I read an article recently that was called something like ‘tips for dealing with depression’. It said all the usual stuff, like eat better, exercise, think happy thoughts, blah blah blah. If you can do all those things, you don’t have depression. That article made me so mad. Especially the bit about how if you have a friend with depression you should not ‘encourage’ their ‘bad behaviour’ by trying to make them feel better. It even said that you should avoid a person who is displaying ‘self-pitying behaviour’ and only spend time with them when they are being, essentially, normal.
When you shun, chastise or socially isolate a depressed person, you reinforce all the things that the illness makes them feel about themself. You make them feel weak, pathetic, worthless. That perhaps the world is better off without them. This is a dangerous ploy that will not help a depressed person.
What helped me, more than anything, was being reminded that there were people who would be there for me no matter what. I know that there were some who lost patience with me, who would see my downward spiral and think ‘bloody hell, here she goes again, why doesn’t she just get over herself?’.
When I come to you and I am depressed, I don’t want you to try to fix it, because you can’t. I just want you to tell me that it is ok, even normal, to feel this way. That it does not make you think less of me. That it does not mean that I am a weak or defective person. It is the equivalent of throwing a rope to a drowning person. It is an anchor to what is real. Please, just be there for me.
Do not tell me to cheer up – I would if I could. Do not tell me that I have nothing to be depressed about – I know that. I know that what I feel is irrational. I did not choose this, I am not doing it for attention and I can’t just make it stop. If I could, I would. I need to be reassured that I will not feel like this forever.
The time to fight is when you are having a good day. That is when you make decisions to make changes. For some, medication is the only way to get out of the hole. But if you go that route, you must take your meds every day and stay on them unless your doctor tells you it is ok to stop taking them. If you take them sometimes or miss a few you will most likely end up feeling much worse.
There are some things you can do when you are having a good day that will help you in your battle. Exercise, eat well, avoid alcohol and caffeine. The things that are consistent with good mental health. These can help you feel well for longer. I have given up sugar and alcohol. Alcohol depletes important nutritional factors for good mental health. Yes, it is a depressant, and yes, binge drinking is bad. But read the literature. Alcohol should be avoided if you are serious about feeling better without drugs. Caffeine should be avoided if you suffer from anxiety. And refined sugar is a villain in the mood stakes, as well as being bad for your general health.
Tryptophan is your friend. Leafy greens, poultry, dairy products, nuts, fresh fruits and anything with omega 3 oils. http://myhealingkitchen.com/category/medical-conditions/depression-medical-conditions/ has some recipes and articles on foods that help manage depression.
Avoid additives. Go simple, healthy, homemade and where possible home-grown. A body that is balanced and healthy is the logical home of a brain that is balanced and healthy. I wonder how many people could feel better just by eating to give their brain the best chance of achieving this balance.
Don’t expect too much of yourself. Sometimes the hardest thing is to be kind to yourself when you believe you don’t deserve it. Take quiet time when you can. Be grateful when you can – count your blessings.
I have days when I just move from task to task and keep busy, afraid of what will happen if I stop to think. I have moments where I feel pure joy and wonder how it is possible to feel anything else. Music helps. Gardening helps. My family and friends help.
I am not saying that everyone should be able to eat their way to better mental health. For some people medication is a suitable solution that can give you your life back and perhaps even save it. What I am saying is that others might be able to get relief from the things that have helped me. That there are options out there if you want to try to achieve recovery without drugs. But first you need to know your enemy, and you need to have reinforcements on your side.
Remember that each time you deal with it you gain valuable information that will help you beat it in the end. Learn the sound of its voice. Learn to know when it is creeping up on you. Learn its different faces. Learn how to shut it down.
Love, luck and strength to you all in your battles.
PS I now have a new, less stressful job and the weight I gained while on the medication is starting to come off. I have loads of energy and I sleep well. I still have bad days, but I am hopeful. The future stretches ahead of me full of promise and potential.