February 7, 2013

Getting out of Bed on a Dark Day

published this at 8:41 am

By Chris Brogan

I got diagnosed with severe clinical depression over a year ago, and for a while, I really hung to that diagnosis. It helped me frame a lot of what had been going wrong in my life. But then, I realized that I was really clinging to it. A lot too much. And so I decided that I’d try a new tack.

“YES AND” THINKING

Improv actors have a rule: you must never say no in a performance with another improv actor. If they start with, “You seem tired today,” you may not say, “No, I’m not.” You must say, “Yes, and…” and say what will keep the performance moving. I decided that with my depression, I’d adopt some “Yes, And” thinking to the process.

If it’s a dark day, and if I feel down, I don’t want to get out of bed. Bed makes for a great sanctuary when you’re depressed. But here’s what I’d tell myself: “I want to stay in bed. I’m depressed. I have severe clinical depression.” Pause. “Yes, and though I want to stay in bed, I’ve got work to do, and I really like to eat, so I’d best do some of that work. Let’s start by just getting out of the bed for a minute and see if you can walk around.”

SHAKE THE LABEL

I found something else out: once you earn a label, you really hold onto it, good or bad. If you’re labeled as the show-off, you start thinking about ways to do so. If you’re labeled the rebel, you ask, “What would a rebel do about this?” If you’re labeled as severely clinically depressed, it’s easy to say, “Well what do you expect? I’m depressed.”

But my girlfriend, Jacq, got me thinking about ways to shake the label. She said, “You’re down. You’re not feeling well for a moment. That’s okay. But let’s not let it shake the rest of the day.”

Now, realize that when you’re suffering from depression, the last thing you want is for someone to cheer you up. That’s not okay. But what I did take from her perspective was that I didn’t have to stay depressed. And just that one thought got me to really shake off the label. Now, even if I’m really feeling bad, I don’t immediately label it as “depression.” Instead, I look at what’s hurting, acknowledge it, and then try to let that hurting continue while I go about my day. I don’t tamp it down. I try to feel it.

THIS IS JUST MY RECIPE

Everyone is different with how they face their day. But in figuring out these few little details, I’ve been able to get more done. As someone working on being the SOB that Liz wants me to be, that’s how I accomplish as much as I can. I’d love to hear your own recipes for getting out of bed on a dark day.

Author’s Bio: Chris Brogan is CEO & President of Human Business Works. We help you learn to do work the way you want to do it. He’s the author of a new book, It’s Not About the Tights: An Owners Manual for Bravery. See him at SOBCon!

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