I am the lucky sufferer of at least two disorders that get along famously in my brain: dysthemia (low-grade, continuing depression with spikes of major depressive episodes; I call it the Gray Dog) and compulsive overeating. While I can eat compulsively at any given moment, when a bigger depressive episode -- this is the Black Dog -- descends, I am more powerless over food than ever. This is partly because I am so enervated by depression that I can neither seek assistance in getting my eating and food in order nor fathom, let alone execute, the shopping and chopping involved in preparing the meals that can, day after day, push the Black Dog back into the gray noise of dysthemia.
There probably isn't a reader of this post who hasn't faced a morning after, whether it's a one-off hangover after a New Year's Eve or a second piece of birthday cake a normal eater regrets. Further, the morning after goes beyond substances. It might be the bout of anger you had with a co-worker or waking up from frightening dreams. The simple advice I want to give can be used by anyone facing regrets but it's especially pertinent to those of us who are addicts and those of us who live with the Dogs of depression.
I'm living it right now, in fact. I have a colassal sprined ankle and have spent one week out of four in a cast. On Monday I got my walking papers. I don't have to lie in bed as much as possible with my foot elevated, I am free to take a walk, do bigger housework, and, uh-oh, go to the store.
I'm living a lonely life with the Gray Dog for company. My actual canine is with friends until I feel safer walking her and my endurance for solo walks is a painful and slow forty minutes. Hunger is rare because I'm not moving much. But twice in three nights I have hobbled out for ice cream and cookies.
Because it's only the Gray Dog, I've observed myself on these mornings after, struggling to put meaning in my life with the knowledge of what's in my trash and what I've done to my body and mood.
Basics are impossible because a sock on the floor is a stack of bricks.
1) Do it anyway. Congratulations. I know what a hurdle it is to get from looking at that errant sock to the tremedous effort of picking it up. I promise that the next stack of bricks will be noticably lighter.
2) Get rid of the trash from the binge and/or the Dog. Really and truly get rid of it -- its next transfer must be done by the santitation department. Congratulations. No matter what else happens today, right now you and your house are clean.
2) Take your meds. They are the portal to well-being and one of the most evident actions you can take to prove that you want to get better. Whether it's a vitamin, aspirin or prescription medication, down the hatch. Congratulations. You have now taken care of your body.
3) Next, do no harm. Sit down. Go back to bed -- this may be as important as your pills, depending on how you got to this place of regret. Go for a walk, if possible, without the means of buying anything. Go with the knowledge that it's OK to sit down whenever you want and stare aimlessly into space. Zone out -- a book, magazine, a marathon of The Real Housewives of Who Gives a Shit or a binge of The Sims. Congratulations. You are still clean and you are not dwelling on the past.
4) Now, do some good. If the Dog is too persistent to allow you to leave home, go to one of the Click to Give sites on the web to raise money for medical research, animal rescue, ending hunger, etc. If you can go outside, pick up a piece of obvious trash. If possible, say hello to someone. Put a quarter in a parking meter. Congratulations. You may feel worthless but the world has been improved by you today.
5) Laugh. Call your best funny and understanding friend, go to You Tube to watch your favorite comedian or comic pundit, or put AbFab on the DVD. Your body is craving a good belly laugh, the kind that hawks up phlegm and sends of rush of blood to your cheeks. Congratulations. You have flipped the bird to your Dog(s).
6) Take a moment to appreciate. Look at what's great in your home or outside. Be grateful for small gifts. Tell someone or something -- out loud -- that you love them, even if they aren't there to hear it. Congratulations. You may live in a state of emotional pain, but you have safely opened your heart and lived to tell the tale.
If you have to do these things day after day until you have the strength to combat your disorder(s), do them. They won't hurt you and they might hasten your search for help. They might also delay the next onslaught of the Dogs.
If you can take a shower, go to work, spend time with your family -- kudos. But no matter what, you have spent a little bit of time outside of the bad neighborhood of your head. Congratulations. If you can keep it together for 15 minutes, you're on your way to a day, a week, a year, a lifetime of becoming the person you want to be.