The Upward Spiral: A Great Read and How It’s Helping Me
So The Upward Spiral book, which I’ve really enjoyed, essentially promotes the idea that we can reverse the course of depression by making tiny changes to the bad habits we fall into; in doing this we start to create an – you guessed it- Upward Spiral as opposed to the downward spiral that is depression.
I know I know I know
Way easier said than done, of course. I’m the first one to acknowledge that. Especially when we’re at the very bottom of a black pit of a crash
Thats my in-a-nutshell simplified version of the book but it’s far more in depth than that, explaining exactly how the brain works in relation to depression ect. I’d suggest reading the book for a more detailed take.
I personally have found the insights into how our brains work extremely helpful, reassuring and it’s even given me a renewed sense of confidence. I understand myself better and therefore feel more secure in myself and confident in my understanding of me and my mental illness
As such, I’ve been implementing some of suggestions the last few days in a bid to keep me buoyed. It is worth noting that I’ve been experiencing a bit of an ‘up’ phase and therefore implementing these thing has been easier for me at the moment than it would be during a down phase. It’s that whole thing of some days we can, some days we can’t.
I’ve been making a conscious effort to make the ‘happy’ chemicals happen (you know the ones ones. Endorphins, serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin etc) which I can’t say I ever really tried doing before. Making a conscious effort that is. I’ve tried to force myself to do ‘stuff’ for sure but, as The Upward Spiral states, that is as futile as sitting in a car and trying to make it start by just turning the steering wheel and without turning on the ignition. The book suggest to just do. Without thinking about it. And even if the big thing you need to do is unachievable, do something smaller. Break it down until it is achievable. It is the second book that I read recently that said that the act of doing something -anything- triggers your brain into wanting to do more.
Again, I completely recognise and can say first hand that it’s not at all easy to simply do when your energy is being leeched from you. But the last few days whenever I’ve felt myself hesitate, depression whisper I can’t, that I suck, my energy and motivation begin to creep away, I have just done. Anything. Got up and walked a few feet. Washed a glass. Stretched. It has helped, but I’m lucky in that I’m currently in a place where I can do that. Time will tell exactly what tools I can implement during my next crash, whenever that may be. Will update
Whenever I have sensed a potential risk to my ‘Up’ creep up on me these last few days, I’ve taken measures to try and banish them. For example, acute toothache kept me awake or in that state half-sleep (horrible. I’d rather stay awake) on Wednesday night. The next night I emphasised to S how important it was that I have a good nights sleep. Which he helped me with as much as possible, ensuring youngest didn’t disturb me too much.
I felt better, but the quality of that sleep wasn’t fantastic. By yesterday lunchtime fatigue hit me hard. Normally I’d slump on the sofa and just kind of wallow in it. Drifting. I was worried because I’d decided that I was going to break my 6 week hiatus and go dancing that night. Book also stated that decision making and having goals, even tiny ones like choosing a tv show and sticking to that rather than Chanel hopping, can help boost the happy chemicals as the brain gets a kick upon completion of decision/goal. Fatigue was putting my decision at risk. By the time evening came, I’d have lost the will. The concept of day time sleep is a bit alien to me; except for when I’m ill. But I decided to try and take a nap, going so far as to Google the optimum length of time for napping to avoid grogginess and further tiredness.
I didn’t manage to actually sleep, so the results weren’t miraculous, but I did feel better.
Pain is massively draining and aggravating so I’ve taken painkillers more freely than usual for the toothache and fatigue headache I’d begun to develop . Keeping warm is good for happy chemicals, so I’ve taken measures to keep myself warm. Going so far as to paying for taxis for the journey to and from dance when the temperature dropped to freezing last night and I felt my motivation wane at the prospect of the 1hour journey in the cold, under harsh lighting of the tube and surrounded by peoples unknown(!)
I continue to actively avoid anything stressful. And implemented Taking deep long breaths when I couldn’t find my bank card (yes, again!) yesterday evening. Not being able to find something induces disproportional stress in me for some reason. To the point of sudden physical changes in my body. Aches. Fatigue. Heat. Fuzzy head.( I suppose it’s panic, come to think of it) Again, it didn’t melt the stress away but it did help me to focus and clear my fuzzy head so I could articulate to S exactly what I was going through
Of course, the fundamental problem with depression is that our brains don’t always produce the regular amount of happy chemicals in response to the stimuli that should trigger them. So the extent to which an individual finds these things helpful in the short term will vary. But the book insists that even if you don’t notice any noteable changes initially, after an extended period of time (unspecified because all different) apparently changes happen.
The difficulty in that of course is the daunting almost impossible prospect of maintaining a thing for so long
The book would probably suggest break the goal down smaller. Maintain it for a day. Or an hour. Break it until it’s manageable
These tools have been much like a life ring to me last few days, they have kept me afloat
Perhaps, if I can cling to this life ring for another day, two days, three, a week, three weeks, a month, 2 months, 6 months ….perhaps I can keep implementing these things for as long as that or longer, backed up by support and therapies, perhaps I’ll succeed in re-wiring my brain back to working the way it did before depression, before the trauma