Did you have a good day?
How was your day?
How’d it go today?
Pretty typical questions that we ask each other. We ask our kids when they get home from school, our spouses when they get home from work, our parents when we call to check in on them.
It’s a hard question for me to answer when I’m in the middle of a depressive episode, like now.
My previous therapist got me set up with a daily mood calendar. I picked what time of day I wanted the inquiry, and then each day at that time, I receive a text, asking me to rate my day. 10 is good, 1 is bad. When I first started, I had the hardest time remembering which end of the scale was for positive mood, and which for bad mood. I found another chart online that gave words to each of the numbers on the continuum, which helps me to stay consistent in my self-reporting (must be the difference between a words-person and a numbers-person). On this scale, 10 is “insanely great” and 1 is “couldn’t be worse.” Every other number on the scale has a word or two – it really does help me report consistently. My therapist is the only other person who had access to my mood chart, and we would often discuss it at therapy appointments, particularly when my numbers were averaging below 4 (“meh”).
One of the “friends” that depression brings with it when it visits me is over-generalization. This is drawing conclusions too broadly from very little data. This problem presents itself every time I have to respond to my charting calendar text. What number do I send if the morning was pretty good, but my afternoon mood took a dive? Since the text arrives in the afternoon, I’m guessing that I score the day lower than if the message had been scheduled for morning.
Anyway, that daily check-in started years ago, and even though I have a different therapist now, I still text a number every day. I can then look at the calendar for myself and see patterns – mood is lower when husband is traveling, for example. Or mood was in the higher range when we went camping with our dear friends last month. My daily averages are between 5.0 (“so-so”) and 6.5. (6 is “okay” and 7 is “good”) but daily scores have been as low as 1 and a very rare high of 10. (I’m not sure what a perfect day would be – I’ve only scored two of those in the five-plus years I’ve been reporting.)
Thursday, my current therapist asked me if I’m beginning to see glimpses of hope. I think the answer is yes, but they are only glimpses, moments.
This is why, when I’m in the hard parts of depression, I’ve learned not to look at days, but at moments within the day. I learned this from my previous therapist, too.
It’s important at this stage in my depression that I keep my focus on moment by moment, that I break everything into smaller pieces. I have to be able to look at the day and see where the good moments are, and acknowledge the moments that are hard or dark. I can only focus on a small moment in time, nothing as large as a day. If I have to rate a day, it’s going to end up with a low score. But if I can look at the moments, especially the times when I feel joy or peace, or when I laugh or relax, then I can see that the entire day is not a loss. Maybe overall the day is tough, but lots of days, there are positive moments in there.
Right now, there are more dark moments than light ones. Every once in a while, there’s a day with no bright moments at all, and I can only choose between dark or darker. But if I’m honest, there are bright moments in most days. Maybe it doesn’t last very long – just for a moment!- but if I can see it, usually it can lift the darker moments to just dark. And slowly, as I heal from this round of depression, my lighter moments will begin to outweigh the darker ones. More days will score on the positive end of the continuum, until most days are positive with a dark moment here or there. I’ll move from the negative end of the scale to rating days more positively.
I can’t rush this process, just have to take each moment as it comes. If I judge a full day, it’s very easy for me to feel defeated and unsuccessful. But when I focus on the moments, slowly there will be more positives than negatives, more light than dark, and moments will become days again.
So, I guess the answer is yes. Yes, I do see glimpses – moments – of hope.
For right now, one moment at a time!