The Mental Health Game of Tag, You’re It!

I have been so lucky…the depression has been swept aside again (mostly). It’s a constant tug-a-war battle with the depression. There are good days, bad days, and mixed days. Heck, sometimes there are just days where I throw my hands up in the air and impatiently wait for a redo button to appear to try again.

With the holidays coming up, it seems my body has gone haywire. The depression is gone, but it pops back up when I least expect it before running away again. It likes to play tag. Ugh. However, its friend anger has moved into my apartment and is settling for the long haul. Where can I evict them?!?

Thanksgiving has always been a hard time for my brother and me. On November 22, 2010 our mother passed away suddenly. It was 3 days before Thanksgiving that year. That day changed my life.

The anniversary of her death draws near. Too near. This is the first year we’re not spending the holiday with family because we’ll both be working. I’ve spent the last two weeks working over 50 hours per week for the extra cash. The bills never seem to get paid, and with winter arriving I need a few sweaters. From trial and error I’ve learned what my limit is at work. I absolutely passed that limit with flying colors with the 50+ hour work weeks. Stressed and exhausted couldn’t explain how I feel right now.

With the anniversary drawing near and female hormones doing what it does best, I’ve been living in the perfect storm for the anger to move right on in. It started last Tuesday when I spent the entire day at work over something stupid and out of my control. I spent the day crying on and off. The anger followed me into the days that followed, catching up to me when I was doing the dishes one night. The anger had built up so much that I simply started crying. I cried because I was exhausted, I had to clean the kitchen by myself before I could cook, I was doing way too much. Suddenly, it hit me how close it was to her anniversary that I simply broke down. Washing dishes was no longer possible because the grief and sadness overtook me, making my knees buckle.

My therapist says crying is healthy…it’s ok to cry. I know that, and I certainly knew my body was going to have its way one way or another. I stopped trying to do the dishes and went to the bathroom, sitting on the floor with my back to the door. I let it all out until I realized it wasn’t stopping. It’s been a long time since I felt that kind of grief, further pain being caused when I realize I really don’t have anyone to simply call up when I’m like this.. knowing I didn’t have a mom to run to when things got tough (not that Mom was ever good at letting me share what was on my chest). It simply made things worse until someone sat down with me and told me all of the right things I needed to hear. She sat with her hands in mine and promised me I will feel better when it gets out and that it’s ok to break down every once in a while.

Who knew that’s what I needed during that time? Well, she did.

It took the weekend to chase most of the anger off so that by Monday I could breathe again. I spent the weekend finishing up a drawing of a former professor of mine as a thank you gift. I think it turned out alright.

Dr Snelson

What I didn’t realize was that self-care was important even when the depression wasn’t always around. In fact, I was enlightened when my therapist informed me that I seem run in overload mode when the depression is sitting in the back seat. I rush through trying to get as much as I can done, attacking myself when I put myself behind my own schedule. It seems I hope to solve all the world’s problems before the depression knocks me over again. Amazing how we learn those kind of things out when the depression is on temporarily leave.

I forgot that self-care was imperative for me to continue on the way I’m going. After two weeks of working over 50 hours each, self-care was extremely important. Sleep was off and on again as usual. However, I spent time rushing to get dinner done or get back to work or finish this drawing by this deadline darn it! Even thinking about the kind of schedule I kept myself on makes me exhausted all over again. And with Mom’s death anniversary coming up, self-care is important now more than ever.

The anger I experienced in the past week is something I’m ashamed of, but something I can practice working on. Because of supervisors at work and situations beyond my control, I allowed the anger to seep into my interactions with others. I snapped at friends, I yelled at everything that moved, and I felt the weight of that anger on my chest. I forgive myself for only one of those days because I can’t control nature, but I can certainly try to control the rest of those days. Something I learned Monday night was that intent was the most important thing behind change. This will also take practice. I can decide how I want to put my best foot forward, and I can decide not to let people hold the kind of power over me to make me angry. My supervisor, for example, isn’t worth that pain. I look forward to putting this into practice over the next week, along with a new activity I learned.

As the holidays draw closer, mental health becomes even more important for those who suffer from any kind of mental health issue. There are family problems that often come to dinner with the meal, depression spikes, and anxiety goes into overload. For me, the 22nd and 23rd will be days of grief and depression, remembering the mother I lost and the family I’ll never have now. You’ll never know how much you miss having a mother until you don’t have one anymore. Think about that the next time you complain about your mother.

If self-care is important every other day of the year, it’s extremely important around the holidays. As I try to remember that myself by holding onto my support group, allowing myself those private moments of grief and crying, and probably burying myself in my art, writing, and reading, keep in mind what self-care is good for you. Don’t become frustrated with yourself. Open up to those you trust. Remember, it’s ok to be sad. It’s ok to be happy. It’s ok just to be you.

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