My mental health has good days and bad days. Most days are good days, but bad days tend to cluster together, 2±1 times a year, into a significant low spell. Because I’m keen on developing coping strategies for when I’m not doing so well – and because I’m a nerd – I’ve been trying to understand what a depressive episode looks like. Let’s draw a curve:
For most of my life, I’ve often only been able to see the shape of the curve as I come out of it; about point “C” on the graph, or even later on. One time, about 12 years ago, I had a bad winter that I couldn’t identify as depression until months after it ended. I just sort-of internalised my sadness and lethargy as “just who I am”; it took a lot of distance before I could say “oh wow; I was really low back then”.
Nowadays I do a lot better: I tend to spot that I’m depressed at about point “A” on the curve. That’s before I hit the bottom, which helps with taking steps to mitigate the worst of it (talk, diet, mindfulness, exercise, sunlight, etc. as applicable).
It’s still not as soon as I’d like, but better self-awareness will, I hope, keep pushing point “A” earlier and earlier. The challenge is, of course – as any data scientist can tell you – not getting distracted by false maxima/minima:
Getting to point “A”, making positive steps to try to course-correct, and then feeling better for a few days doesn’t necessarily mean I’m on the up-and-up, and that’s dispiriting. But still: having the full curve to-hand serves as a reassuing reminder that, in the end, I’ll come “up” the other side, as I have time and again. This too shall pass, and all that.
Point “B” is where I often get sick, as a reminder that psychological and physical health so often go hand-in-hand. It’s a bit disheartening that I’m usually right at the point where I’m thinking “hey, things are getting better” and then the next day come down with a cold or something, but at least it’s on the right hand side of the curve. I’m acutely aware of this part of the process because I got sick early this week and I’m still not quite feeling myself again, but still: at least I’m on the up-swing of the curve.
I’ve gotten to be moderately good at spotting the whys that act as harbingers to upcoming low spells. So now I’m focussed on understanding the hows of what it’s like to enter and leave them. Maybe someday I’ll be good enough at making course-corrections, early enough, that I can flatten out these graphs. But for now, I’m going to get back to my point-“B”-to-“C” self-care.