My depression today is a 6 out of 10.
It was difficult getting up in the morning, but I made myself eat a light breakfast, shower, and do an hour of cleaning after walking and feeding the dogs. Years ago I learned that the best way to shake the sluggish-zombie feeling of a depression spell is to force myself to do routine activities. First and foremost, to SHOWER and WEAR CLEAN CLOTHES. I know this sounds stupid, but when you are very depressed you don’t care about anything, not even combing your hair or bothering with clothes. At least this is true for me. If I did not force myself to go through the motions of a regular routine I would probably just wallow in a foggy haze of sadness, in my pajamas, in bed, the whole day.
It used to make me even more depressed when I would struggle with normal routine activities, like caring for myself. But I learned from reading about depression and especially from online support groups that all activities become challenging when you are severely depressed, because it slows your mind and your body down. Several years ago I remember one of the worst depression spells and anxiety attacks that I ever experienced. It took me a few days to get out of bed, force myself to brush my teeth and shower, and then I told myself that I was not allowed to go back to bed until I cleaned the fridge. So I cleaned the fridge. Every inch of it, and it took me over an hour because I moved so slowly. But after accomplishing these minor and mundane tasks, I felt better about myself and was able to set other small and achievable goals for the day.
However, I also learned that it helps to set time goals rather than task goals. For instance, rather than telling myself that I could not go back to bed until after I clean the fridge, if this were an overwhelming task, I would tell myself that I had to do fifteen minutes of cleaning. This way I don’t set myself up for failure, if I don’t clean every square inch of the fridge before collapsing from emotional exhaustion. I know how stupid this sounds, but when your mind and your body are severely depressed, every day activities are really difficult.
After forcing myself out of bed to shower and get dressed, and do 15 minute of cleaning, I feel a slight improvement in my mood because I don’t feel like such a loser. It feels normal to be clean and have day-time clothes on, and to feel like I am capable of taking care of my home and environment. The depression is still heavy like a suit of lead, but each hour I accomplish another task and I feel better about myself.
It helps me too on some days to make a list of goals to accomplish by the hour, though on really bad days this just overwhelms me and I feel certain that I can’t get through the day. If the depression were any higher today I would not attempt such a list, but so far I am able to stick to a schedule.
7:30 am – Walk and feed the dogs and eat a light breakfast
8:00 am – Read inspirational articles/books or watch inspirational videos
9:00 am – Shower and get dressed
10:00 am – Clean the kitchen, do laundry, clean the catbox, make the bed
11:00 am – Eat lunch
1:00 pm – Walk the dogs
3:00 pm – Eat a late lunch and feed the dogs
4:00 pm – Get ready for work
5:00 pm – Work until 10pm
10:30 pm – Walk the dogs
11:00 pm – Go to bed