1. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, you are. There is nothing left to do than to rest. To let the mind rest you need to unwind the mind. Dopamine needs to go down.
2. Don’t go looking for yourself, you are already here. I know it may be so tempting to search from (some) answers on the outside. When you’re able to find useful tips from people you trust, go ahead a try them out of course. But no amount of mindfulness of yoga will cure your mental illness. When you feel you have the energy and you feel like it can be useful for you, go ahead and enjoy what you enjoy. All the things ‘outside’ can help you a lot, but the real ‘shift’ the actual work is needed to be done on the inside. It must stem from you. The timing must be right, for you. The support must be a fit, for you. I think you got the picture here, you are in the center of that picture.
3. Like yourself with your flaws. Depression forced me to do this. I can’t be that perfectionistic anymore. I used to cover ‘me’ under a protective shield of perfection. What I thought that would represent perfection of course. I kept on pushing and pushing to the unachievable ‘being perfect’. With burnout and depression I fell hard and deep. A lot of steps far away from my perfection. I didn’t look into the mirror, I closed my eyes to my messy surroundings. That couldn’t be me! What would ‘they’ think of me? I tried to keep it up, as good and as bad as I could. Every single time and I mean every single time, my depression kept pushing me away by robbing me of every single ounce of energy. I kicked, cried and screamed …. Into deaf ears. Nothing changed until I changed. I made a connection with ‘me’, the me behind the mask of perfection. I looked in the mirror, I saw the wrinkles in my skin and the sorrow in my eyes, my hair thinning and pale skin from being inside for a year. But hey, somebody must like me and that could be me too. I tried to see other things, good things. I tried to silence the harsh voices in my head and replace them with more kindness. Small step by small step it did work. The most of the work was done by the depression itself, I was just too tired to care and I learned to live with imperfect me. There was just no other way. I’ve never met someone more stubborn than me, but the depression and burnout, they are more stubborn. They humbled the ‘perfect’ me and kicked her a**.
4. When I’m happy I am HAPPY and then my energy runs out but still. I appreciate the fact that I CAN be happy. When you’re living with some good ol’ anhedonia for a while. You are living under a blanket or a veil of some sorts. You can see ‘fun’, you remember how ‘fun’, ‘happy’ and ‘energy’ felt like. You plan them in your head. But you just can’t grasp it. You cannot for the love of G-d crawl out of your skin to be happy in another skin for an hour or two. Is that too creepy, the skin thing? It remembers me of Buffalo Bill but I digress. When you’re been living under the veil for quite a long time, you feel when the sun shines through and when you are allowed to come out under the veil, you feel it. I am over the moon when I’m happy purely for the fact that I can feel again and that I can rely on my inner compass again. It feels like some kind of glue that glues all the parts of ‘me’ together, slowly and carefully.
5. I love the people in my life. I am a loyal person. I will not ghost you or break contact out of the blue. Maybe for you but not for me. Before falling ill there were maybe not a whole lot but more people than at the moment in my life. One went slowly into the background, others were quicker in their disappearance. It’s all fine by me. But the people who stayed, who came through for me, I truly love. That are the people who have seen me sad, empty, irrational, mean, angry, whiney, fierce, anxious, boring, forgetful, smelly, disorientated, fussy and just silent. They cared for me, for who I am on the inside. They were able to see and to grasp that small part of me that wanted to heal, to be better and to live. Those people enrich my life and made the difference between life and death. I will be forever grateful to those people (and the doggies!). Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
6. I found new or rediscovered hidden talents. With the burnout coach I’ve made the most progress in this field. I learned to also be on the lookout for things that I really enjoy doing. This is only possible when depression is not as heavy and the anhedonia doesn’t go with me every step I dare to take. I learned how to knit and to crochet. I learned how to paint. I’m not an artist but I like to see the paint conforming with water. I rediscovered how to enjoy the silence and how to just cut the crap. I learned the difficult lesson to say no and to put my needs first without feeling guilty all the time. I accepted that I am important too and that you can’t pour from an empty cup.
7. Don’t plan too much ahead, mental illness can get in the way. In my experience a lot of the dreams I have or maybe smaller plans for the day got erased from my list due to feeling low. I don’t know, but I’m suspecting, that my mental illness doesn’t agree with my plans after all.
8. To be able to let go, you need to find out what to let go. That was a very, very profound and valuable lesson to me.
And you? What are grateful for in the New Year? Do you struggle yourself and do you maybe recognize some things I have written about? I know struggles can be very hard but in your own way you’ll find your things that you have learned. And a lesson learned gives you more weapons to use against maybe the next difficulty.