Wednesday 21 April 2021

The importance of living one day at a time

Gee explains why sometimes, on the bad days, it's better to be 'lazy'.
- Gee Hughes

When I was at my lowest, my mind was a bleak place. Imagine being on autopilot — maybe when you’re out on a jog and your brain wanders off in a different direction to your body, or you’re staring at your lecturer after a long night out and you realise there’s not one single productive thought rummaging around in your head. That sort of thing. Well, that was me. For months and months and months. 

Depression is a vast and all-encompassing thing. Like the world’s most emotionally toxic hoover, it sucks all the joy from your life and leaves a dull, senseless blob in its wake. Your happy moments become fleeting and quick to fade into the background. Your bad moments seem to take up so much space within your body that you feel the physical presence of it pulling at you, incessant and exhausting. It really can feel like you’re drowning.

Ironically however, the hardest part for me was never the illness itself. The hardest part was the healing process. You see, my depression has always come and gone in waves, and so it was reasonable to assume that this, like every other bout of sadness I’d had before, would pass. So naturally, I began to work toward pulling myself out of the hole that my depression had dug for me, which, apparently, was a great thing to start doing. My therapist supported it. YouTubers, Instagrammers, self-help authors all gushed about it. 

There was just one issue: I had depression. Every goal I set, I failed to achieve. Every evening that I set aside to go on runs would end with me curled up in bed. At every turn, my mental illness pipped me to the post and dashed any hopes I had of creating a healthy routine. This, unsurprisingly, made me feel even worse. I felt like a failure, unable to complete even the most basic of tasks that all these self-help people swore by. If so-and-so on Instagram could post a quaint little infographic on how their daily walks changed their life, why couldn’t I do the same? What was wrong with me? 

It took a long time for me to work out that there was a simple answer to my question: nothing was wrong with me at all. I just needed to live one day at a time. Is it good to have a productive routine that makes you feel better? Yes, absolutely. Is it helpful to obsess over attempting to create said routine, when you are mentally exhausted and physically unable to facilitate those routines? No. 

When you are depressed, your most important task becomes making it through to the next day in good health. So stop the goal-setting, just for a little while. If the homework is due in a week’s time, don’t beat yourself up about being unable to start it now. Do whatever needs to be done for tomorrow instead. If all the healthy options in your fridge are horrendously out of date and all you have left are tasteless chicken nuggets, then stop feeling guilty and just help yourself to some. The fact that you’ve eaten is good enough to see you through to the next day. And from there, who knows? There’s an infinite number of things that could happen in the 24 hours that follow. So live one day at a time. 

It may take some time, but eventually you’ll start to notice the things you didn’t before, like the fresh flowers on your neighbour’s windowsill, or the fact that you’re walking back to your flat instead of taking the bus. It’s then that you can give those routines another shot, because you’ll no longer be burdened by the smaller downfalls that were previously consuming your life.         

One thing that has taken me a while to learn, but I’ve found invaluable in my journey toward loving myself a little more, is that it’s perfectly fine to spend a little while doing absolutely nothing to try and ‘better’ yourself. A doctor wouldn’t ask a patient with a broken leg to start walking to work when they’re only two minutes out of surgery, after all. So please, treat your mind with the same care, and just go back to bed. Maybe take some ice cream with you. I promise, you’ve earned it. 

Visit Student Space for further support. Explore online resources, access direct support via text, phone, web chat or email and find the support available at your place of study.  

My name's Gee, I'm eighteen years old, and throughout most of my teenage life, I've been dealing on and off with depression. This manifests itself in a lot of ways, including my education, but I hope that by telling my stories, I can make life better for someone out there.

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