It seemed like life had its own agenda this past week, putting my patience to the test. My joints throbbed with pain. Waking up every morning felt like a mental tug of war. Business picked up at work, easily doubling my hours. On top of it all, people plucked away at my number one pet peeve throughout the entire week – stupidity. What made it more frustrating was the steady trickle of idiocy each day. It felt like a video game where I defeated a series of mini bosses. Each battle provided the illusion that they were the main boss, but, in fact, there was another one around the corner waiting to spread its ignorance.
It took its toll on me. By Saturday, I felt worn down. I did not want to get out of bed. I was prepared to give up. After a particularly infuriating phone call with a client’s father, I stopped myself for a minute. I conducted an evaluation of my well-being. I knew that if I kept going at this pace that I was going to cave sooner rather than later.
I took the rest of the day off. I canceled my remaining appointments, laid in bed for a little, and then went to the park for a long walk and to fuel my Pokemon Go obsession. That following Sunday morning, I felt refreshed. That little breather provided the extra boost I needed to get myself together for another challenging week. I had several medical appointments, difficult clients to confront, and significantly more work hours than normal. However, a revitalized mindset made it easier to manage.
Monday morning, I went to my family doctor for a wellness visit. As part of their protocol and my mental health history, they give me a depression inventory to fill out each visit. This particular inventory screens for the nine outlined symptoms of clinical depression. It assesses the frequency of these symptoms on a likert scale over the last two weeks. A higher score indicates higher levels of depression.
I looked over the questions. I circled a zero. Question two, one. Onto question three, one. It was mostly zeroes and ones all the way down. My total score was three. I leaned back and read the questions again. I changed one of the zeroes to a one. I reviewed the questions once more.
Even with the change in score, my final results put me in the “low” levels of depression. I had a “WTF” moment. Through all of the crap I went through last week, the difficult people pushing my buttons, and my pain, I was not “depressed.” It was normal. I was normal.
When my family doctor came into the office, she looked at my scores. She did a similar double take and asked me what I was doing to handle the stress. I told her about my coping skills such as writing, walking, counseling, and talking to my friends. She asked me outright, “Do you think that this was just normal everyday stress?” I nodded my head reluctantly and then with more confidence as I thought about it.
This reinforced two major lessons for me. Foremost, we do not always give ourselves enough credit where credit is due. I handled this stress much better than I used to. A few years or even months prior, I may not have been able to go an entire week dealing with these daily stressors. I may have let my depression win. I would have given up. This was not the case this time around.
It also emphasized the importance of constant self-evaluation. Checking in with yourself and being honest with yourself provide a strong foundation for improvement. It does not have to be a formal inventory, but it could be asking yourself some simple questions. By answering them, you might prevent serious issues from taking place. Nobody knows you as well as you know yourself.
-The Caring Counselor