This one is going to be a little different, BetternessBaes.
When we introduced the idea of ‘now what,” the idea was to capture the stories of those who’d accomplished something, reached a milestone or arrived at a place -- all with the intention to give perspective on what life looks like on the other side of accomplishment.
But something happened over the course of the last few weeks. One of our own, a member of our team and ambassador of the Betterness brand, experienced something that invited her to share a different take on ‘now what.” It wasn’t an accomplishment, an aspirational milestone, or a postable moment. She collided head on with the reality of her mental health and after experiencing a depressive episode had to ask herself…now what?
Ironically or divinely, however you may deem it -- October is Depression Awareness Month. It’s been set aside to bring awareness to the ever-invasive condition that some struggle to understand. Depression doesn’t look the same on everyone, and its origin point varies. It’s biochemical for some, environmentally driven for others; some experience life occasion triggers that set off the episode -- it really is difficult to name how our why it happens, or how it’ll impact each person. For our girl -- let’s call her BB --she struggled to even give it language. She shared that while she knew that depression was real for some, she felt like she could outsmart it or push past the moment because she was aware enough to surmount it.
Not the case.
BB wanted to be honest about her experience and shared first hand what the last few weeks of her life have been like, how she’s coping and moving forward and…asking herself the question: now what?
My life moves fast. It always has because I’m a doer and a goer. But in this adulting thing, as I”m navigating relationships, work stuff, side hustles, dating (ha!), pet-parenting, working out, showing up for my folks, and trying to impact the world for good -- I’m generally busy. So feeling tired isn’t new to me. In September though, I started feeling exhaustion differently. Not only was my body tired after calendar-filled days, but I couldn’t find the energy to do anything. I was showing up for work, but my mind was cloudy. There were days where I felt like I was watching myself move through the day, but wasn’t sure if it was really even me. I’d get to the gym and become emotional. I’d look in the mirror and feel defeated. Nothing felt good, I couldn’t get excited, and I felt like every time I got a phone call or text, it was another thing I had to do. Everything felt heavy. And I struggled with admitting that because I’m a ‘happy’ person.
I remember clearing my throat and turning up the octave for certain phone calls because I didn’t want to be ‘that girl’. The one who folks always had to encourage or advise. I wanted to be the fun and bright one…that’s who’d people came to know and love, right? I wanted to be the friend who showed up when one of my girls needed me because that’s my brand. But I was finding it harder and harder. The toil of everyday made me sad, and I started slowly fading into a quiet space of resentment. Life felt hard. Questions felt accusatory. There was no joy to be found in anything.
I got quiet. I knew there were some responsibilities slipping but part of me felt like if I ignored it for just a bit, I’d hit my stride again. But then came shame. When I missed dates, or texts or took longer to get back to someone, I’d feel shame which would pull me back into isolation. It was a cycle: one feeling or thought led to an action (or inaction), I’d hole up, be less accountable, and then resent that I needed to explain myself. For a person with a people-pleasing tendency, it became hard to even step into any mixed-company space.
I’m a person of faith. I know the necessity of relying on God and the redemptive nature of His spirit. It’s been my lifeblood. The sacred space of prayer has been a balm my entire life. But I struggled to even get there. I didn’t feel like I had the right words or posture. I felt guilt for the patterns and decisions I made that triggered some of the loneliness and rejection that sent me into this episode. I felt, in some ways, responsible for the amount of sadness that I’d been feeling. So I was even isolated from the safest space I’ve ever known -- the presence of God.
It was a hard six weeks. I paid attention to the calendar because there was a quiet reminder that I’d hear from time to time that said -- it can’t be like this much longer. It just can’t.
Things started to shift a bit when I told a friend about what I was feeling. She encouraged me out of my weekly routine and one night, suggested that I meet she and another friend. I had work to do that night and didn’t want to face outside, but I obliged. We sat together on our individual computers and at times, said nothing. When I felt the courage to, I opened up a bit at a time. It was a short few hours, but it set the motion for me to begin saying what I was feeling; saying it opened up so much more compassion than I’d expected. And it started to shift things for me.
There’s more to this, including a trip that allowed me to break the routine and see anew, and a hard personal boundary that I had to draw to help protect my mind and spirit -- but I’ve gotten better. And each day feels a little less heavy. And while part of me realizes that I’m not out of the woods, I feel more equipped with support and less inclined to just be quiet. That’s major for me.
So, I experienced a depressive episode. Now what?
For me, I am telling the truth about it; wIthout looking for sympathy or excuses for absent behavior…I’m just saying what it is. I am reconnecting to the source of strength that, for me, only comes when I’m communing with God. I am proactively pursuing spaces that fill my joy cup. I’m showing up when I can, and not when I feel obligated to. I am doing less, expressing when I’m at capacity, and trusting that there are other options and people to call on when things need to get done. And you know what else? Some days ‘done’ won’t happen. And that’s okay too.
I am being kind to myself. Allowing others to do the same. Taking my time and believing that I deserve to thrive.
BetternessBox is a proponent of your health and wholeness and encourages you to get the help that will achieve and maintain your wellness. We invite you to learn more about the symptoms, impact, and treatment of depression via the National Institute for Mental Health.