I spent most of my life battling depression. In 2013, at the age of 24, I began studying and practicing mindfulness. At first, it as hard to make practice a priority. It took me months to realize that being busy wasn’t an excuse not to practice, because I was always in the mindset of “have to get it done”. Everything on my to-do list was always more important. Now I realize that if I make it my priority, I have more clarity and focus to get everything else done with more ease and less stress .Putting mindfulness first and paying close attention to my thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, I finally started to slow down enough to become aware of my cycles of depression . I recognized my patterns.
For a few months out of the year, I was so unable to move, unable to be productive, or do anything for that matter. I could barely get out of bed and often had thoughts of suicide. For a while I was convinced that I have seasonal affective disorder.
As I learned to observed this without judgement, I started to notice when I was depressed, it was actually an underlying emotion of feeling overwhelmed. Then ironically, instead of being productive toward my goals, I was absolutely debilitated. I couldn't even get off of the couch!
As I observed this cycle, I realized I was beating myself up for not getting enough done. I was setting standards for myself and then getting mad at myself for not fulfilling my own expectations. I continued to practice. I began to get even better at observing my thoughts without judging them. I thought it was interesting that I still had thoughts like “I don’t know how”, “I don’t have enough time”, and “you aren’t smart enough to do this”...but they had less power over me. Instead of believing those thoughts as true, I just witnessed them; I became less attached to them. Those thoughts had less and less effect over my emotions.
I found the space of allowing, not only allowing my thoughts, but allowing my emotions. I began to not judge myself when I was in a place of depression. I would allow my down-time or my hibernation, so to speak. I noticed that I actually NEEDED that time to flourish, like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon. I had a new perception that allowed me to embrace my "depression" and start calling it "hibernation". I shifted from the “If-I-don’t-do-enough, I-am-worthless” attitude, to telling myself I will do all the things I need to do when I am ready, and when I can feel good while I do them.
Now I make lists of what I want to accomplish and only do it if it feels good. My depression, over the years, went from months, to weeks, to days, to moments. I can literally witness the thoughts I have that used to spiral me in to months of depression, happen in a matter of moments without much effect on the way I feel. And if I DO feel it, I embrace it. I explore it.