Feels Like Going to Work With 'High-Functioning' Depression


What do you do when you’re a depressed, but “high-functioning” person? When people look at you and say you’re not sick, you don’t look like you’re suffering, you don’t act like there’s anything wrong with you. The key word in that sentence is act. A high-functioning person with depression, such as myself, is forced to act every damn day. Recently I’ve taken to keeping my office light off at work because working in the dark just feels better to me. It’s easier for me to hide and people tend to leave me alone. I struggle with migraines as well and in the middle of oppressive monsoon season, they make me extra sensitive everything — light in particular, but sound and smells too. So, I get away with being in the dark and people leave me alone. It’s a win-win? I guess.

The truth is I wake up every day, I make my coffee then I sit and do my social media scrolling for half an hour trying to get the caffeine in my system to wake me up. I shower and paint my face to something that resembles a “normal” looking woman, get dressed, get in my car and arrive at my job — exhausted already. I literally pull into the parking lot and I have to peel myself off my seat and tell myself to put my feet on the ground and go. I don’t hate my job. I actually like most of the people I work with and I feel supported there, but I also know that sometimes I’m the little black rain cloud in the office. And that is the hardest to face. I do my very best to fake it, really I do, but sometimes my acting falls flat. On those days I should probably stay home.

In the midst of this massively depressed brain of mine, I have to be a problem solver. I have to constantly have the right answer to everything, all day, every day. Saying the words “I don’t know” is extremely hard for me, and when I do it’s because I actually don’t know or my brain is honestly too tired to think. It feels unacceptable to not know though, like I’m a failure somehow because I don’t have the answers. That’s the other part about being a high-functioning depressed person — unrealistic expectations. Because I can get up and go to work, cook meals, shower every day and put on a good show, I almost believe that maybe I’m not sick. That my mind is fine because I’m not like everyone else who says they can’t do those things when they’re depressed.

Underneath all of that is an insurmountable pain that defies words to name it. I can’t adequately describe the torment my brain inflicts on me. The constant barrage of, “No one cares, no one sees, no one hears, you don’t matter, you don’t know anything, you’ll never be what you want, you’re not lovable, you’re just a bitch, you’re annoying, you’re fat, you’re ugly, you have nothing, your kids hate you, your spouse doesn’t love you, you’re a fraud, people are only pretending to like you, there’s nothing good about you, you might as well..just..give..up.” Every day, that is the tape that plays in my head behind the smile, the laughter, the can-do attitude. Because those are things that are expected of me. On the inside — my brain expects me to fail.

I defy my brain daily by going forward, by trying to find hope, by distracting it with shiny objects that look like time wasters to others, by reading, by writing, by wearing it out enough to sleep. I live my life the best way I know how in order to survive. I’m high-functioning because I have to be. I don’t have a choice. I can’t give in to the thought monsters. I can’t become what they say I already am so I keep going. I am terrified to stop moving forward.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “HOME” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via Kim Carson

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What It's Like to Be in an 'On-Again, Off-Again' Relationship With Depression


We met when I was 14 years old — about five years ago. I don’t remember the exact date, but it doesn’t really matter.

So what it is like to date Depression?

Well, Depression gets jealous often. It doesn’t like it when I watch movies with my friends or when I play board games with my mom.

The weird thing is, it never leaves, no matter what I do.

In a strange, twisted way, it’s comforting to know if I ever get lost, depression will always be there to sweep me back into its arms.

Depression gets mad and accuses me of cheating like, all the time. I explain that my happy pills try to keep me company when I get lonely, but as a result, Depression throws a fit and uses harsh words to make me feel guilty.

It makes a fuss out of nothing. It says something like, “Stop betraying me.” Then it threatens to make me cry, and often succeeds.

Our relationship is toxic, I know that. I just can’t get away from it. Perhaps I don’t try hard enough. Or maybe deep down, I don’t even want to think about trying.

I’m simply too afraid of change.

As soon as the moon rises and the stars start to shine, Depression joins me in bed. Most nights, I can’t fall asleep. And so Depression invites Anxiety over.

Together, they’re quite the team. They ask me to do certain things, convince me that watching Netflix until 2 a.m. will make me feel better and sometimes, when I’m too tired to fight, I give in and do as they say.

My long-term relationship with Depression is not going anywhere. My family doctor, my loving parents and especially my friends, have tried to make me realize that.

They tried to break us up many times. They failed. We’re still together, better than ever.

We have an “on-again off-again” relationship, it’s true. But we’re working on it.

I think eventually I’ll become more independent.

I really hope so.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

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To the Husband Who Loves Me Through My Depression


To the one I love,

I know you haven’t seen the person you fell in love with for a some time now. Occasionally, she comes to revisit you and stays for a while before leaving again. She is sending you this letter to let you know she is fighting to come back soon. The person you’re living with at the moment is hard to live with — I know that. Hearing her tell you how she longs to leave this world, how you and the beautiful children you had together doesn’t seem to be enough for her to want to go on living is hard. But I need to tell you something: deep down, that’s the reason she is still here, even though she may not admit it.

She is struggling with every day. She is fighting some days to take one breath after another. It’s hard work for her, not just in a physical sense, but mentally. You see, she feels like a failure: at life, as a mother, as a partner, at everything — and she can’t see any way to fix it. The depression is lying to her. It’s constantly telling her that her only option is to give up, that there is no escape door, that she won’t ever get rid of the feeling of emotionally drowning and that her best course of action, and the kindest thing to do for you all, would be to die because you don’t deserve to be burdened by her.

The depression lies. The voice in her head is relentless, night and day. That’s why she doesn’t sleep — it doesn’t ever stop. When she fights to beat it, it’s like swimming in quicksand, it’s exhausting. I’ll let you into another secret too: when she is in her room alone, she actually hates to be alone, even though she is choosing to be. It doesn’t make sense does it? Depression doesn’t make sense.

She told me to tell you she is working hard to get back to you though. She misses you all so much. She misses the cuddles and laughs from the kids and she wants them back. You can help her. Just give her lots of cuddles, hold her hand when she needs it and dry her tears — so many tears. Just be there. Please don’t give up on her. I know she screams and shouts at you and says some horrible things at times, but she does love you. And honestly — you and the kids are what have kept her here until now.

You’re going to see her soon, I promise. And we’re going to have so much fun.

I love you.

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The Worst Symptoms of Depression We Don't Talk About


Depression is often shrouded in misunderstanding. Some believe it means simply being sad and unmotivated, when really, the symptoms of depression often have a way of infiltrating everything, from the smallest, most unsuspecting details of life, to the biggest, most significant aspects of life. And trying to explain this often feels like trying to hold onto water — as soon as you start to grasp it, it slips from your grip.

That’s why we asked people in our Mighty mental health community who struggle with depression to share the worst symptoms of depression people typically don’t talk about. By opening the dialogue and trying to put words to these symptoms, we can continue to deepen our understanding and uncloak the misunderstanding that leads to the creation of shame and stigma. 

Here is what they had to say:

1. “Wanting to say what’s on your mind, but you can’t even explain it. So you just cry because you don’t even know what you’re feeling.” — Brenda A.

2. “The exhaustion. Not only physically, but also mentally. Mentally exhausted from having to apologize for who you are. Mentally exhausted from trying to convince yourself you deserve to be here, be alive. Physically and mentally exhausted from living. I’m tired, so tired.” — Abbie K.

3. “The black hole I feel in the core of my being. It sucks in life, motivation, concentration, etc. To use another metaphor: it’s drowning in the the ocean in the middle of a tempest.” — Mark M.

4. “Literally not showering for months. Not changing your clothes for weeks. Not combing your hair for days. Not brushing your teeth for weeks. With depression, hygiene goes out the window.” — Zoe S.

5. “When I’m having an episode but I’m not so far gone and part of my rational mind is still present telling me there’s no reason to feel the way I do, yet the dark part of my mind still won’t release it’s grip. So I’m crying and feeling like I’m unloved and worthless yet part of me is still conscious enough to know it’s a lie, but I’m just not strong enough to take back control. It’s the most confusing time.” — Steve H.

6. “Feeling numb and that feeling of unreality, I can see and take my surroundings in, yet I don’t feel a part of it, like a dream sequence. So many people, but at that moment, they mean very little.” — Patricia Y.

7. “The ease in which you can become addicted to something. Your brain trying to cope so you resort to drugs, booze, food, sex, co-dependency.” — Greg E.

8. “Apathy. When you’re depressed, your ability to feel joy from the things you normally love fades, but the worst days are the days I’m so numb I can barely even feel compassion or empathy. I’m just empty. Like someone disconnected my emotions.” — Anastasia A.

9. “Feeling the aches in my entire body from staying still all day; whether that be from laying down or sitting still. People thinking I’m lazy for doing it and wishing they could do that when it’s actually from depression.” — Ayoung L.

10. “Dissociation. Being so depressed and just gone — so consumed that you are no longer yourself. It begins to feel like you’re first person in a video game or movie. You have no emotional connection to reality because you’re not there. Literally just existing feels impossible.” — Cat K..

11. “Not being able to get to places on time because you’re so tired. It takes more energy to get up, get ready and go. I find myself procrastinating a lot because of lack of energy. I’m late everywhere I go.” — Mindy S.

12. “Not knowing that something is wrong in the early stage, and hurting other people with your behavior — not on purpose of course. As a consequence, they accuse you of many bad things that are caused by the illness you couldn’t really control. People make many mistakes out of fear.” — Asia R.

13. “Honestly, the chronic pain that may come with depression. I struggle with migraines when I go through a really deep depressive episode and it makes dealing with everything so much harder.” — Frances W.

14. “I think it’s anger, agitation, irritability and that feeling of having no self-control. I hate when the intensity gets to a point where you can’t hold it in anymore and you fly off the handle over a super small thing because you can’t regulate this emotion. Often times, when people hear that someone is struggling with depression, they might think, ‘Oh they’re sad, tearful, anxious, hopeless, helpless or have no motivation to change.’ Some might not realize that anger is a symptom of depression. Depression is anger turned inward.” — Samantha C.

15. “The feeling that it’s never going to end, or that it’s genetic and I’ll pass it onto my babies. Not feeling like you can explain it because there’s not a tangible reason for it.”  — Lacy M.

16. “Periods. Your period reacts to your emotional stress level and depression can cause you so much stress because people don’t understand, your period sometimes either stops or it just keeps going and becomes super irregular and painful.” — Harlie B.

17. “Mine was not being able to talk. Literally, I couldn’t voice any thought because depression made me believe my opinions didn’t matter. I forgot what my voice sounded like.” — Jane S.

18. “When you try to rationalize whether it’s your depression or something ‘normal.’ Sometimes I think: am I just exhausted because of my sleep schedule? Or because my mind hasn’t stopped working or stressing for days? That constant need to rationalize your mental health makes the depression symptoms even worse.” — Julie K.

19. “The internal frustration that you are too scared, guilty or embarrassed to speak out because there is still so much stigma and lack of services, and people who say they are there for you when actually they aren’t. So you just end up drowning in your own thoughts and your depression or anxiety worsens.” — Ebony W.

20. “Shameful ways in which I keep to myself or my house. It feeds my depression and causes it. The cycle of shame in every aspect of my life. How a dissociative episode can make me gain 10 pounds in three weeks because my stomach is numb and I can’t feel whether or not I am hungry or actually sad.” — Jennifer L.

21. “I get paranoid that people are getting annoyed with me and the awful symptoms that go along with it, I also feel guilty if I don’t do anything for days, like cleaning the house and self-hygiene. I get overly sensitive to what people might be thinking about me.” — Erin S.

22. “Depression is just another fuel on the fire because I have been diagnosed with multiple conditions. I have a lot of anxiety, and when the anxiety gets bad, the depression gets bad. When the depression gets bad, my self-harm gets bad. When the self-harm gets bad, the self-loathing sometimes becomes bulimia. The obsessive compulsive, borderline personality disorder and the PTSD also get bad. Not wanting to live and the not wanting to take my medicine, which makes everything 10 times worse. It’s like a storm, and when it hits, the depression is fuel for everything. It can be crushing at times.” — Robyn W.

23. “I think the worst is when I’m having fun with friends or family and it hits me hard and I begin to shut down with no explanation, nothing to have triggered it. Suddenly having trouble enjoying myself with people who I find enjoyable to be around.” — Maddy F.

24. “The foggy thinking was the main thing for me — making it almost impossible to concentrate or remember anything, I didn’t even know it was a symptom of depression until I told my doctor about it.” — Rebecca R.

25. “Promiscuity. I get so down and depressed that I just want to do anything to make me feel better, even though I hurt myself at the same time.” — Abel R.

26. “The anhedonia. There’s so many things I love doing that depression tends to dull the joy or even take it away completely. Even the smallest fun thing could become an absolute nightmare because of the effort it may take to even get out of bed to do it.” — Anna P.

27. “Gaining weight because you don’t know what else to do. Or the weight loss because you are just not hungry and don’t have the energy to cook.” — De C.

28. “The guilt. The guilt of hurting your family and friends. The guilt of lying about why you can’t do something or go somewhere. The guilt of not going to work. The guilt of staying in bed all day. The guilt of not taking proper care of your everyday responsibilities. The guilt of seeing the hurt in your children’s eyes. The guilt of failure — it is all consuming and never ending.” — Lorraine C.

29. “The uncertainty. The fact you don’t know if your going to wake up in the same horrible mood, a worse one or a better one. The not knowing if one day you’re going to stop being able to actually function. The uncertainty of whether you will be able to hold down your job while also trying to keep your head above water” — Chloe P.

30. “Canceling plans last minute and having my closest family and friends think I don’t love them when they are who keeps me going.” — Megan A.

31. “When all the symptoms mix. That awful combo of a lack of concentration, exhaustion and apathy that makes your brain stay in what’s like ‘the dial-up tone phase’ of waking up for extended periods of time. You can’t think straight, can’t form proper sentences, don’t know if you want social interaction or to be isolated, don’t enjoy what I usually would, but don’t have anything else to do and can’t focus on work when I have it. It’s like I’m just there and useless because I can’t function right.” — Charli J.

32. “Not knowing if your thoughts are real or just the effects of depression telling you lies. Feeling betrayed by your own brain and not being able to distinguish what thoughts are true and what thoughts are depression.” — Dani F.

33. “The need to put on an act so everyone thinks you are OK, but inside you feel worthless and like you want to run away. Sometimes you just want to shout that you are suffering and cannot cope, but you’re made to feel like you are not allowed to show weakness. The exhaustion and the physical pain caused by holding back tears because you have to appear to function well at home, at work and in social situations. The feeling like you are unworthy and unloved.” — Vickie B.

34. “Not being able to explain why I am depressed. People constantly ask, ‘What’s making you depressed?’ or, ‘Why are you depressed?’ and it’s very hard to keep saying that I don’t know. If I knew, I would definitely love to tell you and fix it, but the tough thing is that I just don’t why. I just am.” — Sharon C.

35. “When it starts messing with your memory/cognitive functions. I get so scatterbrained and forgetful, can’t focus and any memories past about three months are spotty at best and mostly feel like someone else’s, as if I read them in a book somewhere. You end up feeling so flustered all the time, like you’re falling apart and losing your mind. Any feelings of inadequacy are exacerbated, especially if you’re working and your job is demanding.” — Brianna M.

36. “Awareness. Awareness of all the things that are wrong, but the inability to fix any of it. Tired, but I can’t sleep, my brain is full of information and thoughts, yet I can’t focus and concentrate at work. The physical and emotional pain and weariness and feeling like I have to apologize for all of it. It’s exhausting.” — Jamie G.

37. “Wanting to put yourself in dangerous situations. Depression isn’t always about laying in your bed, it also can be the urge to be self-destructive. People don’t talk about this because it’s a kind of a grey space. You’re not really suicidal, but you have a kind of urge to put yourself in dangerous situation.” — Lotte S.

38. “When you’re typically a super responsible, organized person, and you slowly feel all of it start to unravel. You start showing up late to work, falling behind on tasks, stop eating, start praying that your kids won’t notice and you put on that fake smile and try to keep it all together. Through tears and self-doubt, you pull through for them because they need you.” — Taylor W.

39. “Thinking you’re no longer in love with the love of your life. Becoming paranoid of them thinking they’re bad for you. It causes the partner to feel unloved, no matter if you still say ‘I love you,’ they can feel it.” — Meryl D.

4o. “When every decision, no matter how small or big, becomes an insurmountable burden because of your indecisive mind. Then the guilt of having made a decision that always seems to be the wrong one. And then more guilt that makes me think I am useless to anyone in the world including myself.” — Paridhi C.

41. “The selfishness. When I am depressed, I tend to isolate and put my depression first. Everything else is second, even if it’s not fun or fulfilling, it still can be extremely selfish. It takes the spotlight. Friends and family take a backseat to the depression.” — Sarah E.

42. “The constipation. Whether it’s because of the bad food I’ve been eating, the medication or the fact is all I’m doing is sleeping. It takes me weeks to start getting regular again, and nothing prolongs the cloud in my head than feeling bloated and sick on top of the total lack of motivation and self-deprecation.” — Bethany R.

43. “Seeing your children growing up thinking you are grumpy and hate fun when you can’t explain what’s wrong with you. Knowing they are hungry or bored, but it takes you ages just to get out of bed to hand them a sandwich.” — Eman H.

44. “Preoccupation. My depression has made me preoccupy myself with game apps and simple things I know I can do or change because I feel that I can’t change or control anything else in my life.” — Lauran S.

45. “I’m constantly excited for the next day, never enjoying the day I’m currently in. Then a birthday goes by and I think what have a done with my life but wish for the next day.” — Jennifer R.

46. “How disgusting your house gets. And you hate it. And it smothers you. But the will to take the first step to clean is too overwhelming…..” — Amanda R.

It is important to remember that no matter how much you are struggling or how overwhelming your symptoms may feel, you are never alone and you are worthy and deserving of help.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “HOME” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

baby and dad

10 Ways My 1-Year-Old Daughter Is Helping Me Beat Depression


What if I told you that at some point in the timeline of your life you had the skills and abilities to deal with all of life’s challenges? I believe there are attributes we all had when we were babies that we’ve since forgotten and could supercharge our lives today.

In January of 2016, I became a father to a beautiful and feisty baby girl. The pregnancy was planned and life was rocking, but I spent the next nine months or so fighting off post-natal depression.

It was a very tough year for myself, but also for my family. I ended up throwing everything I could at the problem: antidepressants, a work absence, counseling, change of diet, Neuro Linguistic Programming and Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT).

And I got better.

The last few months have been amazing, and I have bonded greatly with my daughter, who has enhanced my capacity to love past anything I thought possible. And through playing with her and watching her grow, I realized she could have told me how to fight off the depression herself.

So what is it babies know that we don’t?

In many ways I believe we unlearn the skills we need to deal with life as an adult. My daughter, Evelyn, is confident, curious, authentic, persistent and creative, and yet I believe a lot of this can get destroyed by the education system.

“Look at 3 or 4-year-oldsthey are all full of self-confidence,” Rasfeld says. “Often, children can’t wait to start school. But frustratingly, most schools then somehow manage to untrain that confidence.” — Margret Rasfeld

So what traits do we all have as babies that could help us as adults?

1. My daughter is naturally curious.

Depression can make you forget what a wondrous place the world is. We get jaded as adults. The sheer level of curiosity and excitement Evie has with life continues to amuse me. Questions fascinate her — like, is my nose detachable? What happens if I use the other end of my toothbrush? What does this book taste like? Curiosity is what fuels scientists, entrepreneurs, explorers and inventors.

And yet, as teenagers and adults, we are taught not to question or challenge authority. The question isn’t so much “Did the moon landings happen?” but instead, “Is there a moon?” As Yoda says, “You must unlearn what you have learned.” Evelyn hasn’t been “educated” yet, and it’s glorious.

2. For my daughter, mistakes are allowed.

Depression wants perfection straight away, which is not sustainable. Evelyn does not mind getting it wrong or making a mistake. As adults, we are often so scared of not being right or being laughed at, that we live overly safe, cautious lives. Not so for Evie. She will play in any way she sees fit, she will eat her coat, throw her food, talk gibberish, scribble outside of the lines, read books back to front — and she cares not one jot.

3. My daughter has no shame.

Oftentimes, depression makes us ashamed, and tells us not to seek help. You should never judge another person’s coping mechanism. We get through life however we can, and I believe there is no “wrong” answer, as long as it works for you.

A life hack I sometimes use in situations when I am anxious is to imagine two massive wolves next to me. Think “Game of Thrones” awesomeness! Ghost and Greywind. Partly this is a way to occupy my mind so I don’t think about the thing that’s making me anxious, but it also makes me stand taller and be more confident.

I feel very comfortable typing that, because Evelyn gets it. Just recently she led me out of the living room in to the dark hallway and stopped still. It was dark after all. After a moment’s hesitation she ran back in to the living room, looked intently around for a specific purple ball (discarding others she came across) and once she had it, ran fearlessly into the dark.

Why? What did that ball mean to her? I can’t know, but whatever it was, it boosted her confidence. If your ball is an item of clothing, a stone, an old sweet wrapper, antidepressants, it doesn’t matter. It if it works for you, use it. It’s your ball.

4. My daughter is persistent.

Life often takes patience and persistence, but too often depression wants immediate results. It can be easy to think, Why bother?

Evie does not give up. She tried a thousand times to roll over, to crawl, then to stand and now walk. She never thought, This is too hard, I don’t think walking is for me. She is continuously trying to work out how the child gate works, and I fear the day she achieves it.

She has learned how to use the Xbox remote, how to swipe on my iPad and even how to play a tune on her piano! She is like the frickin’ Terminator, she just will not stop!

5. My daughter doesn’t have body image issues at her age.

There is a lot of money to be made in our unhappiness. No wonder mental health issues are on the rise.

Not only does she have no body issues, but she loves her reflection. She loves her hands, she loves her toes… she is currently very fascinated by her ear. I think she knows what she looks like, but she doesn’t care. As long as she feels OK, she is fine. Because of this, she dances. She loves music and will move and “sing” as she chooses, not caring who is watching.

But body image issues have already started to affect 3-year-olds. According to Dr. Jacqueline Harding, “By the age of 3 or 4, some children have already pretty much begun to make up their minds (and even hold strong views) about how bodies should look.”

6. My daughter is kind to those who are kind to her.

Too many of us try to please people who are not worth our time. Evie judges you on your behavior — not on your job, weight, education level. Are you kind to her? She will be kind back. There is no racism, no homophobia, no hate. That is all learned behavior. There is no people-pleasing. She won’t smile just because you ask her to. She won’t sleep just because you want her to. She is her own person and cares not about your opinion of her.

7. My daughter seems to understand the mind and body are connected.

Sedentary lifestyles can affect mental health issues, but moving your body can have a direct impact on our mood. Evelyn understands her mind and body are connected, and as a parent, I can tell what she is feeling by what her body does. She does not feel the need to hide if she is upset or angry or happy. Her whole body expresses that emotion. Yet in life we are often taught to “conceal, don’t feel” and we bury things deep down.

Why can’t we throw ourselves dramatically on a bed if we are upset or jump up and down and spin around when happy? Of course, we need to learn to manage our emotions, but sometimes it’s wonderful to express them through mind and body.

8. My daughter has a different perspective than I do.

Sometimes our unhappiness is caused by our view of the world, so we must change the view. I have seen so many new things in the world because of Evelyn. Especially supermarket ceilings. Not that it’s particularly exciting, but I had never noticed them before. Evelyn does though. She is always looking up, or down, or turning her head sideways to see what the world looks like. Her new thing is to stand up, put her head on the ground and view the world between her legs. She changes her view and perspective all the time.

9. My daughter is mindful.

Being depressed about the past and anxious about the future are not helpful ways to live. I believe we are born mindful! Which I am very grateful for because I used to worry Evie would remember the times I made her cry. For example, when she has a cold, she hates having her nose wiped. She screams and fights. But as soon as I stop, she is calm and happy again. She forgets immediately the bad thing that happened in the past and does not worry about the future. She is in the now.

10. My daughter is aware of her “monkey mind.”

We know so little about how our own minds work, but we can learn to manage them. I did this one just today. Professor Steve Peters wrote “The Chimp Paradox” and explores how part of our mind (which he calls the chimp part) has strong drives that must be met before the human part can get on with life. These drives include food, sleep, security, water, inquisitiveness and friends.

I felt low just this morning. And feared the depression was on the rise, but I remembered this tip. When Evie is upset it’s usually because her “monkey mind” is not happy, so we cuddle her, feed her, distract her or put her to sleep. This morning I had a nap, had a big breakfast, drank a lot of water and added this section to the article. And my mood raised. Satisfy that monkey!

So there you have it. Of course, everyone’s experience of depression — and of babies — will be different, but I certainly find it inspiring watching Evie. Knowing there was a time when we were all curious, mindful, confident, shameless, accepting, in touch with mind and body and persistent is interesting to think about.

Sometimes I think, What went wrong?

This post originally appeared on Lead.

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A woman under the covers

When Self-Care Becomes Self-Sabotage


A few weeks ago, I realized something: I had begun using my mental illness as a crutch. Not so much with other people, but mainly with myself.

On days when I wanted to stay in bed (which, up until recently, has been most days), I allowed myself to, equating it to exhaustion and fatigue. If I couldn’t meet up with others, I blamed it on anxiety. And if I couldn’t bring myself to go to work because my depression was just so bad, I told myself it was OK and I that deserved a mental health day.

All of the above is fine in theory, but using “self-care” as an excuse actually turned out to be self-sabotage. Sure, when your body is tired, it needs rest, when you need a break from the world, you should be able to take one, and if you truly need a mental health day, by all means, take one.

But it’s almost as if I knew these were “easy,” acceptable options and began relying on them too often rather than motivating myself to get up and do things that were good for me.

Instead of staying in bed, I should have gone to the gym to work out, a proven mood booster not just for me, but for a lot of people. Instead of shutting out the world, I should have been enjoying time with my loved ones. And instead of attempting to work from home, which always puts me in a worse mood unless I physically leave my house and work somewhere else, I should have gone into the office, interacting with others and keeping myself busy.

Being open about my mental illness has been both good and bad — good in the sense that I am no longer ashamed to hide it, bad in that I started using it as a fallback. But that has never been my intention.

Over the years, I’ve learned to be mindful of the signals that point towards me going downhill again. More often than not, it’s when I know in my gut I should be doing something (ie. see that friend I haven’t seen in forever, go to the gym or write in my journal), but there’s some sort of opposing force that encourages me not to, almost wanting me to go down that rabbit hole and stay in that rut. Sometimes I’m able to fight it. But other times, I just give in, chalking it up to said “self-care” that I mentioned above. Again, self-sabotage. And I think that’s why I feel like I’ve been stuck for the past few months. I’ve been using this excuse with myself and others and, in turn, keeping myself in a dark place.

Like I said, I’m not against self-care at all, but it’s different for every person. And I know the “self-care” I have been indulging in (read: staying in bed and “resting,” which is essentially just me laying in bed and scrolling mindlessly through social media) is not good for me.

What does constitute as legitimate self-care for me? Working out, for sure. Dancing, something I’ve always loved and finally pushed myself to start again. Playing music. Writing in a journal. An epsom salt bath. Meditating (I’ve meditated every day for the past 30 days, and I am damn proud of it). Being around good, positive people. Feeding my soul.

Motivating yourself is the hardest thing when you have depression. Grasping onto that little bit of hope you have left, and working with it is one heck of a challenge. My false version of self-care led me further and further away from it.

So from here on out, no more of this self-sabotaging self-care bullshit. It’s time to push myself to do things that really put my mind at ease and brings me to a happy place. And if anyone catches me using it as a crutch again, please, call me out on it.

Follow this journey on Madelyn’s blog.

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Thinkstock photo via eggeeggjiew

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