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How to Make a Commitment to Depression Recovery

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I have a cousin who’s exactly two weeks older than me. We’re twins more than we are cousins, and I can’t quite describe our bond except that we can seemingly read each other’s minds. She was married last April and I created this video which does a much better job of communicating our connection than words ever could. It’ll also give you some insight into her new husband and the love they share. (Sidenote: he’s been fairly obsessed with “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” since childhood, just so you have some reference.)

I’m not married but I’d like to be someday, so I take the opportunities to learn from the relationships around me. My cousin and her husband are no exception. Marriage is a commitment through the good and the bad and we use vows to cement it because words are powerful. Vows hold gravitas to a concept that may be fleeting, depending on your current mental or emotional state. It’s a verbal promise from the best parts of you to the worst parts of you to conquer whatever may lie ahead. And here’s where Tool #2 comes into play: this same principle needs to apply to you and the relationship you have with your mental health.

The only reason I have the tools I’m sharing with you is because, on some level, at some point in my past that I’m not quite conscious of, I made a commitment. I committed myself to lifelong learning about the illness I struggle with and trying out new techniques to help me feel better. I committed myself to working on it every single day, good or bad, for the rest of my life. I committed to being proactive on the days when I felt OK or even good, and I committed to surviving on the days when I felt like shit. I committed to a faith in myself that I’d been through it before and I was going to get through it again. And I doubted it. I can’t even tell you how many times I doubted it. But I always came back around.

It’s up to you to find your tools, but here are some tips to help you get started:

1. Vulnerability is the thin line between fear and courage. There can be a fierceness in vulnerability — not to be confused with victimhood — a fierceness to be scared and moving through it anyway. A fierceness to not give a damn what anybody else thinks, including that negative part of your brain which likes to tell you that you’re weak (it’s a pathological liar).

2. Baby steps. Two steps forward, one step back (sometimes nine steps back), because it’s a universal truth that failure has to be part of the journey.

3. Ask other people what helps them. See if it’ll help you. Listen to suggestions without the knee-jerk reaction of, “That won’t work for me.”

4. Try following Elephant Journal or another “inspirational quotes” account on Instagram. You may not have the words for yourself yet, but somebody else might.

5. Start clicking on articles you see on Facebook, and read them. The more you click, the more Facebook will send you like-minded information. (So that “Big Brother effect” is good for some things, after all!)

6. Begin educating yourself by reading or listening to audiobooks. Add some self-help books to your reading list and read 20 minutes of that before you move on to the latest bestselling fiction novel. A friend told me her friend recommended “You Are A Badass” by Jen Sincero. She’d never read it, I knew nothing about it, but I jumped on my library’s website and requested the soonest available copy (yes, I still use the library). Now I recommend it to everybody I know because it’s my Bible. I’ve read dozens of self-help and personal growth books, the majority of which I don’t finish. But the point is I keep reading them in an attempt to find nuggets which resonate.

7. “Well darkness has a hunger that’s insatiable / And lightness has a call that’s hard to hear … There’s more than one answer to these questions / pointing me in a crooked line / And the less I seek my source for some definitive / the closer I am to fine.” — “Closer to Fine” by Indigo Girls.

quote from unknown saying "commitment means staying loyal to what you said you were going to do long after the mood you said it in has left you"

So you struggle with depression. But you’re still here and that’s proof you love yourself or the people around you to some degree. Technically, you’ve already made a commitment on a subconscious level. Now it’s time to make a commitment to that love. A commitment to learning new tools. A commitment to trying new things. A commitment to endless knowledge, guess and check, good and bad, hard and easy. Your better, healthier half is going to pledge its commitment to your depressed half to love, to honor and to accept those dark parts of you. To love the darkness along with the light. And to never give up searching for the tools which work for you because there’s never just one tool. There’s no magic pill, no perfect therapist, no relationship so great it will entirely erase your depression altogether.

Write your own promises to yourself—say them out loud if you can. Put them on the bathroom mirror. Type them into your phone. Keep them in your car so you can read them at a red light. Here are some freebies to get you started:

I promise to love, honor and accept the dark parts of myself.
I promise to look for the light, no matter how dim.
Depression is a bitch. I’m gonna punch it in the face every day for the rest of my life.

There’s no wrong way to do this. As long as your words symbolize your commitment to cultivating your own tools, on the good days and the bad, that’s all that matters. And the commitment will get the most traction on the days when you feel good-ish. Your proactivity will vary depending on your mental state, but it should always be there, no matter how microscopic it is. Promise to always recognize your efforts, no matter how small. Repetition makes things easier. Treat this the same as brushing your teeth or putting on your seatbelt. You do it every day and someday, it’ll become second nature.

On The Hilarious World of Depression podcast, they often talk about how you have to try new things when struggling with depression. That’s commitment. Try something new, wait for the dust to settle and then try something else. My tools may or may not work for you. Some will, some won’t. You have to assemble your own toolbox. And I know there are days when you feel like you can’t make progress, or you’re going backward. But that doesn’t mean your commitment disappeared. It’s still there. Trust it — your life depends on it — because you promised yourself you’d look for the light, no matter how dim.

Follow this journey on Own Your Illness.

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Quote image via contributor. Main Thinkstock image via Kikovic.

Originally published: April 27, 2017
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