Dark days and light bulbs

Author and wheelchair user Tracy Todd shares some of her tips and tricks for surviving the gloomy times

We’ve all been through dark days. It’s an inevitable part of having a disability. And I don’t mean the (often circumstantial) depression that befalls many of us for a period after a sudden, traumatic injury; the one that leaves us reeling in shock, facing the reality of not being able to do things like we used to.

I’m talking about the dark days when everything just becomes too much or when things go wrong, like a care assistant not pitching for work or a sudden bladder or bowel issue. It not only messes with your body, but it messes with your head, stripping you of your usual positive attitude.

Dark days can creep up on you sometimes, uninvited and unexpected, and leave you feeling drained, too tired to fight the demons in your head. For me, mind wars are a daily struggle. However, it’s important to have spare light bulbs to help you through the darkness. Some choose to ignore those periods and keep busy.

Others like to wallow in self-pity and stay in bed for days at a time. However you choose to deal with it is your choice. The important thing is that you are able to pick yourself up again and move on. I usually have a good cry and then pray. Ask for help but also be grateful. Many are denied the opportunity of a second chance at life.

Look at yourself in the mirror and say: “I can do this.” You are brave and strong, otherwise you would never have survived this long. This is what else you can do if you’re battling with depression:

Take a bath or shower

Even if it’s only a bucket of water over your head. There’s no better feeling than having clean hair and a fresh body. Put on your best clothes. Every day is special.

Listen to music

Pump up the volume. Sing. Dance. Even if it’s only in spirit.

Escape in a good story

Find a movie. Read a book. Listen to a podcast or audiobook. There are hundreds of sites where you can stream on demand.

Write

It’s cathartic. “Bleeding” onto a page or computer screen helps to get it all out and process your feelings more objectively.

Exercise

Do what you can. Even passive exercise gets the feel-good endorphins going.

Get out of the house

Cabin fever is real. If you don’t have transport, at least go outside. Sit in the sun. Listen to the birds. Smell the roses. Watch the clouds. Be still. Silence isn’t always empty. Sometimes it’s full of unexpected answers.

Find a companion

Even if it’s a dog or another pet. They’re a huge source of comfort. Having a pet and being responsible for their well-being is a great distraction.

Pamper or spoil yourself

Bribe somebody to give you a head or neck massage. Buy yourself a treat. Chocolate and bubbles are my best.

Plan an adventure

Something to look forward to helps keep the calendar interesting. Adrenaline is a great motivator.

Get creative

Find something that stimulates your creative juices. It can be better than any therapy.

Stimulate your mind

Do a word or number puzzle.

Help somebody else

Even if it’s just to listen. It does wonders for your self-worth.

Laugh

Humour is the best healer. Stand-up comedy snippets on YouTube have kept me laughing for days.

Open up

Speak to a friend. Surround yourself with positive people. There are many support groups for your specific disability on social media. You are not alone.

If you can’t find a light bulb to get you through your darkness, get help. Go to your doctor or mental health practitioner. Depression is serious. Never give up. Which light bulbs do you seek in your dark days?

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