My February Lesson on Resilience and Depression: Just Sit Here and Love Me

The theme of this month at getFIT615 is resilience.

When we talked about our theme for February, resilience came up as an option. However, when I sat down to write about resilience, I couldn’t really make it happen. The only thing that came up for me was “resilience is self-care, connecting to your community, and knowing that it won’t always be this way.” I didn’t have anything to say about it and that’s probably because I wasn’t feeling very resilient. I’ve been feeling down in the dumps.

The theme for February ended up being self-care. And the first week of self-care month, my intention was to get up 40 minutes earlier than I had been so that I could sit and have a cup of coffee before I left the house. I did that for a few days and then I was exhausted - inexplicably exhausted. So I slept… and I kept sleeping. My self-care routine changed from needing to wake up early, to needing to get extra sleep and less movement and less social interaction. My original intention with February’s self care theme was to help me find some energy - I was feeling down in January and I thought I was ready to pick myself back up and get on with it… but I wasn’t. And I’m still not.

This month, Elly, one of our teachers, wrote about resilience:

Hi ya’ll my name is Elly and I am thrilled to talk about why we’re focusing on flexing our resilience muscles this month. 

Resilience is the ability to cope with and bounce back from negative events, challenges, or change. It requires positive emotions, especially a sense of hope. Resilience is something that we all have. But just like our muscles, our resilience skills only strengthen when we are aware of them and when we actively work on exercises to make them stronger. 

Resilience does not mean that you are not allowed to be sad, frustrated, or to mourn a loss. Fully experiencing these emotions is necessary to truly move through a challenging time. Resilience is acknowledging the pain, having compassion for yourself, and knowing that the pain won’t last forever.

As a genetic counselor, I have the privilege of working with incredibly resilient families through their “diagnostic odyssey,” or the long journey of discovering what their genetic diagnosis is. These families know that their child has significant health problems but have been told over and over again that the medical field just doesn’t know what condition their child has. Through coping with these unimaginable challenges, families teach me resilience everyday. They are hopeful that their child will receive a diagnosis, they depend on the care of loved ones, and they are grateful for their child’s life. Just like these families, we all have the ability to elicit the positive emotions that strengthen our resilience.  

We all have the ability to train ourselves to be more cognizant of our positive emotions. Finding out how to elicit these positive emotions is really just self-care: spending time in nature, connecting with someone who loves you, finding a creative outlet, exercising, ect. 

Resilience is an innate tool in each and every one of us. We are all resilient every day. You were tired, so you drank some coffee and then went on with your day. You fell on a box jump, but you tried it again a week later.You had your heart broken, but after some time, you set up a Bumble dating profile. 

I encourage you to notice when you are being resilient this month. When do you pick yourself up and keep going? And what are the tools that you are using to allow yourself to do that? Is it compassion for yourself? Leaning on a friend or significant other? 

Notice that, yes, you have resilience, and yes, you have the tools to help you strengthen that resilience. Know that your “resilience muscles” are there whenever you need them. 
— Elly Brokamp

Here’s where I think we get messed up with all of this stuff though - the purpose of all this self-care and resilience isn’t necessarily to “make you feel good when you’re feeling bad.” I think that the purpose might be to just simply allow yourself to feel how you feel when you feel it. And the self-care portion is knowing that there are moments when you’ll need to reach out to your community and ask for help, or you need to make sure you go outside and be in the sun for a moment to remember that you’re alive (hello Nashville, please can it be spring yet?!), or eat a vegetable because nutrients are important for your body to function properly.

I’ve gone through periods of my life where I’ve experienced depression - it showed up for me when my parents got divorced big time. My doctor put me on some antidepressants that I recall kept me from having an appetite. During a time of disordered eating and body dysmorphia, this certainly didn’t help. Seasonal Depression seems to show up for me almost every winter here in Nashville in various forms. There are some winters that I just like to retreat a bit - eating more potatoes and having less social time - these winters aren’t necessarily seasonal depression, more just winter-in-Nashville vibes. But this year has been more of an out-of-body experience for me. I can see my behavior, but from a distance. I’ve been crying… a lot. My eating has been sporadic. I can’t, for the life of me, exercise. Being outside makes me cold and tired. A few friends have mentioned that they feel like I’m pushing them away. I’ve been able to sleep for 14 hours at a time and multiple days in a row. My intake of sugar is high and my intake of vegetables is low.

Kate, gosh! How does this circle back to resilience?!

Well, I’ll tell you. In the past, when I’ve felt this way, I’ve tried to make it go away. I’ve forced myself to workout. I’ve forced myself to hang out with friends. I’ve forced myself to go outside to remember that I’m here and that I’m alive and that we’re all just doing our best. But it’s never really helped, because it’s been me hiding from myself, and hiding that from my friends. And the only thing I know about hiding is that it never helps the healing process.

Instead, this year, I’m telling people that I’m depressed and that I’m not able to hang out - or if we do hang out, I need it to be low key and at one of our houses instead of out in public. I’ve been saying no and not giving a reason. I’m not even TRYing to workout regularly. I’ve walked out of a class at my own gym and at a yoga studio. I’m letting myself sleep until I wake up - I’ve slept until noon a few times this winter and that’s ok (I also have the privilege in my work to get to be really flexible when I need to be). I have a great therapist who’s helping me take a look at my patterns and my relationships and how my want to show up really fully for everyone burns me out - it’s unreasonable that I expect to have that much energy and what that ends up doing is letting other people down, and letting myself down. And my journal has heard a lot from me. So much.

And a few days ago in a class at the gym, I was reminded by a student of some words by Melody Beattie’s Journey to the Heart

January 13: Honor Winter’s Lesson

“See the pine trees and learn their lesson,” a friend once said. “Pine trees are nature’s reminder that growth continues even in the winter.”

Winter is an important season in our lives. It is more than a time of coldness and snow. It’s a time of going within. A time to rest from the work that’s been done, a time to prepare for the lessons ahead. Long for the sun on your shoulders, but let the frost and cold come. The ground has been left fallow in preparation for nourishing the seeds of new life. 

Honor winter’s lesson. Despite this time of lifelessness and in-activity, this is still a season of growth. Trust what’s being worked out in your soul. The snow will melt. The sun will shine again. The time will come to remove your heavy garb and return to the activity of life.

Cherish the winter. Cherish it’s quietness, the time of going within to rest and heal. Cherish this time of preparation that must come before new life. Cherish the hope that lies beneath the snow.
— Melody Beattie

So what my act of resilience looks like right now is letting be what is: do I feel “good?” No. I don’t feel good. But is that a bad thing? I’m not really convinced that it is. Right now, I’m just convinced that it’s ok. That I’m ok. And that I’ll probably feel this way again sometime. And that I’m growing and learning new things about myself even though I’m intentionally not reading any sort of “self-help” anything. 

And as I’m writing this, I’m listening to Caroline Spence’s new song in the background. “I don’t need you to solve any problem at all. I just need you to sit here and love me.” And that’s how I’m approaching how I feel right now - I don’t need to solve this. I don’t need to completely understand all the ins and outs of all of this. For me, right now, that’s too much pressure and I feel incapable of that. Also, me and my feelings don’t need solving. We’re not broken… we’re just having a rough go of it right now. So I’m sitting here, and loving myself, forgiving myself, in the best way that I know how.

Kate Moore getFIT615

Lean Into Yourself, and Take Care of Her

A Former lululemon Ambassador's Thoughts