I'm not sure why November and December are so difficult for me to deal with alongside my depression. I'm sure the lack of sun is part of it, but I'm not sure what else it is about these months that make it so much harder for me to handle my depression.
In November, when I finally admitted to my family, my friends (and most importantly, myself), that I was struggling with my depression again, I decided to take action. I have determined it is time to take some steps, that do not involve medication, to get myself to a place where I like myself. Because that's the real issue - I don't like myself very much. I had a very emotionally manipulative parental figure growing up and his way of controlling us was basically do beat us down emotionally. I haven't even spoken to this person in almost 8 years and I still feel the effects of that manipulation. It is ever-lasting.
But I have put some things in place to make my mind a better place to be.
1) Prioritize myself. First and foremost, I have decided I have to make myself a priority. I do not think anyone who has ever taught with me before would disagree that I do not take care of myself. I don't. I have let my ambition guide me, but at the detriment of my relationship with myself and many people around me whom I care for. I am now purposely making myself a priority - I am saying "no" and backing out of previous commitments because I am not the only person who can do things. Spread the wealth folks - we will all be happier for it.
This also means I have really scaled back on social media interactions. I have not been very active in my Voxer groups recently because they overwhelm me and I do not want to feel obligated to participate. When I'm ready, I'll step back in, but setting those boundaries and giving myself permission to step back has been immensely helpful.
2) Seek therapy. For several years, I worked with an amazing therapist. I would see her once a week after school. She helped me during an incredibly difficult time in my life. But then I stopped going and felt like I didn't need it. But I do. I need an objective party who does not know me outside of that relationship and can help me see things more clearly. I joined TalkSpace and was matched with a great therapist who is across the state. We share space in our private chat room 5 days per week. I get almost daily interactions with someone rather than having to save all of my thinking for once a week. I love this format because I can access my room 24/7 and leave voice messages or texts as often as I want. 1-2 times per day she responds, except on her days off. Truthfully there have been a few times she has even briefly checked in on her days off to make sure I'm doing okay. People whine that it's pricey (about $200/mo and they do not accept insurance), but for me...having someone to chat with almost DAILY who can help me in bits and pieces is so, so beneficial and absolutely worth every penny. I'm also finding that I am much more open and honest in this format because I don't have to look at her and she isn't looking at me. My fear of being judged is real and this alleviates that.
3) Set daily intentions. About three weeks ago, I decided I needed to set daily intentions for myself. Every morning, before I do anything else, I set intentions for my day. Every day, my first intention is to complete my meditation (see #4), then I list anything else that I want to set intention for. At this point, in the place I am with tackling my depression head on, most of the intentions center around mindfulness and/or positivity. I literally turn these into a checklist and it is incredibly helpful because nothing makes me happier than checking things off of a checklist. It has been an incredible tool to help me to focus myself on positive thoughts, finding joy in situations and anchoring myself in intentional actions.
4) Mediations. Enter the Calm app. I have had a subscription since January, 2018, but I didn't really use it that often. Now I use it every single morning. It is the first thing I do after I set my daily intentions. I listen to the Daily Calm and center my body for the day. I have also listened to the Calm Masterclass "Rethinking Depression" (which I highly recommend!) and have enjoyed "7 Days of Calming Anxiety" as well as some of the sleep stories. I have spent just under 9 hours in that mindful app in the last 23 days. My head is such a nicer place to be with the addition of these meditations and time spent intentionally living in the moment. [Did you know if you are an educator, you can get a lifetime subscription to Calm as long as you have a K-12 classroom? Check it out!]
5) Journaling/Reflecting. This was something I implemented alongside setting my intentions daily. My very dear friend designed these wonderful reflection journals. I bought one last spring but wasn't really sure what I wanted to use it for. Seriously, I've had that thing since like May, but didn't start using it until around Thanksgiving. It has been a complete God-send for me. First of all, the journal is gorgeous and has a buttery-soft feel which just makes my office-product-obsessed-geeky-self so happy. But the format is set up in a way that makes reflection so easy!
The left side allows you to set your intentions and mindful goal for the day in the morning (top two spaces) and reflect and process in the evening (bottom two spaces). The right hand page allows you to reflect in a longer format if you so desire.
I have found so much benefit from completing these every day. They have truly changed how I focus my day and allowed me to "let go" each evening. Coupled with the meditations/mindful practice, my head really is a much nicer place to spend time in compared to a month ago.
6) Marriage Meetings. In working with my therapist and realizing there is a lot of baggage from my abusive upbringing still affecting my marriage, one of the things my husband and I committed to doing is holding weekly marriage meetings. These have been incredibly beneficial for both of us. They have allowed my husband and I to communicate in a more risk-free way regarding my depression and anxiety but also other things happening in our marriage and relationship with each other. I would highly recommend the process to anyone! There is a whole book on it but you can also get started, like we did, from this quick and helpful explanation.
Depression is so real and so difficult to deal with, but I have found it is less daunting and actually has much less control over me when I am intentional and mindful about my daily practices. Sure I still have some pretty bad spikes, but not nearly as bad I was experiencing before making myself a priority and being more intentional with what I allow to reside in and take up my headspace.