While it’s technically still winter, the clear blue skies and 75 degree weather have lifted the dense fog I’ve been living in that was caused by seasonal depression. I get regular depression, but something about gloomy weather just makes it harder than normal to get out of an episode. But the fact that the trees have already bloomed and my allergies are killing me means that is spring and winter is over, which I am grateful for because my seasonal depression took a serious toll on me this year.
In all fairness, I was already feeling down going into my predictable seasonal depression time of year. I had just made a lot a big decisions and was feeling insecure about my choices. Just normal quarter-life crisis stuff, ya know? I quit my job without another one lined up, I moved from Sacramento back to the Bay, and I re-homed my dog. I thought I was adjusting and would soon be out of this funk, but next thing I knew it was getting very dark and cold at like 5 pm. What kind of shit is that? Instead of getting out of my funk, the weather prolonged my depressive episode, which lasted from August to March.
This wasn’t the really dark and scary depression I experienced in 2020. I wasn’t experiencing suicidal ideation and I wasn’t non-stop crying, so I never felt alarmed by this episode. I could feel the weight of it progressing and I didn’t do anything to try and stop it. I can’t explain why, but I essentially embraced it. I didn’t have the energy or discipline to try any of the tactics I’d been working on to lessen the burden of my depression. I stopped going to therapy, I stopped working out, I stopped writing, I stopped doing everything besides the bare minimum. I was still going to work, and besides feeling slightly more irritable than normal, it didn’t impact my performance. I remained lightly social. I still saw and spoke to my inner circle, but I was completely unresponsive to anyone outside of that circle.
One of my best friends told me about the “Spoon Theory.” Pretty much, you start the day with a certain number of spoons and tasks that you do throughout the day cost a specific number of spoons to complete. I’m assuming these are spoonfuls of energy. I thought a lot about this theory while I was depressed. I started to imagine how many spoons I had at the start of my day and how many spoons everything I did cost. As time went on, I started each day with fewer spoons and the simplest tasks (i.e. putting on cuticle oil) became too expensive for my spoon budget. Some days I felt like I was starting with negative spoons. I’d wake up realize this dilemma and think about how much being depressed fucking sucks.
I can’t explain the exhaustion and frustration I feel on the days where I have to force myself out of the bed and into the world. To make it through a day like this, I have to force myself to do everything actually. At work I have to force myself to be friendly and professional. I have to force myself to eat lunch and drink water so that my coworkers don’t become concerned. I have to force myself to respond to texts from my friends and family so they don’t become concerned. I have to force myself to walk from my car into my apartment after using all my spoons to get through work. I force myself to take a shower because I know I’ll only feel worse if I don’t. At this point, I’ve started borrowing from the next day’s supply of spoons.
For months, I went to work, came home and watched TV on the couch for several hours, and then went to bed to do it all over again the following day. This was the routine my spoons would allow. I felt like the world was going on around me and everyone was moving forward but I was stuck on my couch not moving at all. I have seriously never watched so much TV. We’re talking about five hours on weekdays and 10 hours or more on the weekends of straight TV.
While I wasn’t initially alarmed by this brand of depression, the longer it lasted the more unbearable it became. I didn’t want to spend my life rotting on my couch while watching one of my comfort shows, Gilmore Girls, but I didn’t care to do anything else. Things that I know I love to do, like walking or hiking, I could’t get myself to do. It didn’t even sound appealing anymore. I would try to do one of my hobbies whenever I had the extra sprinkle of energy needed to get it done, and instead of it resulting in me feeling better, I would feel frustrated it didn’t make me feel anything. Tired maybe, but nothing positive.
Cooking? Well now I have to do the fucking dishes and remember to eat the leftovers AND clean the kitchen. Definitely not worth it. Reading? Not worth it because I am just going to get frustrated with myself for not being able to concentrate and having to read the same page over and over again until I drive myself insane and give up. Journal? I can’t think of a single word worth writing down.
After a while of all the things I normally enjoy doing being frustrating or boring, I started to wonder what the fuck was wrong with me. Did I ever actually like doing any of those things? If I genuinely did like doing those things, why don’t I now? Again, what the fuck is wrong with me? And if I’m being honest, I don’t even care about whatever show I’m binge watching during this time. But laying on my couch for five hours straight staring into space didn’t seem like a place I wanted to be, so I kept the TV on.
If there was a stronger word for apathetic, this is what I was for eight months. Somewhere around month three I realized that not feeling anything at all was just as terrifying as the deep waves of sadness I was accustomed to when I was depressed. I was ignorant to think that feeling numb was going to be better than when I felt worthless. Honestly, I don’t think I have the vocabulary to explain the discomfort of being numb for an extended period of time. I started to wonder if people only commit suicide when experiencing the sadness and hopelessness of being depressed. Maybe people commit suicide while experiencing this part of depression? Would I be one of those people? I would do anything not to be.
I even googled “how to induce a manic episode” in hopes of ending the void I was trapped in. I would rather suffer the consequences of my mania than continue to lay on my couch feeling absolutely nothing. The google search didn’t help and I continued to wonder if what I was feeling would get to the point I wouldn’t be able to bear it anymore. Somehow being able to trace when this episode started made it harder. I knew it started in August because it started right after I moved into my new apartment. My most educated guess is that it happened within the first 2-3 weeks from when I moved. Knowing this information made things worse. I would think, “here I am, four months strong in this hell.” As each month passed, I became convinced it wasn’t going to end.
But then the days started getting longer, warmer, and brighter.
February blessed me with enough sunny days to start getting some of my spoons back. I decided not to waste these spoons, but to be thoughtful with how I used them. I decided I was going to use them to do everything I could to get out of this depressive episode. I moved back home with my parents and I gave myself a few weeks to unpack and settle in before I started working on getting a healthy daily routine back in place.
I started with going on a 30 minute walk after work a few days a week. Now I go for a walk six times a week. I listen to the Serial podcast and soak up as much sun as I can. On the weekends, I walk longer and end my walk by grabbing some coffee with a pastry. A little treat for being out in the world. After my walks, I shower and then do my whole skincare routine. For the last eight months, I only cleansed. Now I cleanse, spray on toner, and then apply serum and moisturizer. Anytime I complete all of the steps in my skincare routine, I think that Jonathan Van Ness would be proud.
Each day gets sunnier and I add more layers onto my routine. The more I stick to my routine, the better I feel. The better I feel, the more time I make for hobbies and self-care. For a long time, I only had energy to go to work, watch TV, and sleep. Those were also the only things I had interest in doing. Thanks to my routine, I fill my days with activities that benefit me. At first, they felt like doing chores. Now I genuinely look forward to doing them. When I am at work, I look forward to going home to listen to the next episode of Serial while I go for a walk.
Last Saturday, I was sitting in the backyard after an hour walk and a trip to Crema for coffee. It was a prefect day and I was laying on my beach towel in the sun, listening to music, and journaling. It was in that moment that I realized I felt like me again. I finally felt comfortable, or maybe normal is a better word. I don’t know if I beat this thing or the sun did, but either way it was finally over.
I don’t ever want to take being in a good headspace for granted. I’m actively trying to protect this not-depressed state. To try and maintain my positive mindset, I’ve been ending everyday with a simple gratitude exercise. After I put on my cuticle oil (finally back in the routine, babyyy!), I write down three things I am thankful for. Since I’ve started practicing gratitude daily, I have felt more optimistic. I’ll occasionally catch myself thinking ahead and worrying about my next depressive episode or next winter. Instead of worrying about falling back into a depression, I try and shift my focus on the positive things going on in my life and all of the things I have to look forward to– starting with girls trip to LA for a music festival, followed by more concerts with more friends, and then, the most exciting thing coming up, the birth of my brother’s first kid. After a long period of nothingness, I’m going to make the most out of these good days and I’m going soak up as much sunshine as possible before it goes away again.