As some frequent readers have noticed, my output has been somewhat reduced over the last few weeks. Whenever that happens (and it happens a few times a year at least), there is usually more than one reason. This month is packed with travel, as I will head out to the west coast two weekends in a row (after being in Lancaster, PA this past weekend, more on that later).
Being busy is one thing. We’re all “busy”, aren’t we? Another could be classic “writers block”. I do not force myself to write when staring at a blank screen.
However, this space has always been a vehicle to express whatever conversation I’m having internally, to get it out and search for other souls. For the last couple months, I’ve been hesitating to have that conversation.
Astute listeners and readers will know that I have been treated for depression and anxiety since 2017. Just re-reading that last sentence made me cringe. Why deflect with “treated”?
I am anxious, I am depressed. Like most people, sometimes it is better than others. I am drawn to behaviors that sometimes exacerbate both. Posting content on social media can be such a joy when you find out that you’ve touched somebody across the world. But the often toxic conversation there, though I pride myself on having “thick skin” for, still really hurts.
Also, many things that help me to succeed can turn on me in instant. It’s good to be demanding of yourself, to set high expectations. You can easily do too much of both.
When I am anxious, I tend to worry about every single word I type enough to make writing impossible. When I am depressed, even something like answering a phone call from a friend feels like torture.
I thought I’d write this now because I’m doing a little bit better, and because I talk to a lot of coaches who experience similar dips. Here are a few ways I’ve worked through this particular dip:
Exercise: One vicious cycle I often encounter when I’m depressed goes as follows. I feel terrible about myself, so I medicate with food. Over-eating makes me feel worse, and then my motivation level drops to the point where I don’t want to work out.
In December I joined a cardio kick-boxing gym. The first workout absolutely rocked my world. It had been over a decade since I had worked out with other people, and although I “exercised” most days, there was almost no intensity in what I did.
Getting started with anything like that is very difficult when you’re depressed, but if you can get some escape velocity with it, just moving and pushing your body works wonders.
Honesty with friends: You know what’s a huge relief? When you, as I described above, don’t even want to pick up the phone when your friend calls, being able to tell them exactly that. “I’m depressed and I don’t want to talk right now” is a huge load off your shoulders.
In the past year or so, I’ve worked to cultivate more friendships (and commit to old friends) where I can just admit things and take an emotional load off.
When you withdraw, as I often find myself doing, you deny your true friends an opportunity to be empathetic and help you, and you also signal to them that they should do the same.
Parenting: So here’s an interesting paradox. There is no doubt that having young kids, and the stress thereof, definitely contributes to my illness. But it is not a one-sided equation, not by a long shot.
I’ve come to learn that it is very hard for to me maintain some of my deepest, most negative thoughts while I’m truly present with my children. How can I feel worthless when my eight month old boy flashes me a grin just for the sake of it? I struggle to maintain my worries when I’m snuggling my five year old daughter after a day of school, listening to her tell me about whatever.
The one obvious thing missing from my list above: therapy. I was going quite regularly up to December, and perhaps it’s not a surprise that I regressed a bit when that stopped. My wonderful therapist retired, and like the end of any relationship, I’m having a little trouble putting myself back out there.
I believe in therapy and mental health professionals in general, so I would be remiss if I didn’t resume that eventually.
If some or any of this sounds like you, you are very much not alone, particularly among coaches. Finding processes that work for you is incredibly important to survive the low points of life.