I’ve already told you I struggle with yelling at my kids, why not tell you details of my Seasonal Affective Disorder? Let's do this.Last winter was no good, no good at all. I felt trapped and sad and anxious and depressed. Blah. It was the worst. There are no fond feelings for winter 2010. Then spring came! Yay! We had a great summer with loads of fun, and then the leaves started to turn. I love fall. Who doesn’t love fall? But I could feel anxiety starting to bubble inside because of the impending cold, horrible, nasty season ahead. The thought of another winter full of crying, yelling, sad, and all-day-in-bed days literally scared me to tears…ironically. I didn't want a repeat of last winter's SADness.
I realized that the change was in my hands, I was the only person who could make things different for this winter. So I prayed, I fasted, I talked to my super supportive husband and therapeutic friend. My final impressions were to:
1. Keep busy doing things I enjoy doing and don’t feel guilty when I say no to things I don’t want to do. I made a Winter Survival Guide and have been keeping on top of all the fun things, especially the arts-n-crafting <--- (shameless linkage to my winter crafting because, you guys! I'm really proud of my Mod Podging!)
2. Make sure I do the essential spiritual things EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.
3. Put on my dusty logical hat and figure out what my depression triggers are and track my moods.
Bloom Friends, number 3 is what I want to talk to you about. It has been the saving grace of all saving graces. Can I tell you why?
When I’m in a funk, I can never really figure out why and how I got there. It’s discouraging and feels like I have no control over my emotions. This is why tracking triggers was so important. Figuring out what pushes me to feel depressed would help me actually have control over how I was feeling. So I made a list of any possible triggers; ranging from PMS, to hours of sleep, to what the weather was like.
Another thing that makes me question my emotional stability is when I’m down, I feel like I’ve been down foooorrrever. When I’m up, I’m in complete denial that I was ever sad. (Yep, I’m an All or Nothing type). Coming up with a way to track how many sad days and happy days I had was pretty much essential to this whole experiment.
That’s when I was inspired to start a chart. Down the left side: all my triggers. Across the top: the days of the month. That way if it really got bad enough and I needed to see a doctor for treatment, I could come in with my chart and say, “look, I really am crazy.”
February's chart waiting to be filled with my emotions
A few things I’ve learned during a month of mood tracking: PMS, forgetting my morning prayer, lack of sleep, and feeling distress do way more damage to my emotional state than eating poorly, no sun on the skin, or not exercising (who knew? Now I do!). I’m no physiologist, but looking back on January, I was pretty normal...I think: a few sad days (caused by said triggers), ample happy days, and mostly days of feeling even-steven – not super happy, not super sad. My conclusion for January: SAD, I kicked your butt before you could kick mine! Booyah!
And to all y’all who are thinking, wow, Abbie, this looks like a lot of work. Worth every second! Seriously, doing this has been month changing. Winter changing. Life changing! I plan to keep it up until…well, maybe forever.
So, here we are at the doorstep of February, historically the worst month EVER. I’m hoping that all this tracking will give way to a good February with mostly happy/even-steven days. And when I have a sad day, I know it’s not going to last forever and I’ll actually have the proof. Yay for logical hat wearing!
Thanks for letting me bare it all once again, Bloomers!
Editor's post note: When Abbie sent this post our way, I uploaded and read it immediately (I'm always anxious to find out what this woman has to say). This post, and this idea of personal tracking, rocked my socks (to borrow an Abbie-ism). Abbie, thank you for being brave and raw. And thank you for being so diligent about understanding yourself better, so proactive in seeking a solution to a vexing issue in your life - this is the thing that inspires me most, the thing I am most excited to implement in my own life.