How I Try to Cope with My Depression by Celebrating Small Wins
“I think that while I hated being depressed and would hate to be depressed again, I’ve found a way to love my depression. I love it because it has forced me to find and cling to joy. I love it because each day I decide, sometimes gamely, and sometimes against the moment’s reason, to cleave to the reasons for living. TED Talk: Depression, The Secret We Share.
When I first suspect myself that I might be depressed, the feelings that I felt were mostly guilt and self-loathing. Guilt because I thought to myself, how can I be depressed when I have a decent job, a house to live in, and a supportive family and friends. Guilt because I thought to myself how ungrateful I am to feel depressed when there are billions of people out there in way worst condition. And then come self-loathing, I hate myself for feeling depressed because I used to be the kind of person who finds joy in little things at life: the sound of rain, the smell of coffee, a rare bright blue sky of Jakarta nearing Eid Al-Fitr. I hate myself because I felt like I’m slowly losing track of who I am, I changed into a cynic, bitter person who is unable to feel joy in small things anymore. I hate myself for being overly critical of myself. And just like that, I no longer know how to find joy in mundane things. Depression plunges me into a deep, dark tunnel where I thought there are no lights in the end of it.
Before I was properly diagnosed, I always berate myself for having such a hard time just getting out of bed, taking shower, and driving to my office. I also berate myself for my lack of sleep. I thought to myself: you’re such a waste of life, you’ve been given life and you can’t even bring yourself to live? I felt terribly useless.
But, I’ve to acknowledge that I’m terribly lucky for being surrounded by people who are very supportive. One of the very first people I told about my condition was my ex-line manager, a very kind-hearted and caring person with a huge patience. I remembered that she told me to,”Celebrate your small wins. It can be very hard, but try to celebrate your small wins.”
At first, I was skeptical. I can’t even celebrate my big wins. People around me tried to tell me how I’ve achieved some things in life, something to be celebrated of and yet I can’t bring myself to do that. There was a moment (until now, it comes and goes) that I thought, I’m nothing but a series of failure. I wrote down a goal to get a master degree by 25 and now I’m 25 years old and still struggling to get a scholarship to fund my master degree.
This is where I spiraled down out of control, I have a big goal to achieve and I tied my meaning to life to that goal and when I failed to achieve it – I lost my will to live. I punish myself with toxic thoughts for my inability to achieve my goal. It’s so easy to punish yourself for your ‘small’ failures and yet it’s so hard to celebrate your small wins. The more I punish myself, the more I feel unmotivated to keep pursuing my goals and dreams. I’m not saying that my depression stems from my inability to celebrate small wins, but, rather, my inability to celebrate small wins may as well further my depressive state. The last thing that I want and need during my current state is berating myself for small mistakes and forgetting to celebrate my daily wins.
And, so, it begins. After I quitted my job, I tried to do daily journaling – writing has always been an effective way for me to empty my thoughts and examine my daily feelings and moods. In my daily journal, I included an old habit of mine: daily gratitude list. It’s nothing grand, but rather, simple things such as waking up and getting to bed early, finish reading books, writing in my journal, getting out of the house, meeting a friend. Those are small wins that I celebrate in order to achieve my end goal of recovering and getting better, or at least, coping up with my condition. Andrew Solomon said that the opposite of depression is not happiness but vitality and that’s exactly how I feel, I’m losing vitality to do simple living activities and thus simple things as mentioned above is definitely a small but meaningful win that I’m trying to celebrate.
Finding Joy in the Mundane
As I resort to celebrate the small wins in my daily life, I begin once again to find joy in the mundane. Afterall, waking up, taking shower, having breakfast, meeting a friend is a series of ordinary things that I don’t think of celebrating before. But, it definitely helps to anchor me to the present, whereas before, I was stuck in the future planning of something grander that I forget, being able to live, breathe, surrounded by people who you love and who love you are something joyful.
So today, I’m finding joy in waking up early (a rarity), taking shower before 12, getting out of the house and a great lunch with a beloved companion. And, for everyone who reads this or stumbles upon this post, I wish you are able to find joy in the mundane and realized that happiness is in the here and now. I wish you don’t blame yourself for your small mistakes because mistakes are there so you can transform into a better person. I wish you know that if you feel like a failure, you’re not alone and there are people who love you and think you’re the most important person in their life.
- What Is Depression: https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/depression/what-is-depression
If you’re feeling depressed or suicidal, please seek help. You’re not alone and there are people out there who are more than willing to help you. There is a community like Into The Light who is promoting mental health and suicide prevention awareness among youth and high-risk groups in Indonesia.