Andrew has been an Okie for 30 plus years. He has spent the majority of that time complaining about things.
Beating Depression Takes Effort Everyday
I am depressed. I don't mean like my sports team just lost depressed, but clinically so. The clinical kind of depression is just the "my team lost" kind of depression but it lasts a lot longer and there's no team necessary.
Despite what corny family sitcoms from the '90s will have you believe, this kind of thing can't be immediately fixed with a pep talk and some awful music playing lowly in the background. There is hope, however, even if you aren't a member of the Tanner family! If you have found yourself in a rut in your life as of late, don't despair. Things can and probably will look up.
I have found through my experience that with a hefty dose of antidepressants and a few daily exercises, I can put my pants on and get out of the house at least ninety percent of the time. It may not sound perfect, but ninety percent is an A.
1. Get Up Every Morning
I know this sounds kind of obvious, but if you are dealing with some intense depressive episodes, getting out of bed can be the hardest part of your day. It can be tempting, especially with nothing on the agenda, to lay in bed all day and only get up when you absolutely have to. Again, I know this sounds simple, but you are the one who googled articles about how to deal with your depression. There is at least a fifty percent chance you are not wearing pants right now. Let's not get judgmental.
But seriously, even if all you are planning on doing in bed is looking up uncredentialed articles by random strangers on the internet on how to beat your sadness, do it in the living room. Get out of that bed and go to your closet, but on presentable clothes and go sit on the couch and carry on reading on your phone. This is not one of those steps to beat depression where you are going to immediately feel better. It is going to feel weird. You are going to wonder why you left the comfortable and warm confines of your bed only to move a few feet over to your couch and do exactly the same thing.
But I promise, activity begets activity. Although activity is not a guarantee to beat depression, it is guaranteed that continuing to lay in the bed will not. Besides, look at you now. Sitting on a couch, reading articles on your phone like the grown-ass person you are. Attaboy. Let's keep up the success. Baby steps.
2. Stop Sabotaging Yourself
Now that your sexy self is upright and away from your sad factory (that's what I call my bed...for...reasons) let's talk about how you are handling the device you are most likely reading this article on. Your phone.
The modern cell phone is a marvel of technology. It literally contains almost all the information you could ever want to know about anything. You could google almost any question and find the answer out almost instantly. More than likely, however, you are using your phone to connect with others on social media, which can be great! It can also be awful. Listen, there is nothing wrong with finding out what character from Twilight you are or reconnecting with an old friend who is now selling overpriced vitamins, but it can become a real problem when you constantly see others succeed.
Social media is a misrepresentation of the lives of others. Most people don't post their failures or their embarrassments. They only post their successes and that is totally understandable. What that can lead to is the idea that everyone around you is doing better at the point they are in life than you are. That just is not the case. For everyone on your timeline opening a new business or getting married and having kids just remember its possible that they also dropped their prepaid cell phone into a burger king toilet by accident. They just didn't post about that. It confuses your sense of reality and your sense of your own accomplishments. Because of this, it's important you limit your time on these sites. Especially if you are someone like me who suffers from depression. You don't have to isolate yourself from the outside world, but you need to give yourself limits on how much time you will spend on these sites.
The idea of sabotaging one's self doesn't begin and end at social media either. You have to make sure that if you are prone to feeling sad, that you avoid triggers that are going to put you in a certain mood. TV shows, music, and many other different kinds of media should go through the filter of "can I really handle this right now? Even if I can, do I need to?"
Let me give you an example. I cannot watch Grey's Anatomy. I have several friends that like it and have enjoyed watching it myself many times. I cannot, however, watch it enough to follow along with any of the major plot points. Someone dies tragically and sad music plays every single episode. It is a no go for me. If someone I know is watching it I will literally stand up and walk into a different room or play a stupid game on my phone until it is over. I know me. I know my limitations. Watching that kind of content is just shooting myself in the foot. I have to walk away. There are things worth expending real and intense emotions on in this life, a television show probably isn't one of them.
Does that mean you can never again watch some of these things on TV or listen to certain songs? Absolutely not, you may be in a better place at some point and be able to come back to those. But remember how we have to have a pep talk about putting on pants? This isn't the best time to test the limits of your brain's serotonin production.
3. Have Someone You Can Talk to
It doesn't have to be a long and painful conversation about how you have been feeling. It will just help to let someone else in. Trust me. Just to have someone who can understand you aren't going to be on your A-game for a while until you get some things figured out. Someone who can call you and check on you every now and then. If emotional outbursts make you uncomfortable that's fine. I am not asking you to pour your heart out to everyone you know but at least tell one person. If that girl you haven't talked to since high school can message you on facebook about her exciting new business selling overpriced vitamins, then you can reach out to one close friend to let them know what is going on.
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This helps in multiple ways. It allows you to name what is going on in your life. It allows you to control the narrative and gives you a starting point in the process of getting better. It also helps people around understand what is going on a little bit better. Make sure this is someone that you trust and someone that has the emotional capacity to help just listen. It also means you don't have to do it alone anymore. You do not have to be the only person who knows what is going on.
4. Tell Your Doctor
I know having a conversation with a stranger about how it is hard to leave the bed and you occasionally cry during Geico commercials isn't a fun thought but it is very important. There is a shortlist of everyone in your life you need to be completely open with and your healthcare provider is on that list. There are options out there for you. There are a number of different ways to treat depression and the list grows longer every year as we understand more and more about it. You aren't alone in this struggle. If it is at the point now where you feel like you are searching for answers and not finding any, it is time to turn to the professionals.
For me, this looked like making an appointment with my regular doctor and telling her I was experiencing longer than normal bouts of depression and asking her what she thought I should do. She was empathic and understanding and started me on a low dose of antidepressants. There is some medical value in just naming your problem and having the doctor validate your feelings. After about a month on the antidepressant, I noticed a mild improvement without any real major side effects. It was the best-case scenario. It wasn't a cure-all or something that was a one and done. I will probably have to be on this medication for the rest of my life. Or until doctors figure out how to open up my brain and physically remove the sad parts. That doesn't seem likely. Although, I am still hopeful.
5. Congratulate Yourself Once a Day
It is important you take stock of the things that you have done successfully. For whatever twisted reason our evolutionary biology tends to have us fixated on our failures and ignoring our successes. You need to actively fight against this habit and begin to give yourself daily affirmations. You can do that out loud if it makes it more real for you. Or if you are concerned that the people around you will find it odd that you are silently whispering, "Good job. I am so proud of you" to yourself, you can keep it in your head. Some people even write these things down. You will be blown away after a few months of writing down your daily wins how many things you have done and done well. It is for whatever reason incredibly easy to breeze past your accomplishments.
These things that you congratulate yourself for don't have to be completing works of art or ending world hunger. It can be cleaning out your fridge or being on time for a social event. Anything that you have in the past found difficult and that you have since down well is worth celebrating. Life is nothing if not the collection of little victories.
You are going to find the act of congratulating yourself a little bit weird. That is fine. Do it anyway. It is ironic that one of the best ways to help yourself deal with mental illness is to start talking to yourself every day, but I don't make the rules.
6. Own It and Don't Be Ashamed
I don't actually know the statistics about how many people in the world suffer from depression and I don't even know if there would be an accurate way to tell because so many suffer in silence. With that being said, it's a large number of people. You are not alone by any stretch of the imagination. There are tons and tons of people who have felt the exact same dread at the idea of getting our of their bed and going about their day. It doesn't make your life any easier, but it should help just to know you are not the only one.
Don't dance around the fact that you are depressed. Don't tell yourself or others that you are just "going through some things." Own it. Name it. Don't be ashamed. No one of any quality as a human would judge differently for being diagnosed with depression. If anyone does its best you did not keep them in your life anyway. Say it right now if you have never said it before. Say it aloud. "I have depression. I am depressed." You should no more be ashamed of a chemical imbalance in your brain than someone should be ashamed of their hair color. It is part of who you are. It may not always be, but it is for now and that is okay. You don't have to work your depression into casual conversation with the cashier and the grocery store, but just know that you are not alone and you don't have anything to be ashamed of.
7. Stay Busy
You do not have to have something going on twenty-four hours a day but it is important you don't allow yourself to stay idle for too long. If you have a point in your day where you see a block of a few hours coming up with nothing to fill it, find something. Go see a movie, make something to eat that you haven't made before, finish a book you have been meaning to. It doesn't have to be the healthiest or best activity, you just need something to fill that time. Something at the end of which you can feel some sense of accomplishment. Something you can look back on later and be glad that you did it.
8. Begin and End Your Day With a Win
After you have managed to put on pants and move on over to the couch it is time to start thinking about something you can do that will have a positive impact on your life. Even little things can make all of the difference. I know this sounds like crazy talk but trust me little things can add up. It is important to schedule these little things you do at the beginning and end of your day. This allows you to start your day knowing you have done at least one productive thing and will let yourself relax at the end of the day knowing you have just done something worthwhile.
For instance, if you are the person who normally puts off doing dishes until the next day, do them tonight before you go to bed. Do them right before you go to bed. Let your day end with the positivity of having accomplished something. This effect will compound, as the next morning when you wake up you won't have to do the dishes you normally do. Now you can add another productive task to your morning. Find something small and easy. Don't stress yourself out about how much of something you need to do or the difficulty level of the activity. Just do something productive.
9. Learn to Recognize Depression
One important step in the daily process of dealing with depression is realizing how reality isn't always at it seems. Say, for instance, something didn't go your way early in the morning. In the mind of a depressed person, it can be easy to let that issue consume your day and let thoughts about that original thing spiral into something much bigger. It can often be hard to understand in those moments that you are suffering from depression. But if you can wrap your mind around the fact that you having a medical issue that is causing your issues to seem way bigger than they are, it can help you understand what is going on in your life a little bit better.
That doesn't mean that the things that cause depressive episodes in your life will stop causing them. But it can give you some clarity and peace to know that this depression is the current manifestation of a medical problem. It doesn't make the depression any less real but it can help to give you some perspective. Understanding what is going on has always brought me a great deal of peace. Also, being able to understand that I have experienced these episodes in the past and they have let up eventually. This one will also.
You are going to make it.
Take a second to realize, like we talked about before, that you are not alone. Then understand that you have done something not a lot of people will do. You have researched and read ways to handle your depression. This in and of itself separates you from a great number of people. You are actively trying to fight this. It is not always going to be easy, the answers won't always be obvious, and depression may send you to places you never anticipated going. But you can do this. Baby steps, every day, one day at a time.
I believe in you with everything that I am. I don't even know you but I am pulling for you. I stress about you, I worry about you, and I care about you. Depression will kill thousands every year. You do not have to be one of them. This isn't something that has to end your life. You are now and will always be worth fighting for.
All of these things I have written can help you in your day today. If you are at the end of your rope however and feel like you cannot go on and even get to the point of implementing changes in your life there is still so much hope for you. You haven't lost yet. If there is air in your lungs and blood pumping through your heart there is still time. There is nothing you cannot come back from. At the bottom of this article, there is a suicide prevention hotline. I know that you have heard of these before and probably never called. These hotlines are not a long term solution but if you think you may need to call one, then you DO need to call one. And now. No one on the other end of that phone call will ever judge you for calling. And neither will I.
1-800-273-8255 - Suicide Prevention Hotline.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
VIDYA D SAGAR on December 08, 2019:
A very well written article. You have made some interesting points there. There is lot of information on depression everywhere and as we all know it is easier said than done. And only the person who suffers knows how difficult it is to manage the disorder in day to day life.
Carolyn Fields from South Dakota, USA on December 07, 2019:
You have compiled some very practical and understandable advice. I totally appreciate that. Too many "medical" articles get lost in explaining brain chemistry, and others are too vague. You have been specific, and actionable.
I have been sad a lot lately because of deaths in the family, and major troubles getting our house built. I didn't really think about it until you brought it up, but I have been spending more and more time in bed. Thanks to you, I am going to make a concerted effort to get up and get dressed earlier, and I will definitely plan on that early "win" first thing in the morning. Thank you so much for writing and posting. I am certain it will have a positive impact on many people.