Imagine an empty space where your heart is supposed to be, like it’s missing.
That’s what depression feels like for me.
It doesn’t always start like that; sometimes it’s a gradual (and sometimes unnoticeable) descent into that darkness. When I can feel it like that, though, it means it’s gotten pretty bad.
I’ve been having a rough time with this episode. Progress, while definitely being made, has felt slow, and I’m less optimistic than usual. It’s been pretty frustrating.
BEING MINDFUL OF YOUR BODY
The core concept of DBT is to be “mindful”. That’s when you are right here, right now. You are aware of your present experiences, not off worrying about the future or pondering the past. And most of all, you are not judging anything, including how you feel or what you’re thinking. It’s a state of being, observing, and participating in the present moment.
(I have heard people say, “If you have one foot in tomorrow and the other foot in yesterday, you’re pissing all over today.” How accurate that can be!)
One of the ways you can practice mindfulness is to pay attention to your body and what’s happening with it. Not only does it keep you in the present, if you are able to do it nonjudgmentally (i.e., not freak out), it can help you identify your emotions, which can be difficult and confusing at times.
After all, how are you supposed to deal with your emotions if you don’t know what it is you’re feeling?
After some practice, it can also help you predict things like anxiety attacks (“Oh, I’m starting to feel that knot in my stomach again”) so that maybe you can head them off. Or, “Uh oh, I feel that hole starting in my chest; maybe I should call my therapist and get some guidance.” It allows you to be proactive.
Granted, it does take a lot of practice, but just keep the payoff in mind. If you could notice, right at the beginning, that you might be feeling anxious, you could do something about it so it doesn’t get any worse. And anxiety sucks just as much as depression (to me), so I think it’s worth it.
WHAT IT FEELS LIKE (PHYSICALLY) WHEN I’M DEPRESSED
My body talks to me when I’m depressed. Does yours?
When I’m really feeling it, as I did for a few days last week, I can feel it in my body. Aside from that awful hole where my heart should be, I notice the following:
Those are some of the physical things I feel when depressed. Here are some of the myths I tell myself when I’m struggling:
And on and on…
Of course, my brain knows these are all lies, but when you’re in the tight kung-fu grip of depression, it’s damn hard to argue with your own self-defeating, dysfunctional beliefs.
WHAT ABOUT ANXIETY?
I have noticed in the last year that the hole in my heart is sometimes a sign of anxiety, not necessarily depression. It can be hard to tell the difference.
When I’m anxious, like yesterday when I almost had a panic attack, it feels like this:
And here are some other things I feel or do when I’m feeling super-anxious:
On the other hand, I can be exactly the opposite when anxious: I often shut down and am very quiet, being very deliberate with my movements and thoughts. In fact, one day this week, I had an anxiety attack during TMS, so the nurse took my vitals. They were perfect: my blood pressure was 115/75, pulse 61.
I even told her that would happen. I said, “You can take them, but I’ll tell you right now that they’ll be perfect.” I have no idea how that’s possible, given that my body was in fight-or-flight mode, but it is. And it wasn’t the first time.
Yes, yes, I know – some of these things contradict each other. But that’s how our brains (and bodies) are: Complex and complicated.
I’ve come to realize that I’ve had pretty bad anxiety since I was a little kid, when I used to lie in bed every night, eyes transfixed on the doorway to my room, paralyzed, just waiting for someone to come in and kidnap me. It didn’t matter if the door was open or closed, or if the bathroom light was on or off. I’d lie awake for 1 ½ – 2 hours, just waiting to be stolen. This lasted for years.
Yeah, let’s just say that anxiety and I go way back.
There are some really great smartphone apps out there to stay in the present rather than start worrying about “what ifs” or telling yourself “I should have…” (No judging if someone doesn’t have a smartphone. We just got our first ones two years ago!) Here are a few that I use, in case you’re interested:
WHAT ABOUT YOU?
What does your body tell you when you’re depressed or anxious or otherwise feeling “negative” emotions? Do these sound familiar, or do you have other symptoms? Or do you have absolutely no idea where to even start?
IN A NUTSHELL:
As always, questions, comments, complaints, challenges, and suggestions are welcome. Leave a comment or email me at Laura (at) DepressionWarrior (dot) com and I promise I’ll respond quickly and thoughtfully.
Keep on Keepin’ it Real, kids!
Originally published on Depression Warrior
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