How an offhand comment can trigger a depressive episode

I had a low day on Friday. I’ve had a persistent headache and fatigue for a few months now and a head cold on Friday brought out the worse of it. I’ve lived with depression for eight years now so I know when to have a day off to take it easy. Friday started with a 2 hour struggle to get out of bed. It was one of those days.

When I’m in these low moods my obsessive nature and harsh internal self critic can get completely hooked on little comments that people make. This blog is a reflection on this internal thought process to help you understand what might be going through a depressed person’s head.

The comment

In conversation someone mentioned something about, “… being a big girl”, it was related to me being able to look after myself. I responded with “I use to be a lot bigger” and someone else in the conversation added, “keep away from the pork and you’ll stay that way”. In the moment I didn’t think anything of it. But my obsessive nature got hooked and over the afternoon I couldn’t let it go.

The obsession

I became completely obsessed over everything I had eaten recently infront of said company. I replayed the dinner we had recently over and over and over in my head. I counted every calorie, it came out to about 2000KJ and 10gm of protein. Then my internal harsh critic got on board. It starting saying to me, “you are fat, lazy good for nothing, completely worthless, you should just curl up and die”. So now there was a battle going on in my head, the obsessor just going over and over and the critic telling me I’m worthless. Normally these thoughts aren’t that loud but they get overwhelming on low days.

My obsessor wanted to figure out how to write a response to those comments. This blog post is an attempt at pleasing the obsessor because I am still thinking about it after 4 days.

Good intentions

I know those comments come from good intentions, people say these things because they care. The only nutritional goals I stick too (under the advice of my weight loss clinics nutritionist) is to get 60gm of protein a day and to take my daily multivitamin. I’ve had a lifetime of people commenting on my weight. I thought I had developed a thick skin for it, obviously I hadn’t. Or maybe it just hurts more the closer to home it is?

Self Compassion

I’m at a stage now where I can try to practice self compassion (I try but it’s hard). I would catch these thoughts and tell myself, “that’s not a very nice thing to say Sam, you are one of most proactive people I know. You are so far from lazy and worthless it isn’t funny. Look, you even had lunch with someone who thanked you for your help with their CV recently and they are starting a new job soon because of you. Remember that Buddhist monk on youtube? Try and practice letting go.” Here is the youtube video I was thinking of:

How to be supportive

If someone has opened up about their mental health and they raise something like this with you, please don’t feel like you need to censor yourself. That is stressful and not healthy. Often when these things come up for me, I never raise them with the person who caused the trigger because I know deep down it’s just my mind overreacting. So being open and empathetic if someone does raise this is all I ask for.

Please be mindful of how your words can hurt. It reminds me of the common rhyme about sticks and stones I was told about as a kid. Here’s my new version:

Sticks and stones may break my bones 

But harsh words from a loved one

Can make me wish I was dead

I’m grateful I’ve never been suicidal but I still live with this kind of depression on a fairly regular basis. My partner has probably seen me go through about 4 or 5 episodes now over a 2 year period.

I’m grateful I can be this open about this huge cause of internal stress. A lot of people who struggle with similar things aren’t as blunt as I am and keep the struggle to themselves.

Mental Heath Update

I haven’t blogged about mental health for a while. Here’s an update on where I’m at. Overall; this week I’m feeling good. I’ve been experiencing a reasonable amount of fatigue/change recently which has made the last two weeks a little low.

Breakdown at the bus stop

reference

I had a mental breakdown at a bus stop a week ago because I was tired, cold, wet and was stuck waiting in the rain for bus for 15 minutes. I just cracked it, I’d had enough. I needed a good cry. Getting overwhelmed with emotions is fine, for me I just need to watch out when that sensation sticks around all day. This feeling didn’t stick around all day. So that’s some progress atleast.

Mindful Eating Practice

reference

I visited my psychologist yesterday morning to talk about developing a mindful eating practice. I will be using an app called Recovery Record to track my food and mood over the next two weeks and this will be shared with them, I will also be putting aside one meal a day to practice mindful eating. Mindful eating is where you practice dedicating all of your senses to the act of eating; what do you smell, feel, hear, see, think and taste while you eat? Can you take as much time as you need to really enjoy your meal? Can you practice dedicating all of your focus to eating rather than being distracted by everything else?

Meditation Practice

reference

Two weeks ago I started doing a meditation course with Nicho Plowman, one of the owners of Insight Timer (the company I’m working for). It’s a Vedic Meditation practice that is suitable for a busy lifestyle. It’s a silent mantra based and we are meant to keep up a 20 minutes twice a day routine. I’m currently meditating on the bus to work, in the evening in the office and wherever else I can get the time. I attempted meditation at the hair dressers when my partner was getting their hair cut. I didn’t exactly get a deep meditation but that’s the point of practicing in these loud and distracting environments. I had some negative emotions come up when I started, I would be overwhelmed with thoughts that would bring tears to my eyes but it’s not happening as much now. I’m generally keeping up the practice (I forgot completely to meditate on Sunday). I’m enjoying putting aside the time for it. I had been meaning to establish a meditation routine for ages.

Do you have a meditation or mindfulness routine? What works for you?

my mindfulness stuff

I gave a short 5 minute talk about my depression in front of my whole company 2 weeks ago. I’ll take this opportunity to share what helps me try to practice mindfulness. Mindfulness and cognitive behavioural therapy is part of my treatment. It might not necessarily work for you but I think seeking professional help is a good step.

I try to meditate for 10 minutes a day at least 3 times a week. It’s small achievable goal for me that doesn’t make me feel overwhelmed and I don’t beat myself up over it if I don’t achieve it. The beating myself over it is something that I’ve had to unlearn. During this mindfulness session I try to focus on my breathing, the sensations around my nose and lungs, I might focus on my senses or focus on other parts of body.

I try to be mindful when having my morning cup of coffee, I find short black coffees help encourage this. I can explore the flavours, move the coffee around my mouth and explore different sensations, what is the after taste like? what does the crema look like? how does it smell? What type of roast do I think the beans are? These are all things I can explore with my coffee.

I have also been wearing a spire for nearly 3 months. The spire is a piece of wearable tech that monitors my breathing and is connected via bluetooth with my phone. It tells me when I’m being calm, focused, stressed or active.

Here are some screen shots of the app and an image of the device:

More info https://www.spire.io/

Have you noticed the mindful colouring books that seem to be popping up every where? I thought I would buy one and see what my spire would record while I coloured. It measured a calm streak while I coloured. The colouring book that I bought was a game of thrones themed book at least, I didn’t really like all of the over promising of the mindfulness colouring books.

I enjoyed Ruby Wax’s talk on Mindfulness

So if something might help people be more calm and mindful in their day to day life, why not give it a shot? Is there anything you try to keep mindful?