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Why No Routine May be the Best Routine When You Have Depression

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“Won’t you get lonely?” The response I got most when I told my friends and family that I was going to move and live alone. “No. I quite like my own company,” was my polite reply. Inside, I knew why they were asking me such a patronizing question. It is because I am living with depression, plus since lockdown began, I am actually living with it.

I first started seeking cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for my depression three years ago. It was then I realized that I had been suffering with it long before then, since the age of 14 by my estimate. I say “suffered” as a past-tense, as I didn’t have the means and tools to help me deal with it back then. However, since my first CBT appointment, while there were some bumps on the road, and at one point it seemed like I was veering off the road, I made it safely to my destination: acceptance.

Like every human being, I have my good days and my bad days, but I have learned to develop coping mechanisms to help me through them. After time, I finally felt ready to become who I knew I could be: a self-sufficient person.

I moved into my new home, a modern-style cottage converted one bedroom flat in December 2019. I was moving to a different part of town that I was unfamiliar with, but I loved the flat and the village feel I got from the neighborhood so much, I wasn’t that fussed that I was at least a 15 minute drive away from my friends and family. I settled in well, got my bills in order, kitted out my very own kitchen, making the flat my home. I finally felt at peace within myself.

Then, as with everyone else around the globe, in March 2020 the peace shattered like my favorite Hello Kitty mug I dropped when I got the call that I was being furloughed.

Panic and anxiety bled into me at a suffocating speed. In the past, I’ve had one or two dealings with sudden urgent and, in my mind, dire situations. After mentally and physically crumbling to the floor, my fight or flight mode eventually kicks in. I say to myself “You are on your own. You are responsible for you. You will be OK.” We all have our own mantras we follow.

“You will be OK,” is mine.

I followed my conscious and dealt with my finances so I would have a roof over my head, spoke to my Mum to let her know the situation and spoke with my work to discuss moving forward, whenever that may be. OK. Important life admin sorted.

Now what?

Like many others with depression, a trigger of mine is when my mind wanders. I tried to find activities to keep myself busy. I signed up with the OU for a free course (Introduction to Psychology) to help further my knowledge of mental health, purchased a Painting with Diamonds portrait for my living room and had a cupboard full to the brim with coloring books and 1000 piece jigsaws. I also had a few books I was somewhat keen to read. Plus, I had my own kitchen to play Mary Berry in.

For a time, a short time, I would partake in one or two of these activities per day and enjoy it. However eventually, I perceived it as a repetitive chore, no matter what I was doing or when I was doing it. With it all being within four walls, I had the feeling of being stuck— like I was being forced to have free time, which if you think about it, contradicts itself.

Then, for several weeks, I would wake up at 11 a.m., shuffle my way into my living room, sit on my chair and turn on my TV, not to watch but just for background noise. Then, I’d eat something that I didn’t have to cook or warm up, most often a pancake from a packet and stay there until I either got hungry or felt like I could get a full nights sleep but still end up falling asleep at 3:30 a.m.

I would have my daily chats with my Mum through Whatsapp. Of course, I wouldn’t want her to worry about me. What daughter does? I would feign contentment in my messages, hoping to appease her, but inside, I had no feelings. I wasn’t living, so what could I feel?

This carried on for several weeks. Intermittently, in these weeks, I’d find goodness online. Primarily on Twitter and YouTube. I discovered “The Positive Professor” Professor Karol Sikora on my Twitter feed. Each day, he would share his knowledge and expertise in the medical field about the daily outcomes of new infections and deaths rates of COVID-19, and how he worries about those with mental health issues not benefitting in a way with lockdown. This is definitely not to say that lockdown is a bad idea. We have proof that it indeed is, but to have an expert in the field say something more hopeful in a world that is so scary, in a world that undoubtedly is, is so refreshing to so many.

About a month ago, Boris Johnson set up a plan to move forward. This includes me going back to work. I was not scared about the prospect of going back. I was desperate. I needed my routine back. I could have always made myself a routine without work, but there was no incentive to do so, in my mind. I went back to work just over two weeks ago now and I’m so glad to be back. It is obviously different. Risk assessments are in place, we are in “bubbles” and I can’t hug my best friend, but overall, I’m glad.

I’m careful not to say happy. I know I’m not happy. If I could describe the feeling I’m having now, it’s fine. Fine. It’s not a word many people like as a response to the question “How are you?”, but sometimes someone is just fine and that’s OK. I still feel stuck at times. The world itself is still stuck, but it won’t be forever and that’s what I have to tell myself about me. I won’t be stuck forever. I would feel stuck forever.

I felt isolated, sure, but depression didn’t win, even when most days it felt like it did. I made it through those days. Even if I just moved from bed to chair and that’s all I did. I made it through the day. I like to remind myself that, being set with the challenge of being locked in a house for 10 weeks with just myself and my depression, and making it through to the other side means I passed a major milestone, even though it doesn’t feel like it. It still doesn’t and that’s OK.

I will be OK.

Photo by Hermes Rivera on Unsplash
Photo by Hermes Rivera on Unsplash
Originally published: September 18, 2020
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