I looked at the clock. It was quarter to three in the afternoon and it was time to pick up my kids from school. I peeled myself from the couch and donned oversized black boots and a brown winter coat, even though it was fall, because the long coat covered my pajamas. Breathe, Gillian. You can do this.
For most women, stepping out of the house to get their kids from school isn't daunting. But for a person who fights depression, for me in a depressive episode, it may as well be climbing Mount Everest. My struggles with mood date back to my childhood but were exacerbated after the birth of my children. Postpartum depression gave way to major depressive disorder—a severe, oftentimes episodic depression that affected functionality in my everyday life.
Depression, a damaging illness frequently unacknowledged in families, communities, and faith circles, proves to be a vicious opponent in my life. Much like any other illness, I must actively participate in the pursuit of health. I labor to relieve symptoms and try to keep episodes fewer, farther apart, and shorter with the help of Jesus, a cognitive behavioral therapist, my family, and medication. I pray for health, but realize my depression is one battle I will likely fight for the rest of my life.
About a year ago, I started utilizing a tool called "catching thoughts," an adaptation I derived from a concept known in psychotherapy as "mindfulness." My therapist told me about the practice, rooted in Buddhism, during a session. Knowing that I am a Christian and would be uncomfortable with an exercise from another faith, she explained it in terms of therapeutic relief. "Mindfulness is simply a practice to be in the here and now instead of letting destructive thoughts take over," she said.
Oh yes, destructive thoughts. She must be talking about some of my old favorites, like you are a horrible mom, or you have no idea what you are doing. Both intrigued and afraid, I leaned forward on the couch as she continued. "Gillian, it's simple, really. You narrate your surroundings out loud in an attempt to ignore your negative thoughts." The word "narrate" appealed to the writer in me. She continued, "The next time you find yourself buried under circular, unhealthy thoughts, if you can, start talking about the things you see around you. See if that helps."
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