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Bootstraps

Courtney

I’m writing from deep inside the rabbit hole. It’s truly a miracle that I’m even writing this, but I have something I really need to say.

Here goes.

I had a humongous Ganglion Cyst (I know, right? ewww) removed from my wrist a week ago. No biggie, right? I went under general anesthesia, which I’ve done a few times and besides some nausea, I’m usually fine.
This time, not so much. Ends up, general anesthesia interferes with bipolar medication.

Yay.

See, my chemistry completely changed after having a baby, so I really shouldn’t be surprised that my body reacted differently than normal, but my psychological world has been so tumultuous since pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum period, that I really believed I was out of the barrel. That the universe was done pummeling me.

Wrong.

I thought I’d have a Band-Aid and some soreness. Instead I woke up in a cast and a lot of pain. That mean old cyst was all wrapped around an artery and some nerves. Goodie. So I thought I was sad because I wasn’t prepared to struggle taking care of my off-the-charts big 5-month old with one arm. I thought my dark mood was circumstantial.

It wasn’t.

I found myself crying, a lot. I’m not a crier. I found myself feeling extremely alone in the world. I’m not alone in the world. But it wasn’t until I got tingly all over and couldn’t keep my eyes open on Sunday that I knew – I was officially depressed. My depression is not only mental, but also quite physical, as it is for many of us. The tingles and exhaustion give it away every time.

I called my team. My therapist told me that general anesthesia can interfere with bipolar meds and that’s why I was depressed. Then my psychiatrist put me on a higher dose of one of my antidepressants. Now I’m doing what I need to do to treat my depression and hoping the fog will lift soon, which I’m sure it will.

I love to beat myself up in depressions. Big time. Pull out the bat and go to town. I’m sure I’m not the only person with clinical depression who’s been told to “just pick yourself up by your bootstraps!” by some well-meaning ignoramus at one point or another.

If it was that simple, don’t you think I would’ve done it by now?
The Bootstrap Theory makes sense for a rainy day, the blues or “a bad case of the Mondays.” Absolutely. I’ve used this technique many times. It’s called contrary action. Just take a deep breath and face the day instead of going back to bed and listening to sad songs.

But for depression, I’ve found, it’s possibly the WORST ADVICE ON THE PLANET.

Here’s why:

1. The more I fight a depression, the worse it gets. We call this a downward spiral.
2. The baseball bat I beat myself in the head repeatedly with has “just pick yourself up by your bootstraps” written across it in blood.
3. This advice almost killed me once. Literally.

Through my years of healing, I’ve learned the quickest possible way to get out of a depression. If it helps one person, I’ve done my job. Please remember that I am a bipolar person, not a doctor, and this is only my experience.

1. I identify this as a depression. This is the hardest part. I generally figure it out quicker and quicker as my healing progresses, and the quicker I can figure it out, or have it pointed out to me, the quicker I can get on the right path. 
2. I call my therapist and psychiatrist and follow their direction. Sometimes it means an extra session or a med change and check-ins. I listen to them because they are the experts and they haven’t steered me wrong yet.
3. Tell my family and close friends what’s going on with me.
4. I lean into the depression. I know it sounds weird. I don’t fight it for a second. I hire a babysitter or call in sick to work, whatever I need to do to remove as much responsibility from my plate as possible. I do this when I have the flu; this is no different. I am sick and I need to take care of myself.
5. I don’t tackle anything on my “to do” list. Actually, I hide it. Or burn it. Who cares.
6. I listen to my body. Generally I want to sleep, so I sleep. I’ll sleep for 15 hours if that’s how long my body wants to sleep. And I won’t feel guilty about it for a hot second. Sleep is one of the best things for me to reset my brain. 
7. If I want sugar, I eat sugar. Diets go out out the window along with the “to do” list. 
8. I watch comedies. I laugh, laugh and laugh some more. Stand-up comedy, “South Park” and “Zoolander” are three of my faves.
9. I snuggle with my doggies. I wear slippers and jammies. I cuddle up in blankies. If it’s cold out, I start a fire and sip hot tea.
10. Overall, I take care of myself. My therapist says “wrap yourself in cotton and treat yourself like your very, very fragile.” I visualize being wrapped in cotton.
11. If I don’t want to do the dishes, laundry or make the bed – I don’t. 
12. If I want and can afford a massage, I get one.
13. If I want to write, I write. If I don’t, I don’t.
14. When the bootstrap people come into my head, I ask them politely to leave. And if that doesn’t work, I tell them to f*ck off.

It may sound drastic, selfish and luxurious, but I can generally turn what would be a month long downward spiral into a few fun days at home. My family would much rather have me down for a few days rather than a few weeks and I create considerably less havoc to those around me.

The origin of the phrase is unknown, but has been around at least since the 1800’s, initially meaning shoelaces for boots and later those loopy things at the top of work boots. The phrase is ironic in nature, as the act of lifting oneself up into the air by one’s shoelaces is a physical impossibility.

So in it’s earlier actual meaning, the phrase actually works for depression. It’s similar to telling an alcoholic to “just stop drinking.”

The phrase is just as absurd as the mentality that self-sufficiency is the answer to mental illness.

That’s all I’ve got. Lights are off, face is washed, teeth are brushed and I’m gonna catch some more zzzzzz’s.

Hopefully I’ll wake up tomorrow morning to a depression-free day.

Until then, goodnight sweet readers.

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