By Gordon Corsetti, Skyland Trail adult programs graduate
Tis the season to sit back with a warm beverage, enjoy a crackling fire, and review how the year went. Fortunately, I have data.
Before my introduction to Skyland Trail’s Adult Residential Program, I tracked my mood several times a day with the app Daylio. This behavior was encouraged by the staff at Skyland because it was another way they could see how I was progressing in my recovery. Now, this habit serves me well as I can look back on a given year and see where my brain was at and what circumstances surrounded a given mood.
January, February, and March
The year started out painfully. I was bitten by a rottweiler one day before starting my new job on an overhead powerline crew. Needless to say, a dozen stitches in my lip and two hours of sleep is not the usual recipe for success when starting a new job. Fortunately, I didn’t have to talk much and could focus on using the skills I learned in trade school to make equipment at a new construction site. From that inauspicious beginning I thought, “Well, the year can only get better from here.” I was correct.
With the exception of a few precipitous drops into a negative mood, I stayed in the happy range and bounced back quickly from minor depressive episodes. The first three months of the year were full of learning my new trade, getting to know the men on my crew, and getting the lacrosse season in full swing.
April, May, and June
The next three months were almost the same as the first. I was generally happy due to consistently taking my prescribed medication, speaking with my therapist over the phone every few weeks, and getting a ton of natural sunlight through my new job. I’d get home physically tired but with enough energy to take care of my needs for the rest of the day.
The longest drop in mood came just after the middle of May. I finished the season by officiating a 5A state championship game. Always great to get to work on the last day of the season, but historically, I fall into a depression when the season ends. The big difference between past seasons and this one was that my depression didn’t last for weeks. Just a couple of days and I was back on an upward trajectory.
The worst moment of these three months was June 22, when I noted I woke into a panic attack. While panic attacks are never desirable, I’ll take the fully conscious ones where I have time to prepare over the ones when pure fear is my first discernable feeling. Still, I bounced back pretty quickly.
July, August, and September
I enjoy looking back on my emotional data because sometimes my brain lies to me. When I have a rough day, which is just a normal part of being human, I want to believe that I’ve never had a good day. Or, even worse, that I’ll never get out of my current mental rut. In those moments, looking back and seeing the hard data that I recorded far, far more positive moods than negative moods is incredibly comforting.
Nearly every time my mood tracker shows I dipped, it shows a corresponding jump back to my baseline. This clear-cut, logical evidence is a powerful tool against the depressed machinations of my mind. Also, it’s helpful to know that my mood isn’t just based on my mind. The sharp dip in July was due to a great deal of anger and frustration when my car broke. Sometimes, life throws the proverbial wrench into your day, and I’m learning to be more okay with being pissed off when the situation warrants.
October, November, and December
As I approach the end of 2021, things look to be trending about the same as the rest of the year. My job is stable, I’m in a healthy relationship with a great woman, and I’m able to take some time for myself to do other things that I love to do.
Has it been a banner year? No. Has it been a difficult year? No. It’s just been a year. Full of ups and downs. The goal was to get more and more comfortable with my shifting moods and intentionally work to improve my mood when it got too low. I’m happy to report I made that happen in 2021.
This post was penned by Gordon Corsetti. Gordon, a Skyland Trail graduate, is an author, public speaker, and advocate for suicide prevention and mental health awareness; writing regularly on his website mentallyagile.com. He collected various tools in the pursuit of his permanent recovery from depression and anxiety. Gordon writes about philosophy and different modes of thought that he experiments with to refine his perspective on life. He speaks to the uniquely human ability to change our minds and shows how to use tools to accomplish that change.