10 Things I’ve Learned in Living With Depression
1. Let yourself have a bad day.
Or days, or weeks or months. Let yourself cry, yell or be angry. In the years I’ve struggled with depression, I tried to grin and bear it at the beginning, but I’ve found that just letting myself have those bad times makes it easier for me to recuperate. When I’m less focused on making myself seem OK, I can focus on what I actually need. It’s not the end of the world to not get out of bed, or not get out of your PJs. So you haven’t showered in a week or you’ve watched the entire series of The Office… again. Are you alive? Are you here to see another day on this earth? Then you’re doing a fine job and you deserve to rest, if that’s what you need.
2. Depression is treatable.
This was the first thing that stuck out to me when I had my first visit to a psychiatrist. The doctors are not lying to you; yes, depression is indeed treatable, but it’s not as easy or simple as they make it sound. In my opinion, because there is so much still to learn about the brain, there just isn’t a fast way to find the medicine that works with your specific genetic makeup. Each person is entirely different and therefore, the antidepressant that worked for one person may or may not work for you. It’s a matter of persisting until you find what works for you.
3. Being mean to yourself only makes it worse.
Have some positive affirmations at the ready. Pick some out ahead of time that really resonate with you. Even if you don’t believe them as you read them, keep reading and repeating them to yourself. You’re already feeling so low; you deserve compassion and love, not the berating thoughts in your mind. Show yourself the compassion you would show to your best friend.
4. Get some exercise.
Even if it’s just walking up and down the stairs in your house, move around and your body will thank you! There have been a ton of studies done that compare the effects of exercise to antidepressants. Harvard Medical School showed that “exercise supports nerve cell growth in the hippocampus, improving nerve cell connections, which helps relieve depression.” Getting some movement in throughout the day will also help the circulation of blood in your body and help improve your sleep.
5. Push yourself when you can.
You know yourself best, and you know when you are truly not able to push yourself and when you are. There will be days you can try to get out of the house or go to the store, and there will be days you know you can’t. Sometimes you really do need to push yourself and sometimes you need to listen to your body and give yourself a break.
6. Give yourself realistic and attainable goals.
Make at least one goal for the day. Even when I stay in bed all day, I give myself at least one goal. Whether it be as simple as making sure I eat at least twice that day or brushing my teeth, at the end of the day I can feel accomplished for completing my goal. Be gentle with yourself and most importantly realistic.
7. Ask for help when you need it.
Isolation seems like comfort in the midst of depression, but I’m here to tell you that you need to reach out. Even though you may be embarrassed, or exhausted, or ashamed, reach out. To your surprise, there will always be someone there to help you. Ask for what you need. Do you need someone to talk to, someone to lie with you, someone to bring you dinner? Just ask.
8. Be prepared.
When I get deeply depressed for a long amount of time, I call it a “Depression Funk.” When I get in these funks, I can barely roll over in bed, let alone do all the things I need to take care of myself. After many of these days, I’ve learned that having preparations makes life easier to get through.
Snacks: Have snacks you can grab out of your pantry when you can’t muster the motivation to cook. When you starve yourself, you starve your brain and the depression will only get worse. Give your brain some fuel to fight.
Wipes: Baby wipes and face wipes will be there to save you when taking a shower just isn’t going to happen.
Perfume: Believe it or not, scent can affect your mood. Sometimes, spraying myself with perfume can lift my mood, even if it’s just for a moment.
Bottled water: All you have to do is grab a bottle and you can stay hydrated for the day. Another brain fuel.
Your favorite book, TV show, movie: Have it close by so all you have to do is reach for it and it’s there.
9. Distract yourself.
As mentioned above, watch your favorite TV show or movie, get lost in a good book (preferably not on the topic of mental health or mental illness or anything that will trigger you), write down how you’re feeling, collage, paint. Whatever it is that makes you feel a healthy form of escape or relief is what you should take some time to focus on. Distracting your mind from the ruminating negative thoughts will keep you safe and might possibly make you feel a little better.
10. Take your meds!
Take your medicine as prescribed. Missing even one dose can throw your mood off completely. Set an alarm for the time you take your meds each day or keep a pill case with you. Taking your meds at the same time each day helps keep it effective.
Photo by Dmitry Schemelev on Unsplash