I received a very heartfelt request for advice, and I’m going to do my best to offer some tonight. The question was in response to my Living For You post. Here is the question:
“I don’t exactly know why I’m responding to this specific post or at all, but this idea about living for you (or in my case myself) has been my biggest struggle. I’ve been dealing with my depression and suicidal thoughts since elementary school and i mainly stifled it by throwing everything i am into other people (on top of other things) But on my own I’ve been trying to do more for me and I’m not sure how i can balance it out because when i focus on me, i tend to do things that aren’t healthy, like drinking and pain killers and sex outside of my serious, committed relationship . I can feel myself regress and i can tell I’m pulling away from people again. It just feels like I’m incapable of taking small steps to being a self sustaining individual. I’m scared to be in that really dark place again. I just want to know how you’ve taken those steps for you and strategies you may have been using to cope. i just don’t want to end up tearing apart my skin and thrown into a hospital again. … I’ve just been struggling to do the same thing you’re struggling with for years and it always ends bad. advice? “
First of all, I’m sorry that you’ve been going through so much – especially from such an early age. When we get accustomed to feeling bad, it can be difficult to break the pattern. The pathways in our brains that connect these poor feelings become overused and it can be difficult to form new, happier pathways (A doctor explained this to me. I’m no neuroscientist). But you’ve already decided that you want to feel better, and that’s the most important part. Because you want to feel good, you deserve to feel good. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done in the past, who you’ve slept with, what you’ve had to drink, what pills you’ve taken. You deserve it.
There are a few steps you can take to cope with those dark feelings. First, determine what your triggers are and avoid them as best you can. Some triggers, like homework, can’t be avoided. Give yourself permission to ease up on these ones. Digest them in small bites, and reward yourself when you handle the situation in a healthy way. Second, find positive influences. Maybe it’s a new person you’re getting to know, a TV show that makes you really happy, or a blog that inspires you. Enjoy these peaceful elements of your life. Third, trust yourself with small responsibilities. Show yourself how good, kind, and helpful you are. Make one of those cheesy lists of positive things about yourself and hang it up in your room. Read it every day. Make a list of reasons you want to stay alive, why you want to fight for a healthy tomorrow, and hang that list up too. Fourth, take care of yourself – physically and mentally. Try a new type of exercise (of course I’ll recommend yoga), take a long bath, talk to someone you trust. If you feel comfortable, talk to your doctor/psychiatrist/therapist and revise your treatment plan. It might turn out that you need medication or that you need medication adjusted. In my situation, my depression had lasted for so long that I needed medication to get my chemical levels back to normal.
I understand your concern about focusing on yourself. Instead of thinking of “focusing on you” as doing whatever you want or whatever feels good, think of it as doing what you need to do to take care of yourself. It’s not always fun to focus on yourself, but in the long-run, it will get you farther.
When you focus on yourself, when you are working hard towards being healthy and happy, good things will start to happen. I’m not promising miracles, but you’ll start to notice changes in yourself. You’ll have more confidence in your health and in your decisions. For the first time in a while, (at least for me) you won’t be afraid to be yourself. You’ll finally be able to spread your wings and enjoy life. This is the best part. This is your reward.
At this point in time, I feel like I’m just starting to poke out my little wings and test the air. I’ve discovered what I really love – creating digital content – and I’m pursuing it. I still have tough, moody days. It’s a struggle, but I’m already getting a taste of how fun and meaningful life can be, too.
I hope this answers your question and helps you out. Remember, you deserve to feel good. It sounds kind of funny to say, but it’s true. You’re a human, and that’s one of your rights.