3 rules.

It happened again yesterday. Just when I think it won’t touch me anymore, and I slack off just a bit. I stay in my pajamas a little longer than I should. It’s Sunday, right? No harm done. I make some phone calls. I’m not feeling my best, so I decide – rather than taking a shower and facing the day – just to have a quick lunch on the sofa and watch a TV show. Then I’ll get up, right? And get started on my to-do list for the day? Sure. No problem. Suddenly, it’s 5:30 pm and I’m startled awake by the sound of my Beagle barking for her dinner. Wait, how did this happen? I don’t even remember deciding to nap. Did I nap? I surely didn’t need to, since I had a healthy 8.5 hours of sleep the night before. Have I just been laying here for 3 hours? What happened? Depression happened. And I let it.

Depression is a tricky little creature, that’s for sure. It can creep up on you pretending it’s an old, comfortable friend. And for a moment, it feels kind of safe and cozy-warm, so you let your guard down. You rest for a moment and decide to be still. You convince yourself that a break from fighting – from living – is okay. You’re just going to lie down and sleep for spell…sometimes
hours. Sometimes days. Sometimes years. Until you decide to wake up. You realize that somehow – again – that nasty depression beast clawed its way under your skin, and you’re going to have to break free.

And it starts with three rules. I developed these rules about 10 years ago, when depression wasn’t something that was part of my past, but rather something that was hitting me square in the face on a day to day basis. I’d finished college and was working my first “real” job. I was dating the man that would eventually become my husband. On the surface, things were pretty fantastic. But underneath, I was a mess. I was living with an autoimmune disorder that hadn’t been diagnosed yet. I was seriously struggling with the transition from dorm to apartment life. And the reality that my fancy new salary wasn’t stretching as far as I’d hoped was weighing on me heavily. On days I didn’t have to go to work, I barely got out of bed at all.

But I did have some good days, too. So I started paying attention. What was making the good days better than the bad ones? And these three little rules were born.

  1. Take a shower. (Bonus points for using a favorite shower gel or spa indulgence – you’re worth it.)
  2. Put on “real” clothes. (No sweatpants, people, we’re conquering the world today!)
  3. Leave the house. (Run errands. Take a walk. Go to the library. It doesn’t really matter – just exit your front door and don’t come back for at least an hour.)

And it’s just that simple. All 3 rules. Every day. No exceptions.

Now, for a lot of people, these things happen automatically. But for those dealing with a deep depression – regardless of whether it’s caused by chemicals or circumstances – these three things can, at times, feel seriously impossible. It becomes easier than you’d guess to rationalize
yourself out of a shower, or into telling yourself that you don’t really need to leave the house today.  But you do.

Once I’d identified my rules, things changed pretty drastically. I felt better – simply because I was actively choosing to show up for each day. Following these rules forces you to get up out of bed and just participate in life. And that, in itself, is typically the first step.

Is following the three rules going to magically change things overnight? No. Are you suddenly going to feel like the weight of depression is gone? Not a chance. But I believe that in order for any other strategy to work, you have to start here. Prepare yourself. Put your game face on. Be ready to show up and simply try.

It will always be easier to get stay in bed. To let depression win. So often, facing the day means facing your fears. Your grief. Whatever is hiding in your heart that you’re too afraid to share with the world.

But it will always be better to get up and fight. And in time, it gets easier. These days, following my rules is pretty much automatic. And yet, letting my guard down still isn’t an option, even all these years later. Yesterday, I chose to ignore my rules, and I ended up missing out on most of what the day had to offer. But the great news is, it’s never too late in the day or too late in your journey to start. There is a whole wide world out there waiting for you. It thinks you’re  beautiful and wants you to come out and play. Dance in the rain. Smile. Breathe in, breathe out. Participate. So please, don’t be afraid to show up. Three little rules and you’re out the
door. Where you go from there is all up to you.