The last several years have been a long struggle. A road of twists and turns and unexpected dips.
Depression is a constant force in my life. It’s one I can manage, one I have fought to manage. I have taken medication to control it. I have cut back on wheat products that seem to exacerbate it. I have begun a vitamin regimen. I take birth control to even out my hormones and lessen the chances of wild mood swings. I occasionally practice yoga, and sometimes I still pick up one of my dance hoops for a few swivels.
In the last three years I have begun to truly understand and embrace the concept of self-care, though, and this is what has lately begun making all the difference.
Self-care means eliminating the most negative presences from my life. Long-time friendships dissolved when people just couldn’t stop being negative and nasty all the time. Facebook – which I have always loathed anyway – hit the skids. In the fandom I fell into, I quickly realized that I couldn’t deal with the more snipey and awful cliques and groups, so I turned my back and avoided them.
It has been a pared down and occasionally lonely existence, but I have to admit it is a lot more stress-free, and it has helped.
Self-care means not letting the people around me dictate how I should handle things. I have a bedroom closet that is a hot mess, but it’s too big to handle right now and has been for a long time. So I didn’t keep my clothes in it. I kept them in laundry baskets all the time and my home was a cluttered wreck. Then I saw an idea for a clothes rail kept in the bedroom and liked it – but was chided for even thinking about it when I had a perfectly good closet I could be cleaning out and using.
But I looked at my closet and got tired. So I never cleaned it out. I never hung up my clothes.
And then one day I went, wait. Who is paying the rent here? Whose clothes are always rumpled from being in baskets? Shouldn’t I take care of this the best way that works for me?
That was an epiphany, let me tell you.
I bought a big clothes rail. I washed all my clothes. I hung them all up. And with them out of the way, the path was clear to pick up a few more things here and there. And then again in another area. And some more elsewhere. The next thing I knew, my apartment was looking less like a disaster area. I still have a long way to go, but I am managing it – through using Swiffers instead of constantly dragging crumbling mops and clunky buckets out. Through keeping little trash cans all over the apartment, by the bathroom sink, by my bedside, near my work area, more trash cans than I usually see around people’s homes. By buying little baskets to organize the random crap that lands on a desk or vanity. By using my plastic shopping bags as trash bags – once full, out they go into the dumpster on my way to work, rather than me hauling a huge bag out every week. I invested in a powerful little handvac to suck up all the kibble and litter the cats throw around. I buy puppy pads to stick under the litterboxes and try to keep Mina’s aiming problem under control.
(cats with fluffy tails are so vain…)
Self-care means that I bought a Dutch oven casserole pot and I use it so often, so much more than I ever used the plain metal pots now languishing in a kitchen cabinet, more than the Crockpot gathering dust. I make soups and casseroles and stews and pastas. I love to use it because it is easy to clean and cooks evenly and heck, because it’s pretty. My freezer is full of soups in the more expensive but to me better to use twist-top plastic containers. My dining-out days are now special occasions instead of a regular occurrence, and my wallet appreciates it.
(although if there is a night when I just need to have a bowl of cereal and go to bed, I do that – that’s self-care too)
And then there’s the matter of the holidays. Of Christmas.
I have a Christmas tree. I’ve had it for over ten years now. It’s fake, a decent enough fake, and it’s stored in a big plastic bin in my coat closet. For the last two years I have been just too damn tired to drag it out. I love Christmas season, the sparkle and the lights of it all, but I just couldn’t manage it. I couldn’t face assembling all six feet of it, twirling the lights onto it, hanging all the ornaments. It was a task that overwhelmed all of my love of the season. It was all I could do to get presents – sometimes I couldn’t even manage to wrap them.
It has been rough.
Self-care for me this year has meant not putting up that tree again. I still have too much to clear out of the corner of the living room and I’m still too tired in a lot of ways.
But I wanted to do something. I needed to do it.
This I could manage. Is it silly, considering I already own a tree? Maybe. But all I had to do was pick this up – and I got lucky, appearing at the store just as they marked it down from $34 to $15 – and bring it home. I plopped it on the desk where I’m wintering my herbs, by a window that gets good light all day. I strung silver beads through its branches, hung tiny glass bulbs, and all around the bottom I spaced my tiny collection of Hallmark ornaments, the most special in my ornaments box because Mom buys me one every year. In the upper branches, I stuck the plastic star shaped topper that’s too big for it but is the one that was on our Christmas trees when I was little.
And I had Christmas for the first time in two years.
Because I have learned to do things in the way that works best for me.
I am lucky that I can do this – there’s been extra monetary investment involved in so many steps of this process, and I am privileged to be able to swing it. But the more I throw off society’s ideas of how I should be handling so many aspects of my life, the more I can get done, the less stress and depression I feel. It is so valuable to me to have a tranquil space and a life that is low in grumble and grar.
Depression will always be a part of me and of my life, but I have learned to live with it and around it. It doesn’t get to rule the roost anymore.
It has taken time, but now – at a time of year when it is most needed and most dearly wanted – I have a greater capacity for light.