Should I dive deeper, should I sit here and enjoy the view or should I return to the surface?
It isn’t really one of life’s difficult decisions and sooner or later my urge to breath will encourage me to ascend.
Making decisions or choices even as simple as this, can be like torture for someone who suffers with depression. The inability to make them is driven by the anticipated regret of an expected bad outcome.
The ability to evaluate the alternatives and make a judgment without being easily swayed by all the mental negativity, is virtually impossible and often results in inertia thereby minimising the perceived responsibility of the outcome.
Well, it was for me and I could feel myself sliding down this slippery slope of inertia but felt powerless to do anything about it because that would mean making a decision about how to change my behaviour. Hello catch-22!
In my twisted thinking, if I chose the more passive decision route (ie not making one) and just let whatever happened happen, the blame for any negative outcome would fall less heavily onto my depressed shoulders. I was essentially trying to protect myself from yet more criticism from the voices in my head.
But in this attempt to safeguard myself, I unsurprisingly ended up feeling less in control of my life and more worthless.
If I had known then what I know now, I would have helped myself regain control by focusing on my breath.
Slow and steady belly breathing activates the calming part of our nervous system, which reduces the heart rate and feelings of stress and anxiety. You get the best results by taking the inhale through your nose. The exhale can be either through nose or mouth but needs to be at least the same length as the inhale, if not longer.
Breathing in this way will give you more awareness as well as better control over your emotions.
Sadly I wasn’t aware of this when i was suffering but there were a few things that helped me break free from the destructive cycle: Therapy and finding things to do that I could actually muster some level of interest in (when I wasn’t in my blackest times).
But the most profound thing (alongside the therapy), that helped me was meditation.
In learning how to meditate (starting with 10 mins a day and building up to max 30) I became more self-aware. Aware of how emotionally volcanic my reactions were to every situation and of how utterly exhausting this was.
Meditation gave me a micro pause, a split second of calm in my brain so I could make a choice (oh the irony!) of how I wanted to respond rather than just react.
From that moment on, even if I did end up going with the negative voice’s option, I still felt more empowered because I had actually made a choice to do so rather than just being passive in the process.
The days of struggling so desperately with any and all decisions are long behind me. Now, if I can’t make up my mind I will either:
Toss a coin – I’ve nearly always found I know exactly which side I want the coin to land on while it is still in the air!
See if any of the options produce a flicker of interest or passion and fan that choice to see what happens
Be methodical and work my way through all the options until I find what suits best
Ask someone else to make the decision although if there happens to be a negative outcome, you can’t blame them!
Whatever the outcome is, do not blame yourself if it wasn’t what you’d hoped for. Instead think of it as knowledge that can help you to make a better choice next time and remember to keep breathing calmly through your nose.
Photo – Vanessa Allen