It’s a little three drawer cabinet next to my side of the bed, and the top drawer contains my underpants.But it is so much more than that because it acts as a barometer for how I am doing. It becomes a sign for me of how my life is going.
Now it would be easy to start a post about CARING FOR YOURSELF with a whole list of things to do, like some self-care manual; and there is value in that. But as always, that’s not my way. My way is to tell a story. So here it is.
Three years ago, the new year started badly; well not badly but I didn’t seem to have any energy. Work was a busy as ever, and I found myself trudging through every day, with my mantra “Tomorrow will be better!” But it never was. I’d come into work, go home, sleep and come back into work.
And the days off were worse. I couldn’t find anything I liked doing, was ratty at home, and began to keep myself to myself; which in a family of five and numerous pets, requires a lot of energy in itself. I’d seemed to have lost myself and the ability to do anything enjoyable.
Things steadily got worse and worse, but don’t worry “Tomorrow will be better!” I kept denying that anything was wrong, and my wife gave me some strong advice – “Go to the GP.”
Now GP’s are not for blokes, we all know that! But I consented and booked an appointment.
I can honestly say it was one of the worst days of my life. Honestly.
Sitting in the waiting room wondering how to tell him that I was not coping. “David Southall, Room 5” came up on the digital board and I thought of making a dash for it, but dragged myself into the Doctor’s Room. The words barely come out: “I’m feeling a bit low Doc.” He asked me if I wanted to take a quick questionnaire; “Not really! But I did. And then he said these words:
“I THINK YOU’RE DEPRESSED.”
Impossible I thought. I’m an ex-RMN, ex-CPN, 49 year old man who has coped all his life and rarely had a day’s sick leave. I would surely have seen the signs. I’ll humour him. He prescribed me some Sertraline (an anti-depressant) and said he would see me in a week. “Don’t worry it’s just a blip I told him. I’ll be in work on Monday.”
And so I was, for three hours, before I realised I couldn’t face it.
And then began 3 months of chemicals and rest; a phased return to work; and a resumption of a life which I viewed differently.
SO WHAT HAS ALL THAT GOT TO DO WITH MY PANTS DRAWER?
Well, for me, my pants drawer let me know how I am doing emotionally. Now I am not an overly tidy person, so it is never going to be pristine. But when I open it and find it messy, with sweet wrappers and odds and ends, and that screwdriver that I brought upstairs for something or other, and a fork, then I know that I should take some action. That life is getting on top of me. And these are some of the things I do.
Tell someone how I’m feeling and ask them how they think I am.
Do something enjoyable; for me it’s fishing and horseriding and going for a motorcycle ride.
Recount the things in life which enhance meaning like the time when I….
Take some days off if possible, and early before the trudging through day after day begins.
Don’t be afraid of the Chemicals- they give you the resources to act for yourself.
And that’s what I mean about being different after my depression.
I am now more open to the signs.
Last week, I opened my pants drawer and said “God what a mess.” Oh O!
And so I acted.
I booked three days A/L at short notice. I had a horse riding lesson. I spent time enjoying the company of my kids. I walked and rested and slept.
And now I feel energised again. I suppose I could have waited and said “Tomorrow will be better” for days on end. But it’s better for me to nip it in the bud.
I’m not saying this post will help you. I’m certainly not an expert on depression, stress or self care.
I only know what works for me but would be happy to chat to you if you are in this position. So feel free to email me at email@example.com