Dear Future Brain,
It’s been some time since you’ve been where I am, and I wanted to remind you of some lessons I’ve recently learned about depression and self-care.
1. You matter.
I hope that by the time you’re reading this, you sincerely believe this one. I know that we often get lost in existential quicksand. Try to remember that the things you think are indicators of an inconsequential existence can be viewed just as easily as miraculous and precious. Yes, the lifespan of a human being is practically instantaneous in comparison to the existence of the universe. And yes, multi-cellular life may have arisen by accident. But consider this: the fact that you are here, a teeming community of human and bacterial cells piloted by a blob of electrified tissue, is pretty incredible.
2. Listen to your body.
It’s not always easy. In fact, I’m learning that it usually feels like I’m guessing. If this is something you’ve lost touch with, refresh your memory of #1. Natural selection may have screwed you over when it comes to the arrangement of your food pipe and your air pipe (thank you, epiglottis), but it did ok when it came to your nervous system. Yours in particular may be a little out of whack, but it still keeps you alive. Try not to discount your body; it probably knows what it’s doing.
3. You require deliberate (and likely extra) self-care.
Because listening to your body doesn’t come easily, it’s important for you to make an effort to hear it. If that means being a hermit for a few hours every afternoon, so be it. Hopefully you’ve got this one mastered and it feels more natural, but if you still have to work at it, that’s ok. It’s worth it.
4. Depression does not make you a burden.
5. Needing medication is not shameful.
I know, you were mortified when you had to get a bigger pill organizer because you couldn’t fit all your pills for depression in your old one (to be fair, those vitamins are freaking huge). And every time you fill a new prescription, you worry that the pharmacist thinks you’re a nut, but I assure you, she doesn’t.
6. Movement is wonderful.
It’s easy for us to be sedentary for way too long, and since we’re a creature of habit, breaking out of that pattern is tough. Take my word for it though; moving makes you feel better.
P.S. exercise doesn’t have to be difficult.
7. Seek meaningful connection.
Being isolated is tempting, and it’s necessary at times, but it doesn’t serve you in large doses. Whether it’s maintaining your existing relationships or reaching out to someone new, social connection is a vital component of your happiness.
8. Keep growing.
Growth takes lots of forms, and it’s not always about taking a big risk. Stick your toe outside of your comfort zone every once in a while, and believe me when I say that you’re more than capable. If you don’t stretch yourself, your comfort zone will just keep shrinking.
9. Practice gratitude.
This is not to say that your pain is invalid because of the positive parts of your life. Instead, acknowledging the things that you’re thankful for can make the tough stuff a little easier.
10. Have hope.
Depending on where you’re at, this may seem like a meaningless platitude. If that’s the case, I don’t think I can convince you to believe it. Someone once told me that they’d hold the hope for me, so for now, I’ll hold the hope for you. You from the past is rooting for you. You’ve got this.