Hello all, and welcome to what is sure to be an absolute highlight of your day.
My experienced based guide to dealing with depression.
The picture up there isn’t some sort of artistic representation of my depression. It was the first picture I found which didn’t involve food or beer…
Quick disclaimer… I am not, nor have I ever been, a medical or psychological professional. Please don’t take this as gospel, merely as a friendly guide from this guy who has been there and apparently set up camp for a while.
I have depression. More aptly, depression has me. If I had depression I would just Elsa that bitch and let it go. Unfortunately, it has its maudlin tendrils firmly entrenched in my normally fun and laissez-faire brain and it keeps telling me it is going to make me its best friend.
Depression is a mental illness which very few people can truly understand. I have it and I don’t even know what is going on. It differs from person to person in both symptom and severity and there is no uniform way to solve it.
If you don’t have depression, it is very difficult to understand a lot about it. But don’t leave just yet as there are parts this blog which you can use to help someone who does have it and go a little way towards understanding it.
If you do have it, well done for every little thing you’ve done today. I’m not patronising you and I usually hate celebrating mediocrity but I know how difficult things like getting out of bed and eating can be when you just don’t feel the need to. You’ve made it this far, keep up the good work.
A lot of the advice in this blog about depression is based on my incredibly terrible handling of my own situation (don’t worry, I’ll get back to food soon). I ignored it, similar to how I handle most of life’s problems actually. I just flat out pretended it wasn’t there.
I wasn’t depressed, I was just more serious than everyone else…
I’m not depressed, I just hate people…
I’m not depressed, I’m just in a bad mood (more on that in a sec)
These are just a handful of the logical reasonings which I convinced myself of in order to put aside the idea that a part of me was broken.
This is not dissimilar to the analogy of “It’s just like a broken leg, but in your brain”.
Can you imagine saying some of those things about fracturing an actual bone?
It’s not broken, I just twisted it a bit…
It’s not broken, it’s always that swollen…
It’s not a stab wound, it’s just giving my internal organs a little breathing room…
You wouldn’t. You would solve it, throw some plaster of paris all over the place (unless you were stabbed, again I’m not a medical professional but I don’t think that works) and do what the doctor says until you’re well enough to skip through meadows once again. Or whatever you need legs for.
Right then, to the actual advice on how to deal with depression…
Numero uno and the most important…
DO NOT IGNORE IT! Trust me. There is nothing embarrassing about depression. There’s nothing embarrassing about any mental illness. I was never embarrassed, per se, I was simply too stoic and stubborn to sort it out. There were a few clues which I guess I could have picked up on.
Self-harm (don’t do that, people look at you funny and getting blood out of clothes is surprisingly difficult)
What people like to call “self-medication“. Which is just using substances to get out of your own head and is not a good way to cope. If you like to smoke or drink (I’m not condoning meth or heroin or anything like that, those you should stop) then that’s all cool. It’s about moderation. I’m not going to talk about how alcohol is a depressant and all that medical stuff because I’m sure you’re as tired of hearing it as I am. I will say that using it to cope is worse than not coping.
Anti-Social..ness? I love my own space. I like having a TV and a games console which completely shuts me off from the world. I live in a small town so going out on a weekend loses a lot of its allure when everyone knows everyone and there are only about 3 useful bars. So gradually, I phased people out. I don’t keep in contact with anyone really. The only people I do are the ones who, for some reason, like me enough to stay in contact with me. I have essentially isolated myself from contact to the point that talking to people has become jarring and I have developed a certain sense of agoraphobia.
There’s probably more…
If you are feeling low, reach out to someone. And don’t do that classic British thing of “Oh, I don’t want to be a bother”. What did you want to grow up to be? An astronaut? A scientist? A mountie (Due South was an amazing show so shut up). There are people out there who decided that when they grew up, they wanted to be the people who help other people who have mental health issues. You’re not a bother, people like you are the reason they started in the job. Don’t take this away from them, that’s just mean.
Be OK with not being OK
I am genuinely terrible at emotions. I don’t do anger very well, all of my joy is tinged with a sense of existentialism and they are the only 2 emotions I can name right now. Which goes a long way to proving my point.
Did you watch the film Inside Out? Who am I kidding? Of course, you did.
The most poignant part of that film for me was when the other emotions let Sadness take control. I’m not even slightly ashamed to say that I cried at that part. I have never cried at a film before. UP made me feel like you need to cherish the time you have, Green Mile was just a great film. I think when Mufasa died [spoiler?] it was the first time I swore: “Scar is such a dick”.
The moment that they just let Sadness have its time to shine, I wept. Not like a full on balling, but tears formed. It was a resolution that I never knew I needed. A lot of fighting with depression is trying to feel normal. But we have no idea what “normal” is. Normal is supposed to be ups and downs. That film taught me that sadness is an emotion which has its place in my entire, shallow emotional spectrum.
If you are constantly feeling sad, refer to point one. Get help. But even after that, let yourself be sad sometimes. It can be cathartic. Which leads me to my next point…
Getting Help Is Step One…
I was so proud of myself when I finally went to the GP and said: “Yeah, I’m probably depressed” (I’m a very casual person). I thought: “This is it. I’m going to be better now, just give me one of your magic potions and I’ll be on my merry way.”
That is not how this works at all.
My first experience getting help irritated me greatly. The GP instantly asked if I wanted medication. There was no talk of getting further help or advice, it was simply “So… Drugs?”. I don’t know why that annoyed me so much, I think that part of it was that I didn’t want to start taking antidepressants without reaching the crux of the matter. I’d already tried that with a lot of alcohol and, surprisingly, it had not worked.
Getting help for depression is a great step to take, please don’t let this detract from that. You should take pride in it. But it is the first step in a thousand mile… scratch that, infinite journey. Don’t put all your energy into the first encounter. You are going to need it down the line.
For anyone that knows me. Shut up, I know I occasionally bend the truth but I’m dispensing life advice here.
This doesn’t just go for the professionals you deal with. We all tell the occasional white lie when we go in for a check-up. Yeah, probably about 3 and 1/2 cigarettes a week, alcohol? Me? Maybe the odd drink with friends…
Doctors, if someone you think may have depression says that they only drink occasionally with friends, here’s how you figure out if that’s a lie. “Name three friends”. Seriously, if a doctor had said that to me, my next words would have been “SMOKE BOMB” and I would have run away.
Those people want to help you and they can’t do that without your help. They need to know everything. Did you know that there are certain medical conditions which can have an adverse affect on your mental health? I do because Hannibal taught me. They aren’t prying or trying to gain ammo to shame you on social media. They need to know all of that to solve you.
Don’t lie to friends and family either. One of the most major things I did wrong was to lie to my family and hide my depression. SPOILER ALERT! It did not go well. In trying to make sure that I wasn’t a burden to them I, ironically, became an even bigger burden. In fact, I became an out and out problem to them.
While they may not have the specific knowledge required to help you professionally, they do have an intimate knowledge of you and your best wishes at heart. They will do whatever is in their capacity to help you if you let them. Again, and I can’t stress this enough, it is nothing to be embarrassed about. Actually, them knowing that you’re depressed is a much better outcome than them thinking that you’re just kind of a dick.
And be open and honest with work. I have lost jobs and respect because I didn’t tell anyone at my work. There isn’t the stigma that used to come with depression in the workplace as much anymore. There are organisations set up to get you the help that you need. This is similar to the family problem. If you tell them, they can help you and make certain allowances (don’t take the piss though, that’s a dick move). If you don’t tell them, you’re that guy who’s always late and shouts a lot at people. Maybe occasionally throws a pan at someone, just as a hypothetical example.
Accept that it is not going to be easy…
This should go without saying but I’m just going to carry on. Treating depression is not a simple thing. No one knows enough about it to offer a single idea of what it is, what causes it or what cures it. Some of the treatments and help you receive won’t work or, possibly, make you feel worse. Don’t be dismayed and for the love of God, do not give up.
Accept the good days too…
Ah, the holy grail of depression. The good days. Everything looks a little brighter, you have the energy if not the motivation to do loads of little tasks. Hell, you might even have the energy to write… holy crap! 1885 words? Wow! Did not see that coming.
Don’t let it fool you. One of the main concerns for doctors who prescribe antidepressants is that people find that they start to feel better and stop taking them. This seems like a perfectly logical idea, if I have a headache, I don’t start shotgunning paracetamol after it’s gone away.
But depression isn’t like that. It is a chemical discrepancy in your brain. The drugs you take help to balance that and they take time to work. Also, if you just stop them then you are going to have withdrawals; and I’ve heard they are not good.
Find the Fun…
This is something that you can do to make it all feel a little less… depressing. I’m not talking about doing things which stave off the inevitable blackness which will envelop your very being.
You know what has been scientifically proven to help against depression? Exercise. I can definitely attest to this. One of the hardest things to do, when you feel depressed, is to start something. Starting a walk or a jog (if you’re some kind of fitness freak) feels like an impossible task but the sense of achievement you get when you actually do it is phenomenal.
There are other things too. Don’t just veg out infront of the TV. Make an event of it. Get some food you like, cooking is great help too (trust me), plan out a series of films you love and have a cinematic wonderland. I’d also suggest a good duvet because there is something about a sofa duvet which clears the blues away.
Really get into a video game. If I’m playing Batman, I become the Bat. If I’m playing Hitman, I train myself to think like a hitman (or what I think they think like. It’s mainly short, manly, witty sentences and puns). Or get into a book. Don’t just look at the words, enter that world and stomp around a little.
Eat well. This isn’t a plug for my blog (you’re here already, my work is done) but cooking good healthy food has a multitude of benefits. Sense of satisfaction from making it yourself, your diet plays a part in your mental health, food is awesome and you need to eat. One of the symptoms of my depression is that I lose the will to eat. I just think that it will take too long and I’m not even that bothered. But when it starts to wear off, one of the main things to come back is my appetite.
This has quickly gone into essay territory, so I’ll break it down for you…
TL;DR Get help, be honest, be kind to yourself, do some exercise and you will be on your way to bitch slapping depression right in its stupid face.
This is not an exhaustive list but, if you’re concerned about your Mental Health or that of someone you care about, try these people:
Your Local GP
So, good luck and keep up the good work. You’re doing grand.