“Bewitched, bothered, and bewildered am I” wrote US songwriter Lorenz Hart about the feeling of infatuation. It’s blissful and euphoric, as we all know. But it’s also addicting, messy and blinding. Without careful monitoring, its wild wind can rage through your life leaving you much like the lyrics of a country song: without a wife, […]
1) Recognize that you are depressed.
Own it. Realize your thoughts are skewed, that it is actually a psychiatric illness, an emotional condition, a mood disorder, whatever you want to label it. Admit it and accept it. Only after you do this can you address your thoughts, get rid of the shame, and start developing strategies that will help you in the long run.
2) Read stories and connect with other folks who have gone through it.
Misery may actually love company. My biggest problem, originally, was isolation. I thought that my tendencies toward self-harm, the ridiculous self-defeating thoughts were dark, psychotic, and bizarre. Turns out I’m not alone. And not only that, other people have struggled with those things, and have improved. That gives me hope.
3) Find a therapist who really “gets” you.
It is a long and tedious project. I’ve been in therapy for three or four years and only now do I feel like I’ve started to make progress. My therapist’s office feels like a safe haven to me now, where I can admit things, and she can challenge me without undermining me.
4) Anxiety is my biggest problem.
I have yet to find a truly effective strategy to deal with panic. But lately, I’m a big fan of saying to myself, “you’re sick, you have an anxiety disorder, even though these thoughts feel very real, and very scary, what you are feeling right now is your anxiety.” It doesn’t make it feel any better, but it helps me realize that my panic may not actually be the reality that I need to respond to at that very moment. Instead, I should work on allowing myself time to calm.
8) Yoga, yeah, I know it’s working out & I know its passe.
5) Laugh. Be realistic.
Unless you’re really lucky, you’re not going to come up with a set of ten strategies that will help you all the time. Instead, when I have a rough time, I read people like Therese who are honest and real: “After trying 23 medication combinations, 7 psychiatrists, 2 hospitalization programs, acupuncture, yoga, and every other kind of alternative medicine, and praying like a blessed mystic for close to three years, you, too, can wake up without wanting to die!” There’s no magic, there is hope, and I’m not alone.
6) Exercise, yeah exercise.
Well duh. I get tired of people saying this sometimes. I was a college athlete. My perceived “failures” as an athlete are a part of my pathology. Plus, I despise any form of cardio exercise really (I was a shotputter okay?) and then I tend to judge myself over exercise. That aside, if I don’t take thirty minutes a day to work up a sweat running or swimming I can guarantee that I will melt down. Just do it & don’t judge it.
7) Have a safe place.
I’m still in a state where I can get into panicky situations that can lead to embarrassing melt-downs, inappropriate pleas for help etc. Having designated places and people who I can melt down in front of on occasion and know that I am safe from judgment helps. You have to be REALLY careful with this. It’s easy to scare others, have them react in negative ways etc. But even having a safe room to escape to, a single mentor to call can really help.
I don’t get a shiny happy yoga buzz all the time. In fact, I rarely do. But seated meditation is impossible for me when I’m anxious. Moving through the asanas of yoga helps me feel strong and empowered. Doing an exercise where I am actually not supposed to be focused on performance, helps me. It’s not like I can just do a few yogic poses to calm myself down in the heat of a panic attack…good yogis and meditators who study breath strategy learn that stuff. I’m not that enlightened. But finding an activity I enjoy, that makes me laugh, and centers on “staying in the moment” helps. If you find that joy in hiking, then do that!!
9) Meds help, but if you’re going to take them for heaven’s sakes find a good psychiatrist who understands the pharmacology.
It has taken me four years and at times, the side effects from the meds may have been worse than the depression. And sometimes the meds have made certain symptoms of anxiety worse. But I know I trust my doctor and that she’ll listen to me. That helps. I have a huge stack of pills I take every night, and it’s okay, because they help. They aren’t a miracle for me. They are for some people, but they aren’t for me.
Seriously, either give in & let yourself sleep, read your favorite children’s book, watch a silly soap opera or the Disney channel…do whatever actually absorbs your attention away from what you are feeling (Harry Potter works for me). Sometimes you need to confront your thoughts and re-wire them, thank you cognitive behavior therapy. Sometimes, I am just not in the place to do that if I’m too anxious. If I confront my thoughts and fail to change them, then I judge that, feel like a failure, and a fun cycle starts all over. Sometimes, it’s just better to forget.
11) Find something soft.
When I panic the most, or feel lonely or sad, tactile things, soft blankets, sweaters, and pillows help me reconnect with the world around me. And weighting myself down with heavy pillows and blankets helps me feel grounded.
12) Know it sucks.
What you’re going through sucks. But it’s not happening because you are lazy or weak. You can’t simply push forward ignoring depression. It will find you. It’s not your fault. The feelings stink, but they are real. Knowing that takes some of the pressure away & gives you room to start healing.
What are your depression busters?