February is a tough month for many people in the winter climes (I am sure it is elsewhere, too, but I can only speak to my own experience). In Stockholm, and while growing up in Halifax (Nova Scotia), this was the month where new snow is dropped upon old, rocky, salty piles of more experienced snow, and thick ice coats the roads and sidewalks, making it a joy and adventure to walk to work…(no, there are no heated sidewalks around). And although Vancouver does not get snow like Halifax or Stockholm, I was still faced with the dark, dreary, rainy month of February, where there is no holiday in sight (DO not tell me that Valentines Day is a holiday…pawh, awful thing, manufactured…do not contribute to it!). In addition, people like me are still broke from the holiday season and thus cannot escape to a beach…, and if you are challenged with depression or other sunlight requiring disorders, well, February is where you start to get really…extra…SAD-MAD-BAD!
Confession. I am a statistic. I have chronic depression, the bad kind. The kind that will never go away. But that is okay; depression is part of who I am, how I operate. I feel like a part of me is missing when it goes away on a sunny holiday (only a little bit). From the moment I was born, my little baby self was already going to be exposed to a world of depression, and that is how my developing brain experienced the world, too. Nature vs Nurture folks! My poor mom had postpartum depression on top of an existing condition and it only got worse as the years passed (psychotic manifestations…). She did not get help until she was 71, and even then, it was only medication.
My official process of retraining my brain started in 1999 and I was fortunate to be in university, which meant the help was accessible. TPTB hooked me up with a psychologist who used CBT (cognitive behaviour therapy). As a biology and psychology student, this style of therapy made sense to me. All I had to do was retrain those neural highways, help those little neurotransmitter path-building buddies of mine to shimmy on down another path, or ideally create a new one of my choosing, right?
Ummm, well it turns out that these neural/mental paths are not permanent (both the negative and positive ones) and you have to constantly work at it and be vigilant. Check in with yourself, acknowledge when things are not quite right, ya know? Do not be afraid to ask for help. Start with your friends and family, and go to your doctor. If your doctor sucks (like mine did this summer) then find another doctor or find out if your company or city or province or state has someone to help you. Do not let up until you make someone listen to you. It is imperative!
I accept that I will always be prone to piles of dark snow filled rock that impede my pathways to positive thought, no matter the time of year. I have my own blend of cost free internal and external therapy that works for me…and all I really know is that it is training time for me brain. My job sucks the big one right now and it is spiraling out of control and well, there are no resources for me, so thus, I write. To complete strangers instead. But by doing this, I am in the process of retraining my brain.
Be your own mental health advocate.