I've suffered from depression, on and off, for my entire adult life. It's not something I tell many people, but it's also not something that I'm ashamed of. In a sense, my struggles with depression have made me the person I am and, although I hated that for many years, I no longer do. It's something I live and cope with, well at times and poorly at others, but it's there and I think it always will be. I also suffer from GAD, but that's very much something that's come to prominence over the past 10 years.
I've gone through countless tips and tricks to help me cope with depression and anxiety; some of which are OK and some of which, when I'm at my lowest, I haven't a hope in Hell of finding the wherewithal to even attempt. And that's what depression is for me - something that takes away my motivation and happiness and replaces it with a sad woman who can barely get out of bed. In saying that, I have become a master at hiding this from most people; particularly people I don't know very well, or people that I don't wish to alarm (friends and family).
I like to be 'normal' around most of my friends and family as taking about depression can make me more depressed. Who knew?? Spending time with my family and friends is generally a time when I can forget about everything and have a good giggle with my sisters or spend time teasing my Mum and Dad. And it's difficult to beat that for a bit of free therapy.
I understand that everyone suffers in a different way, but these are the things that I find useful. I hope you do, too:
|You'll find me by the food, making friends with someone's dog, wondering how early I can leave.|
Friends, Parties and Group Meetings:I can be completely anti social and I'm the first to admit it. I tire very easily and hate being in a crowd. I particularly hate being in a crowd with people I don't know. Situations like these make my anxiety spike and I spend most of my time desperate to pull a fire alarm (or maybe start an actual fire) in order to get home.
I will actively avoid training at work with people I don't know (my idea of what Hell must be like), parties with strangers (just kill me now), and large gatherings of any type of human (dogs, yes. Humans: not so much) I know I don't like it, I know it doesn't matter how many times I do it, and I know it's not a reflection of the people I'm with. It's just me.
What I DO like, however, is little groups of awesome people, or one to one chat. I'm still not much of a sharer about my mental health issues face to face, but I can communicate via email (and blog, apparently) and this is a way more comfortable way for me to divulge information. If I'm feeling particularly horrible, I think nothing of snap chatting a friend who is aware of my depression (I love you, LK) and making light of the situation. I would NEVER pick up the phone and do it. I'd rather keep it to myself.
Tip: Surround yourself with loving friends and family (preferably mine) and never, ever take notice of anyone who thinks your depression makes you 'weird;, 'selfish' or 'rude' because you're not a complete extrovert. Ditch them now - they don't (and won't) understand you.
|Me escaping from too much people-ing|
This can be a difficult balance to reach. Sometimes, being on my own for too long can bring me down and sometimes being with other people has the same effect. Whatever your situation - listen to yourself. If you feel like you can't handle a situation - get out of it. Life's too short to acquiesce to the wants and needs of others at the detriment of your own health. Pardon my French but Fuck It.
It's YOUR life, YOUR time and, without being a complete sociopath, do what makes YOU happy. This is particularly important to people who suffer from depression because we often need more encouragement and time out to get ourselves through the days.
I love being on my own and I always have. My Uncle once sent me a Christmas card with a dormouse on it - and all these years later I realise that he had me sussed out from the start.
I try to take time out through the day, even if it's just 10 minutes away from my desk; a quick walk at lunch; some incredibly loud singing to Chris Stapleton in the car on the way home; or just a wander round the garden. It all counts...and it all works.
Tip: Take a break. Dance round the house, sing at the top of your lungs, and learn to love your own company. Not being surrounded by people all the time doesn't make you odd, it makes you awesome.
|Me disguising myself in my car so that no one recognises me when I'm belting out Tennessee Whiskey at the traffic lights|
The Little Things:
I can't stress this one enough. Tiny little, inconsequential things that others might take for granted are often the things that turn my day on its head. This is true in both a positive and negative light.
Having a good sing on the way to work is one of my favourite ways to blank out my mind and give my brain a rest. I crank my music to the loudest setting and sing until my throat hurts. Getting a lovely email from a colleague or friend during the day is also something that makes me smile. Seeing LT when I get home, or sharing stupid stories with my Mum and sisters is guaranteed to make my day brighter.I'm also doing more reading at the moment, which is helping me to quiet my mind. I've thoroughly enjoying it, too. I suffer from insomnia, so I listen to audio books in bed every single night and it's something I've come to look forward to. I can happily bound upstairs at 8pm, jump into bed, and cuddle up to the sound of a gruesome murder or two. Seriously - you should try it.
Tip - don't stress about doing too much. And DON'T feel guilty when you can't function in the way you think everyone else does. Find something small that makes you smile and do it. Then find more things and do them, too. And never, ever stop.
|Blending in to the background isn't always a bad thing - but it can be sometimes.|
Don't Hide it (all):
I already said that I don't often chat about my depression and this is partly because I don't want to dwell on it and partly because it's so difficult to explain to someone who has never experienced it.
Regardless of how open you are as a person and how much the people around you know about your mental health issues, do, at the very least, speak to your Doctor. It doesn't have to be a full blow by blow of how you're feeling, but simply just a short conversation every so often to update them on how you are and discuss any treatment you might benefit from.
Don't struggle with it on your own - you'll find it even more isolating to cope with and it genuinely won't help you. Find someone, ANYONE, to tell about it and I promise it'll make you feel better. Medication from your Doctor won't automatically make you feel great, but it will make you feel more able to cope with depression on a day to day basis.
It's only been in the last year or so that I've found a friend who is open about her depression and, when she describes it, I realise that we're exactly the same. This doesn't make for a gloomy friendship - anything but. I can't tell you how much better I feel to know that someone else is having a shitty day for no particular reason or has dragged themselves out of bed crying and don't know why.
I'm not saying I LIKE that my friend suffers - I hate it, but I do so much appreciate how she feels. And this makes me a better friend. I tell her the things I think she needs to hear, because they're the same things I want to hear. And she knows where I am and that if she doesn't hear from me for a few days, I'm not being rude or ignorant - I'm being me. You can't buy that kind of understanding. If you have someone you can confide in - do it. Now.
|Find someone who understands - like your dog, for example.|
Don't Rush It:
I often make myself feel worse on my bad days by thinking I'm lazy or worrying about things I need to do that I can't bring myself to start. Over the past couple of years, I've gradually learned to let it go (no singing, please...) and be a bit more relaxed.
If I'm having a bad day, just getting through work without crying in the toilets or becoming the office mute is a win. If I can't bring myself to go for a run or clean the house when I get home: who cares?? I can do it the next day. Or the day after that. Or NEVER. Because it genuinely doesn't matter. What IS important is that I'm fit and healthily, not whether I'm a size 8 with clean plates.
Don't get me wrong - I still do this from time to time, but I am getting better at not beating myself up about it.
Tip - Accept that there are days that you're not so much in control of your feelings. Accept and it go with it. You know you have good and bad days, so get through the bad ones as best you can and try to understand if there was a trigger point. If so, work on that. If not - don't sweat it. There's no point of adding to your depression by getting yourself down about the things that you can't cope with on any particular day.
If you're like me - these days will pass. Sometimes it happens overnight and sometimes I can go for a few weeks with the same feeling. It's exhausting enough just getting through without being hard on yourself. Think of the advice would give to a friend and take it on board yourself.
Do you have any tips for dealing with depression and anxiety? What are the things that get you through the bad days?