Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Inching My Way Out of Depression

I Began to Inch My Way Out
. . . of Depression

“I began to inch my way out of it,” are the words I used to tell a friend about my recent depression. It lasted five long weeks, the worst of it for almost three of those weeks. It’s faded now and I see only slivers of that darkness at the edges of my peripheral vision. I don’t focus on them and instead gaze at the possibilities ahead of me, rather than dwell on those five weeks when I saw little beyond my closed bedroom door.
During the bleakest days, I told no one. I didn’t speak of my phase of darkness until I began creeping away from my bed, which was piled high with books to lure me away from the world.
My son, who lives with me, knew I was low, but I hid my feelings well. I used the excuse of little work and weariness from the oppressive Florida summer heat to stem any concerns he may have had regarding my long hours in my room.
At my lowest point, I stopped writing Morning Pages, which I had been doing almost daily since I read Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way fifteen years ago. I stopped all other writing. I made few to no phone calls, and when I answered those I received, I kept to the most trivial and mundane of subjects. I told people the cold that wouldn’t loosen its grip on me was the reason I didn’t feel well. (That cold likely contributed to the depression because physical illness often exacerbates emotional/psychological illness.)
I don’t remember much of what I did during those weeks beyond my absorption in Margaret Atwood novels, Anna Quidlen’s One True Thing, Sue Monk Kidd’s The Invention of Wings, Ken Follett’s World Without End, Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen by Syrie James . . . maybe a few more. I made some feeble efforts at nonfiction, like Oprah Winfrey’s What I Know for Sure, but those books reminded me that I wasn’t enough and hadn’t achieved enough and showed me so many paths to take that I became even more weary when I tried reading them. I couldn’t escape myself by reading self-help books, so I avoided them.
I know depression is serious and the best advice counsels us to get help. But when the sticky arms of despondence wrap around the depressed as they did around me, it’s hard to pry away our hands to reach for that help. It often isn’t even a consideration. It wasn’t for me.
What did help was the simple suggestion of changing my morning routine. It was what moved me out of my bed. The suggestion came up during a conversation that did not involve depression. It was about being in a rut and repeating the same behaviors. For years, I had fetched my morning coffee, after additions of chocolate, sugar, and milk, and returned to my room, where I wrote Morning Pages, read daily meditations, prayed, did yoga, and then showered, dressed, and started my day. In the depths of my depression, I still fetched my morning coffee, but I placed it on my bedside table, climbed back in bed, and started reading a book. I often stayed there for hours, leaving only to go to the kitchen to get more coffee, and then later in the day something to drink or eat, which I brought back to my bed.
My first inches away from depression were when I changed my morning routine and my feet took me and a cup of tea into the living room. It was then that I left my bedroom and started the process of leaving my depression. My early morning hours are now spent sitting—and writing—in a comfortable living room chair, a cup of tea on a table at my side. The sliding glass doors present a view of my yard, of orchids and hoyas hanging on the patio, of pine and palm trees at the edge of my property. Bird melodies tune my ears to the waking world.
Looking out those glass doors each morning began the gentle tug that pulled my psyche away from myself and my absorption in all that I feared and avoided in life. I no longer tucked my weary soul beneath the covers of my bed and between the pages of books.
Now that I am on my way to wellness, I shy away from hours in my room behind a closed door. I sleep and do yoga there. What I once considered a sanctuary I had turned into a hermitage. Like many other things in my life right now, I have put my bedroom in its proper place.

I am not a therapist, so if you or someone you love suffers depression, reach out; get help. However, I do believe we can do some simple things to help ourselves. My own counsel about inching away from depression follows:
If you are in bed, ask yourself two questions:
Is it bedtime?
Am I sick?
If the answer is no, then get up. You don’t have to run a marathon, paint a watercolor, write a novel, or clean the bathroom. The simple act of moving your body to another location is a valuable first step. It can be the beginning of inching your way back to wellness.

Aside from getting out of bed, an article I saw on Facebook also helped immensely. I was not contemplating suicide, and was not ready to give up, but I was darker than I have been in years. Please read the article and if you are having dark days of your own, take the suggestions to heart.

The original can be downloaded at the following URL:

I will share the next steps I took to inch my way out of depression tomorrow.

Note: I welcome comments, even private ones, especially because depression is not something we want everyone to know we experience. If you would like to speak further about this subject, please feel free to contact me at and we can communicate by e-mail or I will share my phone number. Be well. ~ Chris

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