Hi there. My name is Phil and I suffer from depression.
I have noticed something in my struggles with depression: there are four steps that one must undertake before anything gets done.
1. Acknowledge that the thing can be done.
2. Agree that you should do the thing.
3. Decide to do the thing.
4. Do the thing.
For instance, today I vacuumed my apartment for the first time in a long time. I had to acknowledge that, yes, vacuuming was possible. Then I had to agree that I should, in fact, vacuum. I then decided to vacuum. Lastly, I actually dragged the vacuum from the closet and vacuumed the floor. Go me!
This really was a monumental task, and I really am proud of myself for completing it. Number one rule when living with depression: celebrate all victories, no matter how small.
Normal people just do things and don’t really think about the mental process. I think long and hard about the mental process because each step is nearly impossible to surpass. I spend a lot of time around step one. That one I do well. I am very aware of everything I need to do and can do and want to do. Step two is also fairly easy to get to, with time anyway. I agree that many things I can do. But there are also many things that I struggle to agree that I can do. Sit on the couch? Got that one down. Read? Tricky. Best left alone. Create? You must be joking, who am I, Picasso? Watch TV? Sigh. I guess I can manage it. Wash dishes? Holy mackerel, not today. Just…nope.
Deciding to do something can take days or minutes, sometimes hours. This particular thing that I am writing right now has taken me a week to decide to actually do. I’ve had it in my mind for quite a while. I woke up from my second nap of the day and decided to do it. I passed steps one and two a few days ago, but finally passed step three about an hour ago. It still took me another 15 minutes to get the computer open, get to my blog, and start typing. Yay! Step four! Now I just have to grit my teeth and keep hammering the keyboard. Go. Go. Go!!
I apologize for the heavy meta-ness of this post, but this is my reality. These four impossible steps govern whether or not I do anything at all. They are rigorous and exhausting. Exerting the needed mental energy to jump from step to step takes a lot out of me. This is, in fact, what “struggle with depression” means for me on a daily basis.
Do I eat? Do I cook? What do I cook? Do I actually finish cooking? All of those questions each requires four steps to complete and that answers why I often do not eat and seldom cook. During a stretch of good days I will cook maybe three times in a week. Actually that would be a fantastic week. Today I have cooked for myself once, which worked out to two meals as I made a pizza that lasted longer than I anticipated. Two other nights were frozen food. Tonight I am thinking I will make something mexican-ish, but I’m still lingering between step two and three on that one. I might end up with dry ramen noodles and Oreos, but today has been a good day, what with the vacuuming and writing. So who knows?
Think about these four steps next time you go to do anything, no matter how small or mundane. You go through the steps yourself, but I guarantee that usually you don’t even notice that you do. Maybe your steps sound a little different, maybe you have one more or one less, but everyone has them. It takes energy and will to advance through them to accomplish anything. I, as a depressed person, must exert most of my energy to get through them for even one thing. To do more than one is difficult. To do a whole day’s worth of things is nearly impossible.
But that is why I will celebrate, even if my dinner tonight is dry ramen and oreos, because I will have accomplished two things today, and that is more than a normal day. I nailed those four impossible steps twice! Booyah!
To read what else I have written about depression, search for “depression” on this blog.