As I mentioned, I've dealt with this most of my adult life. I've developed dozens of coping mechanisms that get me through each winter (which is when my depression is its most severe). Those mechanisms include:
- Light-at-end-of-tunnel therapy. I play a trick on my mind on February 1. I start to imagine March 1 is a finish line and I'm on mile 23 of a marathon. I know that so long as I can remember that there are less than 28 days until the end of meteorological winter, my mind instantly starts to perk up.
- Make-overs. By the time January/February hits I'm usually as pasty as a ghost, my hair is stringy and I've lost all interest in looking "pretty." I've always been the type that believes in make-over therapy so I start finding a new hairstyle or make-up tricks. By the time my next bullet item rolls around, I've usually accomplished one or all parts of a make-over and the cloud lifts a little more.
- Birthday celebrating. It doesn't help that my birthday falls right in the middle of the deepest part of my depression cycles. But, I'm true to my lemon/lemonade personality and instead of getting even more upset, I've always been a birthday celebrator. I'll throw parties, have people over, go out, etc. The celebrating always tends to cheer me up.
- The Happy List. I've written these things since I was in college. My Happy List contains a long list of things I like or like to do that make me happy which, when you're depressed, often are forgotten. My list contains things like "Crochet. Do nails. Bubble bath. Read. Get lost in bookstore. Watch movies., etc."
I do realize that a happy list won't fix depression, nor will a make-over. However, I also know myself well enough to know that my depression is mostly seasonal and is typically set off by other stressors going on in my life. My brain knows this. Trying to get the rest of me to cooperate requires help. And what I do need is what we call in my family a "map maker."
Depressionland is actually what I call this state of mind I'm in right now. Bear with me as explain...
In my overly creative brain, Depressionland is like a huge forest with a giant road around it. The road is my life. I try to stay on track, and am pretty good at doing so most of the time. Every once in a while, though, the road has icy spots which send me careening into this forest (aka, Depressionland). Once I'm in Depressionland, I panic and I can't figure out how to get out.
Usually, my mom, my mother-in-law, my husband and/or my husband's ex (what a cast of unusual suspects, eh?) are the ones who help get me out of the forest and back on my road. However, there are times when the my helpers are also my stress-makers. And that's when things get bad.
So....and here's where I sound less crazy....I need a mapmaker to help me figure out how, when I'm lost again, I can get back out without panicking.
My ideal mapmaker is a counselor or therapist. Unfortunately right now because of the recession and the major loss of jobs and stresses on people's lives, therapists and counselors are extremely busy and difficult to schedule. Did I also mention that they cost money?
Money is not an excuse for why I don't go. It's a legitimate concern. My husband and I both work in industries that are on shaky ground. We're cutting costs all around us -- groceries, activities, etc. -- to make sure we can survive if one or both of us loses a job.
Admittedly, this stress is one of the factors to my depression, but it's happening for a lot of people so I'm not alone.
I'll call the hotline to get an assessment and I'll hope that I can be fit in to someone's schedule in the near future. Although, and this is the tricky part, the depression fades as the snow melts and even now I can start to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I'll keep you all posted on my quest to find a mapmaker and my escape from Depressionland.