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The Small, but Helpful Tool That Helps Me Cope With Depression

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Living with a mental illness often makes day to day responsibilities much more difficult. Getting out of bed in the morning can be the hardest thing you do all day. Remembering to brush your teeth can feel like a pipe dream and just the idea of leaving the house can induce a full-blown panic attack.

A few years ago, I was in counseling and I learned to start slow with my goals. I was to write a list of one or two things I wanted to accomplish that day and do everything in my power to get them done. At first, I struggled to even make a list. It took so much energy to think of things I wanted to accomplish. I felt like there were too many things that needed doing. I would get overwhelmed and I’d give up before even putting a pen to paper. I kept trying anyway and eventually I was able to start putting list-making into practice.

Sometimes my to-do list consisted of bathing and feeding myself. Other days I needed to call the doctor and book an appointment. That may seem like just a few minutes out of an entire day, but it could take all the energy I had and hours of preparing myself just to accomplish that one thing. Some days I couldn’t complete my list and I tried to practice forgiveness and patience with myself. I would remind myself that it was OK to struggle and give myself permission to try again tomorrow. I tried my best everyday and that was what mattered.

Over time, I got better at checking things off of my to-do lists. Drawing a line through my accomplished goal was the best feeling ever. I felt so proud of myself. I did my best to celebrate whatever I had gotten done and tried to be OK with whatever I hadn’t. There was always more that needed doing, but I did my best to let what I did be enough.

When you’re terrified to pick up a phone but you make the call anyway, you feel like you could take on the world, even if just for a moment. When taking the bus makes you panic but you chose to ride one so you could get to your therapy appointment, you gain confidence in yourself. This confidence builds up over time. Crossing things off your list may not feel like much when you do it, but I promise you they are adding up. Each seemingly small goal that you accomplish is another building block in raising your self-esteem.

Over time, my lists have gotten longer. Some days I’ll have up to 10 goals and I’ll accomplish six. Other days, my list doesn’t exist and I lay in bed all day watching movies. The point is that I keep trying. I keep making goals for myself and doing my best to make them happen. I congratulate myself when I accomplish something that I was terrified to do. I look back over all the steps I’ve taken and I am proud of myself for how far I’ve come. There are days when I forget about this progress and I drown in the things left undone, but I let myself rest and I get back on track as soon as I can.

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

If you struggle with self-harm and you need support right now, call the crisis hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, click here.

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Thinkstock photo via Cn0ra 

Originally published: June 13, 2017
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