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What Word Games Taught Me About Managing Depression

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Not to brag, but I’m pretty good at word games. You know, the type where you have to find words in a scramble of letters. Sometimes at a glance, I can look at the seven letters in a circle and immediately see the words in the jumble. It all seems so easy.

Other times, however, it seems I can try every possible combination of arrangements and not make any words. I start, somewhat desperately, forming possibilities I’ve never seen before, as if the game-maker decided some of its puzzles would be in a different language.

On those days, I need to use a tool to make sense of things. I realize my mind is just not processing things in a way that allows me to see and take in information the way I usually do. I don’t beat myself up. I use “clues,” gladly exchanging some of my accumulated points for a hint. And sometimes, with a single letter revealed, I can now solve the whole puzzle. I’m back.

Other times, however, I need to deplete my resources and use every point I have to purchase every hint I can. And even then, sometimes I just quit for the day, deeming the game more trouble and frustration than it’s worth.

Living with depression can feel kind of the same.

There are days I wake thinking, “I’ve got this.” I’ve made a to-do list and have confidence enough of it will get done that I’ll have made forward progress on whatever I’m working on. My life seems manageable. And I feel capable.

Other times, however, my life seems jumbled. Incomprehensible. Maybe even more trouble than it’s worth. I do not bounce out of bed. No affirmations cross my mind. I do not feel capable. I do not feel much at all.

And that’s when I know I need to use the tools that are available to help me. I need to spend down some of my reserves and access any, and sometimes all, of the coping mechanisms and strategies I’ve accumulated over the years of living with depression.

Do I need to use just one tool to affect a shift back toward mental health? Will a really good night’s sleep help bring my capabilities back into focus? Or do I also need to connect with a friend? Schedule a therapy session? Adjust my meds?

I am learning to ask myself those questions and allow myself access to whatever help I need with the same “charge” I’d have getting a clue to solve a word game.

Neither indicates weakness. Neither is a failing. I am just experiencing a moment in time when I need a little help.

Because I am human. Nothing more, nothing less.

And when I’m firing on all cylinders again, with whatever support I needed to get there, I am pretty damn good at word puzzles. And life.

Getty image by Piotrekswat

Originally published: October 12, 2021
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