There are a lot of things that vary from person to person when it comes to what they do and don’t want to do (or can’t muster the motivation to do) but for me one of the things that can take a potentially good day and suck it down into a bad day is not leaving the house.
It never seems to matter what I do outside the house. I can go far away and drive hours to do something outside the city or I can simply go into the back yard and pull weeds, but the difference in the Shawna who leaves the house and the Shawna who returns to the house is always measurably better.
After reflecting on this a few times (because let’s be honest, I’m always willing to work on myself when I’m in a good mood) I can come up with a pretty obvious reason it helps: fresh air! There’s a reason kids have to go outside during recess, and it’s no coincidence that when someone is not feeling well they call a break “taking a breather”. That’s the first conclusion, but I think there’s more to it.
My next thought is that I should probably be concerned. After all, this is anxiety, right?
What if everything outside the house is just a means of distracting myself from my depressive life. That’s not so bad, distractions from a downward spiral are still beneficial. My husband would probably say that weeding the backyard is a better distraction than driving somewhere, because I tend to spend money when I ‘run errands’ – albeit the money is usually spent on groceries or toys for our guinea pigs.
What happens when they stop though? What happens when you come home from meeting friends for dinner, and what happens when you finish running errands and you find yourself back at home? What happens when there are no more weeds to pull, the lawn is mowed and it’s 10:00 pm? You can’t distract yourself 100% of the time, so perhaps distractions are just prolonging the inevitable moment of facing your depression head on and playing a really sick game of chicken.
Perhaps, though, leaving the house just counts as a small, simple win.
If I weeded the yard or garden, then I didn’t just sit on my ass on the couch all day. If I went to the grocery store and bought groceries, then it means I took the time and effort to get out of bed, go to the bathroom mirror and make myself look at least semi-presentable to the public. Let’s be honest, social anxiety will win out over my depression every single time, so not ending up on peopleofwalmart.com is much higher up on my list of priorities than not getting public-ready.
Some days it doesn’t – and can’t – happen. But then there are days where it does and those days are worth it.