I wanted to start tonight’s Weekly Wellbeing by flagging that we’ll be having a chat about depression and all of the gnarly feelings that can come with being depressed. If tonight’s thread brings up anything for you and you’d like to talk to someone, you can call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800.
If you’d like to learn a little bit more about depression, feel free to jump over and take a look at our Depression 101 thread. It has some great tips on what depression can look like and where to get support 💕
So, let’s get started!
Depression can be tough - it can sap your energy, steal your motivation, and make joy pretty hard to find. For me, depression often feels a bit like being swallowed back inside myself. I can see and be part of everything that’s going on around me, but I feel stuck on the inside and unable to connect or be present.
It also makes looking after myself a real struggle. When I’m feeling okay, getting up and taking a shower, getting dressed, and getting out the door is easy - I can do it without thinking twice. I can pack lots into my day, I can exercise and eat well without too much trouble, and I really enjoy the time I spend with my friends and family. When I’m depressed, it’s another story altogether and all of this seems really insurmountable.
After COVID lockdown, I really struggled with depression. It’s always been on my radar and is a mental health challenge that comes up for me from time to time, but after being stuck in the house for so long seeing negative news, I really struggled to get back out into the world (or to even leave my apartment some days). I also noticed that my interest in personal hygiene and looking after my body slipped. I would wear tracksuits all day, every day, and sometimes I would get dirty clothes out of my washing basket and wear them again. I’d be lucky if I showered once a day, and sometimes brushing my teeth just didn’t seem that important. All I could think was ‘It doesn’t make a difference to anything or anyone if I don’t do this, so what’s the point?’
Luckily, my Mum is a wonderful support when I’m not doing too well. We don’t live together, but she can tell just from the sound of my voice over the phone when I’m starting to get depressed. She reminded me recently that, even if it doesn’t seem important or meaningful in the grand scheme of things, it’s important that I get up each morning for myself because I matter. I am important, both to myself and to so many other people, so I need to treat myself with care and kindness, even if it doesn’t make a difference to anyone else.
Then she reminded me about my checklist. A few years ago when I was in a really dark place and was struggling to get through my day-to-day life, I came up with a daily checklist to help hold myself accountable to meeting my basic needs - food, water, hygiene, movement, and connection. These things seem pretty straightforward for someone who’s not depressed, but for someone me, these things feel like a big win when I’m feeling low.
So, what does my daily checklist look like?
The first section on my checklist is my diet. When I’m depressed, my eating can go one of two ways - I totally neglect food, or I eat every single thing in sight. To remind myself to eat regularly, and eat good things, I have tick boxes for 3 square meals, as well as fruit, vegetables and water.
You’ll probably notice that this list doesn’t say what to have for breakfast, or how many pieces of fruit I need to eat, or anything too specific.
I did this on purpose.
My aunt, who has lived with depression for most of her life, gave me a wicked piece of advice which really resonates with me - when you’re depressed and don’t feel like eating, eat things you like. Some days, I’ll have pancakes for breakfast, or KFC for lunch. This probably doesn’t seem like the healthiest choice, but when I’m depressed and eating doesn’t seem important, eating anything at all is a good start.
The next section is my lifestyle stuff.
Again, my exercise goal isn’t too specific - some days I can make it to the gym, and other days a walk around the block counts as exercise. As long as I’m moving, I’m doing something good for my body.
Getting out of bed and showering by a certain time is really important for me when I’m feeling low. Sometimes I oversleep when I'm depressed, or I decide to skip my morning shower. While this might not feel like a big deal, I know that I only feel good in my day if I have a shower in the morning. I also know that I’m more inclined to put clean clothes on a clean body, so it encourages me to get dressed and put my makeup on too. This is something that’s specific to me - I feel good if I’m dressed up, my hair is done, and my face is on - but you know what feels best for you!
Music is also on my list too! It may not seem essential to everyone, but my days are better when they’ve got a banging soundtrack!
The next section is my relationships section, and is all about connection.
Connecting can be really hard when you’re feeling low. For me, holding a conversation becomes really tricky when I’m struggling with depression because my thoughts are really slow and sluggish, and I can’t seem to focus on anything outside of my own head. It’s like I’m there, but I’m not there.
Fortunately, another piece of advice that a family friend (who is also a psychologist) gave me for when I’m depressed is to keep doing normal things and eventually they won’t feel like shit. That’s why I force myself to talk to the people that are important to me on a regular basis, especially when I’m depressed. I try and have a proper conversation that involves more than ‘Hi’ and ‘I’m fine’ with my partner and my sister, who I live with, every day. I also try and call my Mum and Dad pretty regularly because they are a great support for me and they can see right through my platitudes when I feel crappy. Finally, I try and talk to my grandparents, aunts, and my friends at least once a week too (more if I feel up to it). Personally, I’m not much of a texter, so this has to happen over the phone for me to feel like I’ve really connected with them.
Last, but certainly not least, I make a list of the three things I am grateful for that day.
Sometimes, they’re really small things, but I believe that even if every day isn’t good, there’s something good in every day. For example, here’s one of my old daily checklists from 2019 when I was doing it tough:
The positives on there aren’t huge whopping achievements, but they remind me of the good parts of my day and give me a reason to be thankful and keep going.
My checklist has been really helpful in guiding me out of my depressive funks. There are times where I feel too depressed to even look at my checklist, but that’s where my support network comes in. Everyone in my family knows about my checklists, and everyone knows roughly what’s on them, so even if I don’t take out the physical checklists I have printed out and tick them off, people can ask me if I’ve eaten or if I’ve been outside that day to gauge how I’m doing.
A lot of the time, I do my checklists with someone. It can be a nice way to talk to them about how I’m feeling and the things I’m finding hard without having to say ‘Hey, I’m struggling here’. Instead, I can just say ‘Can we do the checklist?’ and we go from there. My Mum and I tend to send each other our 3 things to be grateful for each night before bed, which is a nice way to end the day when I feel like crap.
It’s also a nice way to connect with my family and friends and see how they’re doing, too. Yesterday, my partner and I recited our checklist answers to each other while we drove home. Today, I talked through my checklist with my Mum. It gave me a moment of genuine connection, and it let me know that someone cares about what I’m doing, even if it is just taking a shower and listening to a podcast. ❤️
Now it's your turn!
- What kind of things would you include on your checklist?
- Is there anyone you could share it with?
- What are three things you're grateful for today?
This post made me realise I haven't had water today 😬 whoopsie!
I love how supportive your mum and partner are with the checklists @Portia_RO, they sound awesome 🙂
1. What kind of things would you include on your checklist?
Okay on my checklist...
- Have I had any fruit today?
- Have I had any vegetables today?
- Have I been eating at regular intervals?
- Have I had water today?
- Have I had enough sleep?
- Have I been outside today?
- Have I done something nice for myself today?
- Have I exercised today?
- Did I take my medication?
- Did I check anything off my life admin or uni to do lists?
- Have I talked to anyone today?
- Have I had any meaningful/genuine conversations?
- What am I grateful for today?
Is there anyone you could share it with?
Yeah, you guys 😛
What are three things you're grateful for today?
1. My friend gave me something small as it was a spare, but she gave it to me 🙂
2. I am feeling slightly less sick than yesterday
3. I got to visit a kitten today 🐱