When you have depression, suddenly the world shifts. You have the burning desire to sleep all day, your passions become an afterthought, and small tasks seem unattainable. The number of times I have had to explain to my dentist that I don’t brush my teeth as often as I should because of my depression fills me with shame. Or when I start crying when I get the urge to pee because that means getting out of bed. When I’m at the bottom of a depressive well, the amount of guilt, shame, sadness, and exhaustion cover me so I can’t even see the light at the top. And I’m at the bottom of that well right now.
One of the adjustments I have had to make lately is adjusting the standards I set for myself. I now get rewarded for the smallest things. Things that I’m sure most people have no problem doing every day. I now get congratulated and celebrated when I do something simple, like put a dirty dish in the dishwasher, or take a shower. I have to force myself to go hang out with my friends, or reach out for help when I feel overwhelmed.
Today, I was congratulated for making social plans. At first, I was disheartened. All I did was reply “Sure” to a text from a friend who asked to hang out. Why does that earn celebration? I once read a memoir about a woman with bipolar disorder, and she writes something similar about receiving praise for moving from her bed to the couch.
The thing is, I can’t look at things the way I do when I’m not depressed. Because those are completely different circumstances. When you feel it’s impossible to get out of bed, or keep your eyes open, it is a major celebration when you do those things. Because, in your depressed mind, you have just accomplished the impossible. Which means, you can do anything. It will be hard as hell, sure. And it is doable. That is what I’m holding onto while I’m stuck looking up from the bottom of this hole I’ve found myself in. It’s going to be work. I’m going to have urges to act on maladaptive behaviors. I’m going to want to sleep all day. And I know that I can say no. I can get up and go to work, or see my friends, or buy groceries.
Just because I have to lower the bar now, doesn’t mean it’s forever.