Seven items from my bag. What's in yours?
The Antidepressant Grab Bag of Glee. It’s a cumbersome phrase, but it does the job. I’ve found it’s more fun to call it the AGBG. (Say it a couple times.)
In our culture, we’re routinely held hostage by big pharma and the AMA. Those of us who suffer from depression think our only options are the pills and protocols offered by the ‘mental health industry’.
But I think more of us have the answers much closer at hand. We’ve been outsourcing like crazy when we could just as easily draw from our own wisdom, our own self-awareness. I am not saying, ‘Forget about doctors. What do they know?’ I’m just saying they don’t know everything. And a lot of them don’t know us very well.
But we do. All it takes is a little investigative journalism. Interview yourself. Blow this case wide open. What if you had your very own Anti-depressant Grab Bag of Glee? What’s in it?
When I sat with that question, I came up with some really fun answers. And my assignment this week was to pull one thing out of that bag every day and use it.
No pills. No protocols. (I mean, I still take my pills. But I'm also expanding my take on what an antidepressant is.) Just the simple things in the world that reliably pull me out of the dumps. Stuff I forget I have access to. Stuff that doesn’t get near enough credit for the joy it gives me. Really little items/activities that don’t even cost much. Here’s my list:
Bubbles. Oh yes. I’m a 67-year-old child who loves bubbles. I’m buying one bottle of the normal ones, and one of the really big, long ones. I love blowing into that magic little ring and creating worlds and worlds of tiny, shiny spheres of nothing.
Throwing and catching a ball. A couple times during the past decade, Elena and I have just thrown a ball back and forth. You’d be surprised what a sweet lift this can bring. Maybe there are studies that explain this. The hand/eye coordination required. The social interaction with your best friend. Being outside in the sun. The exercise, especially for someone like me who sucks at catching and has to run to pick up the ball so I can throw it back. The shoulder and hand muscles strengthening and improving with each throw, each catch. But none of that matters to me. I just love to do it.
Quilting. I love the comforting low hum of my machine. I love knowing how to thread it and what to do when I can’t. I love choosing the pattern of the stitches I’ll use. I love handling the fabric, picking it out, cutting it, piecing it together. I love ironing the seams flat. Knowing how to load the bobbin, and how to maintain the bobbin case, oiling it every couple months. I love being able to make things like this:
4. Hot as hell bath. The joy of this is pretty undeniable. I don’t do it very often so it’s extra special when I do. Some people like to add candlelight, champagne, maybe even a book to read. These are fine, but I just sit in the water in the dark. No lights, no candles, no extras of any kind. It calms my whole body.
It calms the being that has been bombarded all day long with sensory input. Screens, texts, youtube clips, newspaper articles, facebook memes, endless, endless input. I turn off the lights, step in slowly (it’s so hot!), and ease myself into the deep comfort of nothing but heat, water, and dark.
5. Riding my bike (with my dog or my wife or both or neither!). Couple years ago, I bought a bike seat for our little Yorkie, Ruby. One of my very favorite things to do is go biking through the neighborhood with her safely strapped into the little seat in front of me.
The joy this gives her, me, and everyone who sees us, is unparalleled. Side effects: stronger legs, stronger heart, stronger smile muscles. Fitness, baby.
6. Racketball. Solo. I’m so bad at it I wouldn’t subject anyone to playing with me. But I love the satisfying thwack! of the racket connecting with the ball (um, when it connects), and hearing the THWAPly reply of the ball bouncing off the wall.
There’s a court expressly for that purpose in the park around the block from me. It takes all of five minutes to get there. By foot. It’s on me to get my ass up and go.
It’s an antidepressant. I’m outside, I’m exercising, and oh by the way, maybe some pent up anger gets freed up in the process.
7. Secret Raspberries
I’ve mastered this technique after almost thirty years of disciplined practice. It starts with a trip to the grocery store. Let’s say that this trip is happening on a day that’s really hard.
The first important thing to remember is that no matter what’s on the list, you must add a pint of organic raspberries (or whatever smokes your shorts — that you can buy one of at the store).
Save it for last when going through the checkout line, so it’ll be easy to retrieve once you’re in the car.
Load your groceries in your back seat, but before turning on the car, locate the raspberries (or shorts-smoking item of choice), and bring it into the front seat.
Then, mindfully, selfishly, gleefully blast your depression to smithereens. Sit there in the parking lot and eat the whole damn thing by yourself. Or, drive somewhere in a pretty neighborhood, and park outside your favorite house. And each the whole damn thing by yourself.
When you reach proficiency at this, you can improvise. Sometimes, on errands, I swing by the BP station on my way home. I don’t get gas. I don’t even get raspberries. I go inside and buy a Haagendasz Coffee Ice Cream Bar. And I eat the whole damn thing by myself.
The joy of this for me is that nobody knows.
So, my friends, that’s it. Seven items from my ADBG. My Anti-depressant Bag of Glee. There’s way more in that bag, of course, but I thought I’d share these with you to get you started on your own. What’s in your ADBG? Let me know in the comments if you feel like it. I’d love to hear from you.