Trigger warning: mild reference to self-harm, suicidal ideation, anxiety, mood disorders, and vampicorns.
Well, folks, looks like it’s that time of year again, when I want to sleep 16 hours a day and fantasize about a truck wheel rolling over my head. Ahhhh, autumn…
My mood tends to tank pretty quickly once we pass the equinox. With more darknight than daylight, it can get tough to stay chipper and I didn’t start the season out being very good about spending time with my happy light. That, and it’s been pretty stressful for a lot of darned good reasons that aren’t about to go away.
But I am determined to not have another really bad winter already! Determined!
…Yeah. It’s great to tell myself that, but I haven’t been doing much about it lately. Last week, I was busily shelving books down at the library before school got out when I suddenly felt sick to my stomach, lightheaded, and hot. I stripped off my jacket and whined to the librarian, who immediately asked me if I’d eaten today.
She knows me pretty well, that lady.
So yeah, there’s room for improvement, and I’m ready for a revamp. Just deciding not to be depressed doesn’t usually work for me, but altering my behaviors can definitely lighten (and shorten) the mood. And perhaps the first thing on my alteration to-do list should be:
Eating and drinking. Even when I don’t feel like it. Even when I’m busy. Even when there’s ‘nothing to eat’ in my fully stocked disgustingly-privileged-middle-class-American kitchen. There is something to eat. Eat it.
The light. It is easy. It is mounted on the wall right next to the desk I sit at every day. For normal people who live in normal places, it is right outside that window that your normal house has. Embrace the inner kitty. Bask.
Compliment all the humans. This is a bit of a weird one, but I swear it helps me. When I get to where I absolutely despise myself, it helps to turn some of that focus outward. I compliment cool earrings and swanky clothes. I compliment smiles and hair and jobs well done and beautiful laughs and anything. People love it. And it makes me feel less loathey. (Another way to turn focus outward? Public service! There are always people in need! Check out justserve.org if you need ideas.)
Doodley-do. Again, this is weird, but it works for me. Sometimes when I’m really down in the dumps, I scrape, cut, and pinch myself. I tend to do it on my arms, particularly my left arm. But if I take a sharpie or one of my inking pens and doodle beautiful patterns on my arms, I don’t do it. I don’t know if this will help anyone else, but it helps me.
Stretching, meditation, and/or yoga. I feel like a doofy, entitled, time-wasting hippie every time I start, but I always feel calmer by the end. I’m terrible at meditation when I get in low moods or when the anxiety’s running hot, but I can still stretch out and I feel better afterward.
Reading with loved ones. Usually my kiddos, but often students at the school too. They love it, I love it. ‘Nuff said.
Busy, but not too busy. This is a very fine line to tread. Sitting around moping because I don’t feel like doing anything isn’t going to improve my worldview. But being so busy that I’m stressed out of my mind won’t either. The trick is to be busy and useful, but not so much so that I’m at a dead sprint from one thing to the next and feel like I’m going to start dropping balls at any moment. Balance is key.
Actual sleep. I just want to stay up until I’m passing out from exhaustion because I can’t bear to be alone with my thoughts in the dark, and then sleep until two or three in the afternoon the next day. Is that too much to ask? Well, when I have a million children to get to school, it is. Go to bed, Jill. Future You will thank you.
I’ve had this idea rattling around in my head for a picture book about a little unicorn who goes to a Magical Creatures Convention to get her hoof in the door with the elite GOODLI club, buuuut accidentally gets bitten by a vampire instead. Not quite the impression she was hoping to make. Her hopes and dreams vanish in a puff of sparkly purple smoke and she’s left trying to figure out where she fits in now.
Sometimes I feel like that little vampicorn. I want to be all glitter and cupcakes all the time, but sometimes I’m just not. Sometimes I’m bats and hematophagy instead. And that is okay! I will always have these mood cycles that make it hard for me to know where I fit into the world when I feel like a different person from one month to the next. It’s. Oh. Kay. My mood disorder is such that I know I’ll come around again, even when I don’t feel like it. The badness won’t last forever. And until it goes away again, taking better care of myself through the badness will make it all that much more liveable.
So as the seasons shift from summer to winter, and maybe you’re getting ready for another harried month of NaNoWriMo, just take a minute to check in with yourself. Maybe you have a little room for improvement in your own self care too! Your alterations to-do list will probably look a little (or completely) different from mine, and that is great. Know what helps you, and do it!
Until next week, happy writing!