Depression Toolkit #10: Enlarging the bubble

bubble-sherwood_reflection_01

Each day new things happen. Yesterday I got to a supermarket long enough to buy ingredients for baking. Then I got home and had nothing left in me to do the baking, but I am happy that it can happen another day. To get around the supermarket I spent rather a long time assessing the Lego for sale there. It wasn’t the first time. We now have most of the cheapest items of Lego available at a certain store.

It’s like I’m in a bubble.

On some difficult days the bubble allows one tiny step at a time. Look in drawer. Pick up teaspoon. Stir tea. Put spoon down. Think…? Milk! Find milk. Pour milk. Put milk back. And so on. Thankfully these moments are getting less frequent.

I want my bubble to be bigger. It distorts my view of the world around me and is slowing me down. It can get as tight as my head sometimes, not even allowing my limbs to do anything but tremble. I refuse to be fragile.

So I am pushing the bubble. Having discovered that I mustn’t push it too hard, I am cautiously allowing myself small successes, and each time I am aware of the progress I make I mentally congratulate myself. Then I stop and regroup before the next push. If I have a visitor I tell myself ‘well done’. If I prepare a meal and eat it with the family too I remind myself I have achieved something. If I resist the urge to stay up late into the night playing on the computer I smile a bit inside. I am not going to achieve everything, but every time I achieve something it is one more success and worth being satisfied about.

The pattern I do is something like this:

  • live in the immediate moment
  • decide to do something
  • do it and keep at it for as long as I can
  • tell myself ‘I did it’
  • immediately distract myself to a new task or rest activity (so as not to become self-critical)

That way I can build up a reserve of positive mental charge.

As I get better and am able to function more I imagine the bubble will enlarge to include more and more activities and socialising. I will be able to get out for longer, to plan ahead more and to start assessing and addressing themes in my thinking patterns which led to my mental decline. In time I want to be able to find ways to change wrong ways of thinking in my head and about myself, but I am aware I cannot do all that immediately as it would mean focusing on negative things, which usually goes something like this:

  • a negative thought
  • realising what kind of negative thought it was (regret, fear, anxiety, worry, etc)
  • recalling in quick succession many other negative thoughts of the same type
  • not being able to stop the tape in my head
  • spiralling into a tangle of half-thoughts which make me guilty, angry and scared but which achieve nothing
  • withdrawing further and shrinking the bubble

So I am actively resisting all sorts of negativity. If I am looking for funny things on the computer I avoid things which will possibly hurt my feelings. If I am choosing to watch a programme I will avoid anything with an edge (someone recommended ‘Long Lost Families’ as a happy one to me, and I realised I could not watch it as I’d be so upset about the missing years in the middle). If the children are heading towards winding me up (they know best how to press my buttons) I walk away so someone else can fix it or use one of several tactics which have worked in the past (distraction works well for Joe as he’s 3, and calming and listening to Lily is best as she’s 5 and a half now). If my patience has been especially worn down I park one of us in front of the TV and regroup.

So the bubble is being pushed. And I am not doing this alone. I am inspired by others’ stories and by God’s grace and companionship. Because one day that bubble is going to burst.

 

BUBBLE-BURST

Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, ‘Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.’ And God granted his request.
1 Chronicles 4:10
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