For as long as I have been able to recall, including during the initial and most tender years of my youth, I have experienced, among other things, what usually gets termed as being severe depression, as well as anxiety and somewhat later on, panic attacks and the like (in the latter instance, read: post traumatic stress disorder).

This can sometimes lead one to potentially consider and even ask oneself or others — what is one to do?

In my case, over 31 years ago, when essentially living in social isolation and being literally stuck in Rutland during a rather lengthy period of a recurring bout of deep “depression,” grocery shopping was sorely needed to be done and, without giving much thought to it, I quickly headed out to do so. Shortly after leaving the shabby rooming house located directly over a bar that was my home at the time (i.e., the rooming house, not the bar) however, I sensed myself going into an even deeper level of “depression” than had already been the case, then, as would often happen, experiencing both growing “anxiety,” as well as a “panic attack” coming on. Serious stuff, indeed.

It was something that often brought me to, and also beyond, the brink of experiencing recurring “suicidal ideation” (i.e., an impulse to seriously consider taking one’s own life) and then sometimes acting upon it. This time around it caused me to stop dead in my tracks and consider heading back to my little room instead of venturing to the store. In fact, I kept going back and forth within my mind about what to do and was actually pacing back and forth in either direction for a little while as well.

Needing to get some groceries, though, a thought came to mind about how deep “depression” is something I experience and have throughout most of my life; and sometimes, there is nothing much one can do, if anything, about it save for accepting this as the lived experience it is, without making any judgment, just like one would do for others experiencing the same.

Finally, in that brief moment, I unconditionally accepted myself (read: self-acceptance) and accepted my experiences along these lines completely as-is, just like I would do for anyone else. Then, I went grocery shopping and afterwards returned to my tiny abode, living among serious alcoholics, drug addicts and the like whom I tended to keep my distance from whenever possible (am not judging, nor complaining, merely saying).

Two weeks later, all of a sudden I realized I was feeling much better and it caused me to ask myself “why” and “what happened?? Given that one can often return to certain patterns, as well as employing various coping mechanisms (some of which are not always beneficial or productive) much too easily and by habit, if I were to continue to keep feeling better over time, this was something — a mystery of sorts — to attempt to figure out and potentially keep putting into practice on an ongoing basis.

Thus, I began the process of figuratively retracing my steps within my mind and trying to discover what had occurred, why, and more important, how to keep it going if at all possible. This process took a while, yet eventually it came to mind about how one small act on my part is what it took. That simple, though meaningful, act was, as already mentioned above, self-acceptance. Nothing more complicated or difficult than that; that said, yes, it is easier said than done.

That stated, there is much more I have also called upon and began putting into practice, as well. This included utilizing various modes of creative self-expression, including pencil sketching, drawing using regular and color pencils, diary writing, as well as penning prose and poetry.

Some of my self-imposed introspective practice and resultant writing at the time also took the form of creating short-, mid- and long-term plans concerning how I could consider moving on with my life, figuratively and literally, with the caveat of understanding one might not arrive at the exact destination mapped out on the far distant horizon and that is fine, sometimes better, because it is the journey that matters most, not always one’s destination.

In addition, among the different reasons I moved to Vermont in 1988 in the first place, I also began doing much more long-distance walking, hiking, bicycling and cross-country skiing among nature whenever possible.

Yet another meaningful thing, beside having a handful of loyal human friends one can potentially learn to trust over time, has been having an emotional support animal to share one’s day and life with whenever possible. This particular element has been most crucial to my well-being and cannot be overstated.

In closing — especially when things appear to be at their worst and there doesn’t seem to be anything to do about it and one is at great risk of giving up entirely, one might ask “what works best for shoveling oneself out of a pit of deepest despair” (i.e., besides to stop shoveling, especially downward)?

It is healthy and good to keep in mind about how the answer to such questions often lay buried deep within each and every individual person, not necessarily to be found by asking others and what they consider works best for them.

That stated, mutual peer support can oftentimes be essential to discovering, learning and moving forward, as well (peers are persons who have walked and lived in the same type of shoes, sharing certain similar life experiences).

Lastly, though not least, when all else fails, one might consider resorting to regularly exercising a good and healthy sense of humor. Try not to take oneself or one’s experiences too seriously. And, if need be, make sure to press one’s internal restart (read: reboot) button (which is usually located near the turn off or shutdown button). Not to mention it is imperative to maintain proper nutrition, as well as hydration, and also get much-needed relaxation, rest and sleep, whenever possible.

Morgan W. Brown lives in Montpelier.

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