We welcome Laura-Ray Read, who shares her lived experience with our audience at Rural Mental Health Matters!
Neurodivergence is a term recently adopted by the mental illness and disorder community as an umbrella term, and I quite like it. Perhaps it's a stretch, but it makes me feel like a superhero. And maybe we all are? We fight the battle between ourselves and us every day.
The holidays affect everyone differently, and neurodivergent or neurotypical, the holidays can cause loneliness, seasonal depression, and joy.
As someone with bipolar disorder, the longer, darker days take a toll on me.
As the days grow darker, I can feel my mood slipping. It's a strange feeling because the cold weather and holiday season is my favorite time of the year. And regardless of my mood, the season will continue, and if I hope to provide for my family of fur babies, work must continue as well.
I find that the best way to thrive despite depression is to adapt my lifestyle to it. I don't mean that I lean into depression, letting it take me down and out; I just mean that I give myself grace and adapt my processes to support my mood.
I break projects into smaller tasks
Already, as a neurodivergent, facing large projects in bulk is overwhelming. Even more so, though, when depressed. I'm already struggling with my energy, right?
Taking a project and dissecting it into smaller tasks not only allows me breaks in between but also allows me to set and accomplish goals. Checking a box on a list, big or small, is an easy way to grab up some dopamine (those chemicals that say, 'Yay, you did a thing!').
I get ahead when I can
Bipolar disorder isn't black and white, the way most people think of it. Once I'm in a depressive episode, though it takes a while to get out, the base of my mood may rise and fall depending on the day. Though depressed, I may not be as depressed some days, so on those days, I try to get ahead on my projects, sometimes completing them in bulk.
I also try to carve out time on those days to do things I enjoy. It can be hard to do more than the bare minimum to take care of myself in a depressive episode, so days like this are great for meeting with friends, rollerblading, or taking to the water for a paddle session.
A young man sits on his bed, leaning against the headrest, in a blue pajama shirt and using his mobile phone. A soft light with an alarm clock sits on a night stand to his right.
I work in my PJs
Sometimes, I work from the comfort of my bed. I see a lot of mental health posts throughout the holidays encouraging us to push ourselves, to get up and get moving. But that just isn't realistic some days. Some days, I open my windows, stay in my pajamas, and work from the comfort of my bed. Days like this are necessary for me. I'm usually joined by my fur babies, and because I feel safe and loved in my blankets and stacks of pillows, I'm able to accomplish my daily goals.
I get some lizard time in
Lizard time is what I use to describe nature bathing (also known as sunbathing or forest bathing). It's where I walk outside, close my eyes, and look straight up toward the sky. If it's sunny and warmer, I sit in the sun and absorb its light. If it's cold and gloomy, I touch some branches and return to the safety of meditating behind a window. I do this every day.
A woman sits cross legged in a garden with a modern building behind her. On the floor in front of her is her laptop, an open book, notes, and she has her phone to her ear.
I talk about it
It can be hard to be vulnerable and to let others in during a depressive episode. I don't want the people I love to see me like that. But as it turns out - if they love me back - they want to support me.
Many people who don't struggle with mental illness do their best to encourage and love their loved ones who do.
I've especially been surprised by the amount of people who can relate to what I go through. There's a whole community of us out there. Don't be alone if you don't have to be. We're better together, and we can get through this together.
Let people in
I want to end this by saying I am not a healthcare professional. I am simply doing my best to connect with others and share my bipolar and neurodivergent experiences in hopes that it might help someone else.
If you have the means, seeking treatment and advice from a professional is encouraged. And what I do may not be best for you. It's important to create plans that benefit you.
This blog was written by Laura-Ray Read, Neurodivergent writer and so much more.
If you're looking to share your personal lived experience with us or your expertise on mental health, physical health, accessibility, and inclusion, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. We'd love to hear from you.