There are times when our illnesses bring us to the lowest points and it’s during these times when I find myself fighting to stay afloat. I can’t tell you how many times I have cancelled plans with friends at the last minute because anxiety or depression had its hold on me. For the most part my friends understand; they’ve chosen to educate themselves about my illness and are familiar with what sets me off. And while they are usually very considerate when I do bail on them, there was one person who was horrible to me when my anxiety or swings got the best of me. That person was me.
As if the self-loathing from depression wasn’t enough, I created even more when I felt that I didn’t live up to my own expectations or those expectations that I perceived that other people had set for me. If I was down and I failed to do the things I had set myself up to do, I would think rather poorly of myself which then spiralled me even lower. It used to be this way all the time, and it was no way to live.
A few months ago Stigma Fighters, the NPO that I work with, ran a campaign called #SFVictories and the point of this was to celebrate all of the tiny things that we do that we never give ourselves credit for. The campaign was a hit and it really pumped a lot of people up. Instead of focusing on everything that we had been failing to do, we took a moment to acknowledge all of the small things that we rocked out. And do you know what? It was so wonderful to see so many people happily participating.
Depression and anxiety can suck the life and strength out of us quicker than anything else. When getting out of bed is a struggle and all you want to do is cocoon yourself into a darkened room and just cry – but you do get up – that’s a small victory. When depression lies to you and tells you that you’re a terrible parent, yet you take the time to sit and listen to your children and comfort them, another small victory. That’s not just being a parent, that’s fighting back. Even if you bail on your plans with friends or family because anxiety is doing a number on you, but you’ve still sent them a text explaining the situation and telling them how much you care for them, you haven’t lost this round, you’ve communicated what’s happening, and you’ll be there next time. The communication is your small victory. If you’ve had to leave work early because your illness is messing with you, stop looking at it like, ‘I had to go home early’, and start looking at it like, ‘I made half a day when I didn’t think I’d get out of bed.’ Small victory. Change your perception and you could change your reality.
By patting ourselves on the back for achieving what many other people do an a daily basis, without a single thought, we are giving ourselves permission to fight back. Being proud of you for getting up and getting showered is nothing to be ashamed of. Trust me, I know what it’s like to not have the strength or energy to wash my face. When we celebrate the little accomplishments that our illnesses try to take from us we open up the doors to inviting in bigger accomplishments. Be proud of yourself for hanging in there and trying your hardest. Sometimes fighting a war in our minds is the toughest battle there is.