|This is a picture I took of the SLC LDS temple when we were picking up Maddie. It has nothing to do with depression, I just like it.|
Last week I wrote about what my depression looks like, today I want to write about the things I've learned over the years to help me get through it. I'm hoping this will actually help someone who has their own struggle with the beastie.
There are several things I try to do, they don't always work but it is a place to start. Oh, and by "work" I really mean help. I don't know anything that just makes it go away, except time.
So that is the first thing that helps, recognizing that with time I will feel better. It may take awhile, but believing that there is a light at the end of the tunnel is bracing. When I'm in the middle of depression I used to think I would never feel happy again, which in a sad, cyclical way, made me feel even sadder. Now I keep telling myself "this too will pass."
Which brings me to another help-positive self talk. Recognizing that depression and anxiety are not things I am to blame for, they are just something that happens. It is tempting to think it wouldn't happen if I were stronger, but really, who can control their brain chemicals? So I try to make that voice in my head BE NICE. Give myself a break and remember that the things I'm not getting done now will get done when I feel better.
The next tip is a dichotomy. It requires some self awareness because there are two basically opposite steps you can take and you need to decide for yourself which one it is time for. I find both have their place in my cycle of depression. The first option is to try to just couch surf and ride it out for awhile. If you believe it will pass and know that it's not your fault then sometimes you can give yourself permission to just rest; sleep if you need to sleep, hide from the world a bit (knowing you'll be back to it eventually), watch some t.v., read...just let your head take a break and escape from what is bothering you. This isn't something to do for too long, but it can be a helpful and, I think, healing thing. This might be a good place to mention that I'm not a doctor, I only play one to my kids.
The other choice you have is to put up a fight. Sometimes my depression/anxiety is so bad that riding it out just won't work. I feel like I can't stand to feel that way for one more minute. A good friend advised me that when you feel that way you should try and fight with everything you've got. For me that means talking to the people I love so they know what's going on with me which eases the exhausting task of trying to hide what's going on. It also means a lot of prayer and reading my scriptures and asking the Lord for strength and for an easing of my burden. One time it was as if God literally reached inside me and turned the depression off, but that only happened once. Usually I have to have patience for it to ebb away.
Another tool in your fighting toolbox can be medication. When I first experienced severe anxiety and depression I was dead set against drugs. I had visited my doctor hoping that I had a thyroid problem or some other easily treatable problem (oh yeah, that's a step too, visit your doctor) but when she diagnosed me with depression I didn't want a drug therapy. I've never done well with medications, I'm sensitive to a lot of them, plus I was frightened that it would prove I was weak, crazy, lazy and basically a failure.
So I muddled on for another month or so getting pretty much no where. Then one day I found myself in bed in the middle of the afternoon. My toddler was on the bed with me covered in band aids she had stuck all over herself for entertainment because I was too sick to take care of her. I decided then that if medication might help me get better then medication I would take.
Exercise is also super helpful. It can feel almost impossible, but just getting out for a walk can make me feel better. When I decide to fight I truly make a checklist of these things. Each day I try to:
1. talk to someone I love who can be supportive
3. read my scriptures
4. take my prescription
5. go for a walk
Certainly there are other things that work for other people but I've done a lot of reading and informal surveying of others who have had depression and I think this is a good place to start.
And finally, one of my sweet friends, Leslie, asked me on facebook what I think you can do when someone you love is in the throws of depression. That is such a good question! I know that one of the nicest things Marc has done for me is let me know that he isn't disappointed in me. I think anyone who has this problem at some time feels like they are letting people down. That feeling alone can add a ton of bricks to how bad you feel already. Marc has helped me understand that it is okay to back off from my social, church, and volunteer obligations while I'm trying to get myself well. Saying the words, "I know you're going to be okay and things are going to get better," can be very powerful.
Oh, one more thing...therapy. Therapy has at times been super duper helpful. Expensive, but worth it. All of a sudden I'm worried that I'm leaving something important out. If you have any ideas for helping someone live through depression and anxiety please comment. In fact, if you've made it all the way to the end of this you might leave a comment just so I feel validated and not creepy thinking that all my friends are looking at me differently now.