For a long time (up until last year) I thought practicing self-love was impossible while dealing with depression and anxiety. I had no idea that you can experience both simultaneously. Practicing self-love & self-care during these rough patches are not full of frills and glamor, but are very subtle and extremely important. Showing yourself love at your lowest is what you need the most. It is imperative, actually. Dealing with mental health issues (which include more than just depression & anxiety, but may expand out to bipolar/manic-depressive disorder, schitzophrenia, etc), they do not give you a hand book on how self-love can be an integral piece of your coping mechanism(s).
I figured I would share a few things that I extend love to myself. The ways that I still practice self-love whenever I go through a depressive phase or have an anxiety attack are:
1. I do not beat myself up about it. I say, over and over in my head, “Do not feel guilty about dealing with these things. There is no need to be ashamed for what you are going through. It happens, and the happening is okay.” I do my best to practice gentleness with myself. Even though I would much rather NOT have to deal with this, I tell myself “In this moment, it is alright.”
2. I do my best not to fight it. What I have learned over the years is that fighting the depression/anxiety, trying to keep it bottled in, only makes it fight back and manifest in a worse way than it originally would have. I succumbed to it. I go with the flow. If the depression wants to rear its ugly head, I allow it. If tears want to fall from my eyes without ceasing, I allow them to come freely.
3. I listen to what I need. What my Spirit needs in that moment. I do not force anything. If I want to lay in bed, I do that. If I want to cry, I do that. If I feel extremely nauseous & don’t want to eat solid food, I do that. If I need to scream or growl, I let it out. If I do not want to be bothered with people and watch Grey’s Anatomy all day, I do just that.
4. I allow myself to feel. In the society that we live in, we are taught that we have to cope with stress, triggers, and the unpleasant by seeking things outside of ourselves. Often time we turn to other substances (alcohol, marijuana, drugs, food, ) We distract ourselves and dissociate from the pain, the discomfort. We force ourselves to be numb. How are we supposed to know how to maneuver through and out of what we are going through if we do not ever allow ourselves to go through it? I allow myself to feel everything.
5. I express what I am going through, genuinely. I explain to people what I am dealing with. Close friends, managers, family. No one can read my mind so if I do not tell them what is going on, they will not know. I let them know that I may be really quiet to day, I may not want to talk, or I might just cry again.
6. I do not rush my recovery period. I do not try to bounce back faster than I need to to make other people comfortable. I do not force my mind/body/spirit/soul to come back to “normal” before it is ready to do so. This means that sometimes I only need a few hours or a full nights sleep. Sometimes it means that I need days or weeks to withdraw from the world and recuperate.
7. I remind myself that even in my lowest and darkest times, I DESERVE LOVE. I still deserve love from myself and love from those outside of myself. Just because I feel week, I feel tired, I want to give up, and I can’t seem to find the sliver lining…that does not mean that I should not continue to be surrounded and lifted up by love. Most times when we go through a depressive or anxiety filled phase, we tend to think that love is some far off distant thing that cannot be near us because the negative energy that surrounds us dispels it. Love, in fact, surrounds us even when the negativity seems like a dense fog. Love never leaves. The depression and anxiety only makes it appear that love has left. Depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders are like wearing shades, a sun hat, and and umbrella all at once. Even though it seems darker, the sun is still shining, we just have a few things in the way that prevents us from seeing/experiencing it. Remember, LOVE NEVER LEAVES.
Also, I have been hearing a few key words as of late, which have been “Be soft” or “Be gentle with yourself”. They have meant a lot to me because I had a tendency of getting upset with myself for having an anxiety attack. For not being able to breathe, falling into a state of paralysis, and being out of commission for days when I came back. For being in a depressive state for longer than I wanted to because it was inconvenient to my life and those around me.
I will say that having supportive people around me has helped. I got rid of the toxic people who would make me feel worse for being in the state of mind that I was in (hello boundaries). For the past year or so, I have managed to have an inner circle that understands (to the best of their abilities) what I go through and do not force me to “just be happy”, not be depressed, or “stay positive”. All they do is hold space for me if I need it. At times, they simply sit there and listen, they give me their ear to listen or their shoulder to cry on. They do not make me feel like an inconvenience or a burden. My support team simply does not allow me to fall. They let me rest when I need to, take a break, cry, complain, shake, and yeah…but they NEVER let me fall.
Of course my usual herbal blends, baths (or just me sitting in the shower for up to an hour while the hot water bathes over my skin), & delicious meals help out, but the practices that I have listed are all things that I can do at any time because I do not have to look outside of myself or wait for a particular time or location to put them into use!
I hope that the few things that I do to show myself love and compassion through these times resonates with someone. It is not the easiest thing to do, but it is surely effective. Please do not forget that your dark times are when you need to be showed the most amount of love. Do not wait on someone outside of yourself to show you love, gentleness, or compassion first. People will only show you as much love as you show yourself. As you show yourself love, you learn what you like and do not like, what works and does not work. In doing this, you can effectively help others when it comes to helping you through your rough patches.