Surviving The Dark Days
A friend I care very much about is having some relationship drama and a generic and generally hard time. I compiled this list of mantras that I came to rely on whenever I Fell On Black Days. I've picked these things up in various places; from Sis when she was in Social Work School, from books, from other friends.
Here they are, in no particular order (although as of 11:30PM on Tuesday night, I added the first five because I forgot them earlier. Maybe I'll have to keep adding--I've been through a lot of crap).
• Depression is Anger Turned Inward.
My mom taught me this, and she's right. Whenever you're *really* low, think about what's going on in your life, and how you feel about the big issues. Or maybe it's a small issue. Once you identify it, you'll often realize that in reality, you're REALLY pissed off about it, but don't think you can/are unwilling to do something about it. Sometimes, just acknowledging your anger helps *tremendously*, and sometimes you realize you can actually let it go. And if you can't let it go, then it's probably time you did something -- get out of that relationship, leave that job, etc. However... if your depression lingers on for months or years and nothing you do helps....GET HELP. It could be you need meds, that your depression is really chemical and you need bigger help. That being said... most of the time you're depressed because you need to change something in your life.
• Acknowledge Your Weaknesses and Your Fears To Yourself.
When you admit to yourself what you're scared of, you may come to see your fear is irrational. Or, you may find a way to overcome it. When you acknowledge your weakness, you can figure out a way to protect your weak spot, or strengthen it. Sometimes we don't like to admit fear or weakness to ourselves, because we think to do so means *we* are weak. But I've learned that *everyone* has fear and weakness.
• "Fear Translates As Hostility"
Sometimes, you may find that people are extremely hostile towards you. But it might not mean that they are mad at you or that they don't like you. Sometimes, it means that they are afraid of something in the situation between you and them, and so they are reacting in a hostile way. Sometimes, this is useful to know because if you can defuse *their* fear, you can get along better. Sometimes.
• Don't Try To Negotiate or Reason With A Crazy Person.
You'll only frustrate yourself.
• Quit Your Bitchin'
There's "venting", and there's "bitchin". "Bitchin" is long-term venting about the same things over and over and over and over again. You waste energy, you annoy your friends and you're not really doing anything about the situation. So stop bitching, get over yourself and get a move on. DO something. "Venting" on the other hand... it's good to vent. Vent to a therapist. Vent to God, but out of the feedback that you get from God and/or your therapist, do something useful. "Quit Your Bitchin" does NOT mean "Hold it all inside", either. Because holding it in will kill you. So tell anyone who will listen to you (especially if you're being bullied by an ex, or a spouse, or even a boss--bullies operate in secret, so let the secret out), but know that you are required to do some follow-up action. Because then you're just bitchin'.
• “Bubbles and Fireflies”
When things look really bad, or you feel overwhelmed, hold on to every bright spot you find in your day. If you’ve ever seen fireflies at night--how it’s dark and all of a sudden there’s a bright spot, even though it’s very brief, you’ll know what I mean. Or how children get excited when they see bubbles, and how that makes you laugh. If the one bright spot in your day is simply that you got out of bed, or that you survived, then be thankful for that because not everyone gets out of bed or survives. When you feel really bad, sometimes it helps to repeat quietly to yourself "Bubbles and fireflies. Bubbles and fireflies."
• Accept the situation for what it is.
Don’t try to hold on to what it was, or rationalize that it’s something else. It has changed and that’s it, but….
• If you don’t like the situation you’re in, change it!
And if you can’t change it, walk away from it. Come back to it later. Find a way to make the situation bearable in the meantime, until you *can* change it.
• If you’re feeling overwhelmed by a bunch of different things, concentrate on one thing at a time.
Pick the thing you think you can change. Hold on to that and concentrate on that. When you've accomplished something, then move on to the next thing.
• You cannot control what other people do.
You can only control your reaction to it.
• Don’t allow yourself to be manipulated into playing a losing game.
Don’t think that the other person is going to be fair and that you can survive or win by playing on their terms. They will change the rules on you. So make up your own. Who put them in charge, anyway? If the current game is to get into a screaming fight, don’t play. There’s no law that says you have to accept bad language, name-calling or old issues brought up and thrown in your face. And for your part, don’t do those things.
• ALWAYS take the “high road”.
No matter how “dirty” the other person is playing. No matter how tempting. In the end, you only get dragged down to their level, and you probably won’t like yourself for doing it.
• Don’t "telegraph" your moves.
You’re not being dishonest by not telling what you’re going to do; you are protecting your position.
• FORGIVE YOURSELF.
This is extremely important. We all make mistakes. Sometimes we make really really big ones. You are a conscientious person, and you care about what you do. This is a good thing, but you are not perfect, and you are not the only one to make a mistake. It’s OK to accept blame and responsibility, but it is also OK to learn from your mistake, forgive yourself and MOVE ON.
• SUFFERING IS FOR SUCKERS.
Don’t suffer because you feel guilty or allow other people to make you suffer. But…
• Allow yourself to feel bad or sad, or even cry.
Crying is good. Crying is NOT for suckers. Crying releases bad feelings. (And don't be fooled when you see women crying; this doesn't mean you've beaten them. It could mean you've pissed them off, and they are regrouping before they come back to kick your ass.)
• Count on your friends.
And/or family. That’s what their for; that’s what makes them your friends. Ask for help. You don’t have to do everything by yourself, and you know that you will repay them when you can.
• Be confident that you are entitled to happiness.
• Make Lists.
If there’s a lot going on, make a list. Put a date next to it. Don’t feel that you have to stick to the list or do things in order, but just putting things down means you won’t forget. It's also a great feeling when you get to cross something off of your list. Watch "My Name Is Earl" for good uses of a list.
• Living Well is the Best Revenge.
So live every day to the best of your ability. For yourself. And you will prove in the end that you were the better person.