What makes it better?

I was at the pediatrician twice this week because I have four kids and it is winter. For the first time, I noticed a question on their registration form. After writing the reason for your visit and how long the symptoms have been present, they asked, “Does anything make it better or worse?” 

For the past few weeks, I’ve been having a hard time. I’ve resisted calling it depression because I take medicine and go to counseling and I just don’t have time for this sadness. This is a busy time for us and I need to get my game back. 

But my inability to sleep and my crying and the fact that I take the weather personally would indicate that my depression has come back to hang around this February.

In an attempt to get better, I’ve been paying attention to what makes it better and what makes it worse.

Gray, rainy days make it worse. Noticing and taking pictures of colorful things in the course of my day make it better.

Not sleeping well and then drinking too much coffee and not enough water makes it worse. Eating more than just peanut butter toast makes it better. 

Deciding that I have no right to feel sad because I have a wonderful life makes it worse. Calling my friend in Florida and asking her if it was sunny at her house and then inviting myself to visit next week makes it better.

Too much social media makes it worse. Prayer and music and flowers and yoga make it better.

Dwelling on all the ways I’m letting people down makes it worse. Pulling out my calendar and planning things like UGA basketball games with the twins and walks with friends and lunch with Bryan makes it better.

Anything that carries even a hint of forward momentum makes it better.

Showing myself compassion also makes it better.

On one particular morning this past week, when a teenager was mad at me and a twin wouldn’t listen, when it was raining and people had coughs and everything seemed hard,  I looked at our life and thought, “This is a lot, Anna. Most people wouldn’t delight in this. You are okay. They are okay. Just keep swimming. Also, take your meds, exercise, don’t disappear on people. Get some sun when you can and try not to scare the children. Put yourself on the list of things that need care. Ask what makes it better. Do more of that.” 

 Instead of berating myself for being high-maintenance, I’ve learned that moving myself up on my own priority list is pretty necessary to get through this. I’m just in a bit of an episode that needs my attention. I wouldn’t judge someone else for needing some time to manage their MS flare-up; I wouldn’t demand that someone recovering from pneumonia have their best month ever. I just need to get a little stronger. It won’t take forever. 

I know from personal experience that February has never, ever lasted for the whole year. Spring always arrives. 

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  • “Just keep swimming.” That’s so true! I often find myself telling people that I’m just trying to keep my head above water. Thank you for your blog, Anna! I love all of it!

  • I feel the same way!! I want sunshine because it makes me feel better!! I don’t want to over commit because that only adds stress to our lives.
    Thanks for your honesty – I don’t feel so alone juggling work, teenagers and a husband (who are absolutely the best-I’m so blessed)!! Rainy days and the cold weather need to go away and the sun needs to come out! 😊
    Have a great week!!

  • I can relate. February is the worst! I do find that when I can’t get to the sun (oh how I dream of the Caribbean…) that exercise is the single most helpful thing–when I can get myself to do it. I take the meds, the vitamins, the light box therapy, plan time with friends — just as you are using all your coping tools — but I have discovered (thanks to the nudging of a 72-year-old neighbor who gave me a free pass to the local rec center) that swimming (and I mean that literally!) has done wonders for my depression. It’s meditative–and helps me pretend I’m in the tropical waters of the Bahamas. It’s been a tough winter on many levels for so many of us. Hang in there and know you have fans out there cheering you on. And please keep blogging. Your posts are always so wonderful–and so relatable.