I’ve been depressed four times in my life.
The first was when I was at the tail end of my first trimester, pregnant with Makia.
The second was recovering from Covid the first time I had it, January 2022.
The third time was when I was at the tail end of my first trimester, pregnant with William.
The fourth time is now, recovering from Covid, round two.
Yes, I take pictures of myself when I’m feeling my worst. I don’t want to share just the highlights reel.
I feel incredibly grateful that this has been the total of my depression.
A few weeks total, four times total.
But that gratitude doesn’t show up when I’m actually ‘in it’, like now.
So, how do I diagnose depression in myself?
I feel mostly disinterested in everything I’m usually interested in, like cooking, writing, creating, working and parenting.
My mood swings up and down between impatience, irritability, sadness, anger, despair and even rage.
I have no energy! Like, none.
I’ve had the average amount of low-energy days over my lifetime, but mostly, I’ve had good, consistent energy and the tools to increase my energy when needed. Not having energy like this makes me feel powerless and weak.
I’m in a ‘survival’ state. Everything feels hard; my mind is foggy, my thoughts are racing, and I’m completely unable to be present.
And when all of these factors are at play, I tend to make things worse by making unhealthy choices.
I spend most of my time indoors, even though I feel better in the fresh air and sunlight.
Safe in my ‘cave’.
I eat more carbohydrates and chocolate, even though I know I feel better when I eat protein and less sugar.
I have literally eaten chocolate for lunch every day for a week.
I play the martyr, taking over tasks I could easily ask for help with, even though I know it feeds my old story of ‘Lauren has to do everything’.
I allow my thoughts to stay ‘stuck’, even though I know them and have the tools to change them.
I watch a lot of Netflix, even though I know that screen time makes me feel terrible.
I’m on season five of ‘Working Mums’, and I swear I only started watching it a week ago.
The reason why you didn’t get an email earlier in the week.
When I’m depressed, I have all the awareness in the world but none of the motivation to change anything, which makes things worse because I start telling myself that I ‘should’ be able to get myself out of it.
I’ve turned a corner today. I’ve made just enough good decisions to tip the scale in my favour.
Over the past two weeks, since I’ve been feeling this way, I’ve had a handful of cold water swims, dragged my ass outside for some sun, requested kind and restorative yin yoga sessions instead of Pilates and eased myself back into meal planning, shopping and exercising after a couple of weeks off.
Cold water is a great tool when you feel like shit.
Each healing choice has given me a slight energy boost, feeding my motivation to make more good choices.
And I’m finally feeling like myself again. Just!
And before anyone thinks to send a kind ‘Are you okay’ message, I want to share something with you.
Many years ago, I ran an event called The Travel Bootcamp. Most of the people on this email list came from our original database.
We ran events where we taught people how to get paid to travel from the perspective of a travel Instagrammer (me), travel blogger (Liz Carlson, Young Adventuress) and travel writer (Georgia Rickard, Editor at Large Virgin Australia).
During one particular event, we decided to sit down for a panel Q and A session to round out our presentations, and someone in the audience asked us collectively how we managed our mental health and feelings of worthiness.
Liz and Georgia gave thoughtful replies, having had experience with the subject.
But when the mic was passed to me, the girls laughed and said, ‘Lauren is always fine’.
I claimed it. I shared my experience of having perfect mental health with never a moment of self-doubt. As you can imagine, this didn’t resonate with a roomful of creative types looking to break into the travel industry.
The narrative that I was fine was shattered after I began my healing journey in 2018.
But back then, it’s not that I wasn’t feeling the full scale of the human experience; it’s that I wasn’t acknowledging it.
On a travel campaign in 2017. I remember feeling so ashamed of my weight but powerless to change. I didn’t know myself.
If I needed to disappear for a week, watch Netflix, and reject any connection, I did it. I was disassociating.
If I had an uncomfortable emotion in my body, I’d just go out for a piece of cake and ignore it.
I operated from autopilot and didn’t know the difference between feeling good and bad.
Looking back, though, I can say that I had plenty of good times, but the prevalent feeling I carried was anxiety, with a side serve of superiority and judgment.
These days, I am in touch with the human experience, the good and the bad.
There have been times over the past two weeks when I have felt so pissed off with myself. I want to shake myself and scream, FEEL BETTER!
And during those moments, I have had to consciously remind myself that feeling bad is okay. It’s okay to have low energy. It’s okay to experience feelings of impatience, irritability, sadness, anger, despair and rage.
I’ve had to remind myself that I am safe and that this, too, will pass.
The bad choices? They’re not okay. I’ve clawed myself out of this hole by making good choices.
This didn’t make me feel good.
But the initial state? The depression? The mood swings? They are what they are – energy in motion, a virus. The ultimate kindness when I’m in that state is to surrender.
Make good choices, surrender, make good choices, surrender.
Yesterday afternoon, Dreamboat and I left Pilates to pick up Makia from daycare. During our drive, Dreamboat asked, “Are you happy?”
I admit I felt a little frustrated. I’ve been telling him for the last two weeks that I’m depressed.
I was ALMOST triggered. I’m sure I would have been if I sensed a hint of superiority, but I could tell that his question came from a compassionate and concerned place. So, I let myself be curious.
Was I happy?
No. Not yesterday. And not much over the past two weeks.
Have I been doing what it takes to be happy?
Occasionally, yes. With every swim, sunset walk, nutritious meal, controlled emotional outburst (ask me about rage dancing one time, haha) and kind thought, I was.
But I was mainly allowing myself to wallow in it. Allowing the pattern, the cycle, to become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Feel like shit, eat chocolate, beat myself up, feel like shit, watch Netflix, feel guilty, become frustrated with myself, skip exercise, have no energy etc etc.
I’ve clawed myself out of this hole, one tiny decision at a time. And this morning, I can honestly say that I felt good. Let’s describe it as ‘mildly happy’.
I took my supplements, asked for help (both kids are really clingy at the moment), went for a walk, and stretched out on the grass in the sun for some kick-ass grounding.
Fuck. This felt AMAZING!
It’s too early to say I’m in the ‘all-clear’, but the fact that I felt like writing this speaks volumes.
When I’m showing up, I’m okay. (This is true for most people.)
So much of my happiness comes down to surrendering and making small, good choices.
It’s been three weeks tomorrow since I got sick. I don’t know what’s in this Covid or why more people aren’t talking about the fatigue, mood swings and depression associated with it, but it’s not a fun time.
If you’ve been sick this year, if you suffer from depression regularly, or if you have any condition that lowers your energy, I see you.
This, too, will pass.
Make small, good decisions.
** Originally shared to my email database on the 22nd of September, 2023 **