January 19th: Depression Day
Every January 19th, I experience a mild form of depression.
For the scientist, it’s a vitamin D deficiency;
For the sociologist, it’s the aftermath of the Xmas season;
For Michael Brown’s The Presence Process, it’s a bunch of emotional charges from the past in need of integration;
For me, it’s f*cking annoying…
…or rather, it used to be until the morning of January 19th, 2018.
As I was reflecting on this year’s installment of the Depression Monster franchise, I realized something: Big D isn’t a blood-thirsty monster like Jason or Mike Myers. He’s actually an ally who can help me be a better person.
Now, before I go further, please note that
I’m not a doctor
…nor a psychologist (one semester of psychology in college isn’t enough) and “I don’t play one on the internet”.
What I call “depression” is a global yet temporary feeling of sadness, pessimism, confusion, and disconnection from the world around me. Let’s say that, for a few months every year, “I got the blues”.
If you’ve been diagnosed as clinically depressed, by all means, follow your doctor’s instructions, and take this post as an entertaining expression of my ignorance of what you’re going through. Feel free to comment things like “bitch please, u know nothing about depression” or (more productively) let me know what you feel and how you deal with it.
Peacefulness and Creativity are the focus of this blog and I want to show how depression can be an ally for both of them.
Depression can be your ally
As I was saying, every January 19th, I experience a mild form of depression. I feel down, I’m in a bad mood, I miss out on the beauty around me, and I feel antisocial and unworthy of social interaction (which is a shame, since it’s one of the most magical experiences there is).
But this year, I realized that, on every January 19th, I also take action.
On January 19th, 2017, in order to ‘deal with depression’, I
- Experimented with coffee
- Read The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor
- Rearranged my calendar to create a peace-inducing routine
- Put together a checklist on “How to be happy” (later renamed “The Foundations of Peacefulness”)
- Discovered the existentialist TV shows Bojack Horseman and Rick & Morty
- Read (for the second time) The Truth by Neil Strauss, which introduced me to “Chair Work”, a powerful technique that helps liberate one’s inner demons
- Dug into my past both mentally & emotionally through coaching, meditation, and a version of Chair Work called ‘the Campfire exercise’
- Completed 10 weeks of The Presence Process, which has completely changed the way I approach life
That’s a fairly long list of actions I probably wouldn’t have even started if Big D hadn’t rung my doorbell on January 19th.
The “cure” worked better than I expected…
I didn’t do all those things as an act of bravery, like adding an extra set of curls post-routine; nor as a New Year’s resolution (btw, have you read the Love and Profit magazine’s article about preparing a magical 2018? It’s awesome!). I did it because I had to! It was a response to a problem, just like staying in bed (and binge-watching Bojack Horseman) is a valid response to the flu.
Amazingly, the positive impact of all those depression-triggered actions outweighed the initial situation. It brought me — you guessed it — Peacefulness (a fertile ground for creativity, wink wink). It opened doors and introduced me to great people with whom I’ve had wonderful conversations and developed friendships.
That’s quite a lot of positivity coming from a “global yet temporary feeling of sadness, pessimism, confusion, and disconnection from the world around me”.
…but today is January 19th, 2018, and the feeling is back.
Just as my 2016 review was very different from my 2017 review, my list of 2018 depression “solutions” differs greatly from last year’s. This year, I
- Continued integrating emotional charges, thanks to the Presence Process
- Converted depression into creativity (such as by writing this post, among other things)
- Supplemented with vitamin D and Omega 3
I also plan to
- Update the “Foundations of Peacefulness”
- Dig into some of the limiting beliefs I still have
OK, nevermind, the list is actually just as long as the previous one 😀
And maybe that’s a good thing. A long time ago, a friend told me, “I finally understand winter: it’s the time of year where you’re stuck at home with yourself. When spring comes, you’re a new person ready to go out and have fun.”
This long list isn’t here to ‘heal’ the depression, it was simply triggered by it. The depression is not my enemy; it’s on my side because, in reality, those steps are here to make me a better person. A friend to myself.
What’s the evolutionary advantage of anxiety?
Depression as a trigger for good things is not that surprising when you think about it.
Feelings generally viewed as negative can trigger positive actions:
- We pay insurance, leave 30 min early to get to a job interview, and stock water in our cellar because of Anxiety
- We start Revolutions, create work unions, and vote because of Anger
- The things we do because of Fear, I don’t need to list
The whole point of ‘negative’ emotions is to put us in motion so we can survive — a relaxed antelope is a dead antelope.
Depression is sometimes depicted as a state where you can’t do anything (and I believe certain clinical versions suit this description, see disclaimer). For me, it’s an internal warning that I need to take care of myself and my surroundings, repair what’s broken, reinforce what’s shattered, and improve what’s not relevant anymore.
So, as of this year, January 19th is no longer the date I fear the Monster’s return. It’s the Starting Pistol of the year; when good ole Big D comes and helps me get back to work; helps me be a friend to myself.
It’s time to take action.
and that’s where I initially planned to finish this post. But it wouldn’t be complete without…
2 practical tactics YOU can use to turn Depression into Creativity
1. Don’t fear it, embrace it
When I stub my little toe on the leg of a table, I have 2 options:
1. Spend the 0.89 seconds preceding the actual physical pain in fear and self-hatred (something like “oh no, oh damn, oh no, oh sh*t, oh f*ck, f*ck, f*ck”)
2. Embrace it: take a deep breath and “be with” the pain, unconditionally, without judgment.
In both cases, it’s too late; my little toe is gonna hurt like hell and there’s nothing I can do about it…so why add fear and self-loathing to it? You might find that focusing on what’s happening (the feeling of pain) reduces its power. It really isn’t that big of a deal, and the pain goes away pretty fast. Plus, what a great opportunity to be in ‘the Now’ — a sure-fire recipe for peacefulness.
You can apply the same tactic to Depression.
If you try to repel it (“oh no, not this horrible Monster again”), it’ll become just that: a frightening Monster that will come back again and again to haunt you…and, unfortunately, I’m speaking from experience here.
On the contrary, if you embrace it and take it as a neutral event floating within your awareness (just like a sound in the street or the weather outside), you have nothing to fear anymore. It’s just there.
This whole post is designed to help you adopt a mindset of acceptance toward this feeling, and to consider it an ally that can help you grow, create, and be at peace. Let me know if it works for you!
2. Create your own Peacefulness checklist
The causes of mild depression are emotional, mental, contextual, social, energetic, and biological. Sometimes you can pinpoint exactly why you’re feeling down, sometimes not… but there are patterns that you’ll discover if you observe yourself.
Personally, a lack of sleep is my number one sadness-trigger, so it’s the first item on my checklist. Whenever I feel down, I take a look at the previous nights to see if I slept less than 8 hours. If that’s the case, I make it my #1 mission to recover the sleep I require.
Then I look at the contextual triggers:
- Is it a particularly stressful time (tax season, tight deadlines, etc.)?
- Do I have an unresolved issue with someone?
- Have I been postponing something I need to do for too long?
Following these questions, I integrate the feeling (inside action) and focus on resolving the situation (outside action).
I might also add some movement to my life (literally): going to the gym, dancing, riding, running…whatever is convenient at that moment to put me in motion. It helps me to clear my head and flush my body of toxins.
I have perhaps a dozen bullet points in my checklist, but you get the idea: start with the most impactful item and move by order of decreasing efficiency. Often, I keep the mental solutions for the end because they take a lot of time, but the order is not set in stone.
One last important thing: before, during, and after each item on the list, I meditate and integrate what I feel so I can grow emotionally throughout the process. I always try to group an inside action with an outside one.
I’ve been there, I’m still there, and it’s not easy…but at least it doesn’t have to be scary.
I believe it’s possible to turn the Depression “Monster” into an ally, an opportunity to grow as a person, to know yourself better and, of course, to reach peaceful creativity!