Diary · Uncategorized

My Second Mind

I like to think I have two brains. One of my brains is rational, intelligent, happy, and confident. But my other brain is sick. I carry around my good brain as often as I possibly can, but more often than I like, my bad brain somehow manages to repeatedly throw my good brain under the bus.

So I have depression. I’ve had it for as long as I can remember, and it’s unique to me. It wasn’t until recent years that I was able to finally recognize it for what it is: an imbalance of chemicals that make me feel a certain way that is not influenced in any way by the actual happenings of my life.

I could go on and on about my depression, because I have analyzed it under a microscope for years. The short-story conclusion that I have come to is that I have two brains. The long-story conclusion is a story for another day. Anyways, I have a brain that is healthy, that makes me feel amazing and special and unique. And then I have a brain that is really sick, that makes me feel horrible about myself and my life.

Depression sucks because it’s an illness that can’t be seen from the outside. Those without depression pretty much never understand it when they see it in others. “Why don’t you just choose to be happy?” or “If you exercise more and take better care of yourself, you will feel better!” and, the big winner, “There’s nothing to be sad about.”

longfellow quote

Depression can’t be seen and it is not tangible. It is very personal and unique to the person who experiences it. I just wanted to tell others struggling with this disease of the mind that, it’s okay. It’s okay that you have depression, it’s okay if you can’t take care of yourself when you’re having an episode, it’s okay if you “don’t have anything to be sad about”.

My advice to you is to own it. Learn everything you can about yourself and your depression. Evaluate for yourself whether you need therapy or a psychiatrist. Take all the time in the world to build a plan for dealing with your depression. I have a plan for my own. It’s not perfect, but I recognize an episode when it’s coming on and I know it’s time to buckle down and get ready for a long, bumpy ride.

Ways I Deal With My Depression:
I talk to myself. I know that sounds crazy but I do. For instance, when I know I’m about to have an anxiety attack, I say to myself, “It’s okay. I’m okay. My life is good and this will pass.” When I lose myself and forget who I am, I tell myself, “I am alive. I am real. I matter and I have to keep going.” When I have irrational thoughts I say, “Is this real? Is this actually happening?” Talking to myself is very calming, even though I’m mostly only doing it in my head and not out loud.

I exercise. I know this is easier said than done, especially because most people with depression find it very hard and tiring to take care of themselves. I’m not saying that when I’m having an episode that I make it to the gym every day or I’m breaking my mile time. I just go outside. I walk around public parks with my boyfriend, or go for a short jog on the bike trail. I just do my best to get myself doing some type of physical activity. The endorphins go a very long way.

I try to tell my loved ones. This is a new development for me, as I am usually apt to keep it all inside and not tell a soul that I’m feeling sick. But I’m noticing that when I tell my best friend I’m having a hard time, she has no reason to hold it against me when I keep breaking plans with her. When my boyfriend knows, he understands and doesn’t make me feel badly for being easily irritated or acting on my insecurities. Honestly, keeping it inside of myself for all of these years has been the worst thing for my depression. But already I’m starting to see the benefits of just talking about it to the people I love. The most important one being that I don’t experience half of the guilt I normally do.

I go easy on myself. I’m not going to get a million things done every day, or eat super healthy, or keep my house spotless. I know it’s more realistic to give myself one task a day, eat one healthy meal a day, and clean one room a day. I take baths, I watch TV, I have ice cream. I treat myself with more respect and care than usual. Baby myself, if you will. I’m not ashamed of it. Somebody’s gotta do it when we feel like our brain is going to suffocate us, right? Self care can take the edge off.

I think it would be great if this helped anybody else. Even if you don’t have depression, hopefully this will give you a better understanding of what it’s like.

So, I have two brains. A good one and a bad one. The good one is great, I mean it’s a really stellar brain. Something to be proud of. My bad brain, it’s ugly and sick, but still worth caring for. It’s still valid and real and needs to be addressed. So look at your brains, see how many you have, and find a way to nurture each one.

all love, Hannah

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