I knew I wanted to write a post on depression, but had no idea where to begin. I must have opened and closed my laptop several times before finding the words.
Sometimes I write unsure of where I want my post to go. What's the point? Of my blog post, I mean. Do I have one? While the answer to that last question is yes, I usually struggle with making only one point and not 50 million. Each sentence opens up new doors and, easily tempted, I usually find myself walking through them. When I do, I find my post going in a million different directions making my topic no longer clear to my readers.
With that said, I am going to focus on coping with depression without the use of medication.
If there is anyone qualified to provide you with information on this subject, I'd have to say, without a doubt, that would be me. Struggling with depression for over 24 years now, although not an expert, makes me an excellent resource at the very least.
So, here's a little background. I have a family history of depression. And if that's not enough, I was diagnosed with a seizure disorder when I was 13 years old and anxiety when I was 23. Sort of a mental wreck, I know. I'm pretty used to it at this point (to a certain degree).
I saw a psychologist off and on for the first 9 years. And I can't tell you why, but we never entertained the idea of antidepressants. Why am I telling you this? Simply because after so many years of struggling, it became a do or die situation for me. I had to either learn to cope or let myself continue to worsen which I was certain would lead to my demise.
While the advice of numerous psychologists was certainly helpful, I was, by no means, happy. It didn’t matter what was going on in my life around me. Whether I had reason to be sad or not, the depression just seemed to engulf me. Every time I thought I was making progress, it would grab hold of me and, I’d find myself about 10 steps back from where I stood only the day before! When this happened, I just loathed myself more. How could I be so weak?
I don’t know when it was that I finally realized I didn’t have control over it. And I know this can come across as me just being pessimistic. In fact, you may be questioning my mental state at this very moment. Let me assure you, however, I have never been better. I am just stating a fact. Certain types of depression are due to a chemical imbalance in your brain. Without treatment of some sort, yes, it is in fact chronic.
I know from experience that treatment doesn’t always provide immediate results. And as far as medications go, it can take months or even years to find one that works. So, for those of you that are exploring treatment options and would like to, in the short term, learn how to cope with the current state you’re in, I hope you’ll find my tips helpful!
TIPS FOR COPING WITH DEPRESSION WHILE EXPLORING TREATMENT OPTIONS
Keep a journal and get to know yourself better
Record your feelings as often as possible. Use your journal as a means to vent. It’s quite therapeutic. And don’t just use it to write. Study it at a later date to discover things about yourself such as mood patterns and self-destructive behaviors and when they typically occur. The more I learned about myself, the easier it was for me to change my way of thinking. In some circumstances, I was even able to prevent mood changes, sadness, anger, hopelessness, etc. It wasn’t long before I discovered that my journal was not only my favorite tool for coping with depression, but was also the one that happened to work best!
When I wasn’t writing in my journal, I was exercising. Whether it was a walk or run outside, climbing steps, or using the treadmill in the comfort of my own living room, it was always a great energy booster!
Think about what makes you smile or, better yet, laugh
I was always a big movie buff. Feel-good, motivational, or comic genres are great for depression. I would bet my life that movies such as American Pie, The 40 year old Virgin, and The Sweetest Thing will have you in stitches even in your darkest hour!
Make a playlist
Nothing soft. Nothing sad. Think upbeat, empowering, uplifting, and fun! If it makes you want to get up off your derriere and dance, then it belongs on your playlist! According to the post Using Music to Lift Depression’s Veil on Well by The NY Times:
“The current studies indicate that music therapy may be able to improve mood and has low drop-out rates,” said lead author Anna Maratos, an arts therapist for the National Health Service in London. “While the evidence came from a few small studies, it suggests that this is an area that is well worth further investigation….We need to find out which forms have greatest effect.”
Eat something; anything
I know it’s difficult especially when all you want to do is resort to a dark hole and do absolutely nothing, but try to force yourself. No need to go all out Julia Child or The Barefoot Contessa; a no-fuss, bland piece of toast will do perfectly fine. Not only will the food nourish you physically, but knowing you can still take care of yourself in moments of darkness and despair will nourish your emotions as well! More importantly, you will feel a sense of accomplishment.
Learn about your condition
Understanding your symptoms will give you back control which, let’s face it, is the one of the biggest things people with depression feel they lack. That in itself can make you more depressed. When you begin to understand your symptoms, then you have the tools necessary to make changes!
Join a support group (online or in person)
I can’t stress this one enough. It helped me immensely knowing there were others out there feeling the exact things I was feeling. I no longer felt crazy or alone. The best part of support groups is that you will be able to help others as well. This, alone, has extreme benefits for someone suffering from depression. It will make you feel useful again!
An excellent online support group that I highly recommend is Daily Strength.
Find out how and what others are doing (there is a world outside of depression)
Sometimes the best therapy is to get lost in someone else’s experiences and feelings instead of obsessing over your own. I used to call my mom or sister on a regular basis to hear about their day. I understand that with depression it’s difficult, sometimes nearly impossible, to find interest in anything or anyone outside yourself, but you can do it. I say this with confidence because if I could do it, in the dreadful shape I was in at that time, than I know you can too! Try to focus on what they are saying as much as you can. Even if it’s for only 10 minutes a day, giving your mind a break from your own thoughts is not only healthy, but necessary!
Get some sleep
I know with depression, it can go one of two ways. Either you feel like you could sleep the entire day, week, even year away, or you’re wide eyed and bushy tailed when it comes to hitting the hay. Either way, it’s important to find a happy medium. You don’t want to sleep your life away especially if you have a job, classes to attend, children to take care of, etc. On the other hand, you need your sleep! If you fall into the group that can’t seem to keep your eyes open, try a cold shower or exercising. If you are among the ones that suffer from Insomnia, try to keep sleeping during the day to a minimum if at all. Warm milk, decaffeinated tea, a hot bath, listening to soft and soothing music, are all excellent ways to aid you in relaxation. Speaking of which…
Try yoga or meditation
When my mom first recommended this to me, I was quick to respond with an eye roll. I thought it was a bunch of bull. And because it seemed impossible to clear my depressed mind, I shot her down almost immediately.
Of course, I didn’t expect my depression would get worse. When it did, however, desperation was right there breathing down my neck. I needed help and fast!
I remembered my mom’s suggestion and started a 3 day a week yoga routine. I’d pop in Baron Baptiste’s video (of course, now it’s on DVD), and before I knew it I had perfected my downward facing dog! As you begin to improve your poses and they become easier, then you can start to focus on your breathing. It’s amazing how listening to the sound of yourself breathing in and out can clear your mind and relax your body. At the end of your workout, I recommend sitting Indian style. Make sure your back is straight (no slouching) and take the time to reflect. Think visually appealing thoughts. Maybe of your son or daughter’s face, a grandchild, the ocean, a beautiful painting, your favorite flowers, the foliage, a waterfall, etc.
Depression is not a joke. In fact, statistics show that diagnoses are growing at an alarming rate according to Unhappiness by the Numbers: 2012 Depression Statistics posted on Healthline.
“Depression is a condition that reportedly affects 1 in 10 Americans” and “Over 80% of the people that have symptoms of clinical depression are not receiving any specific treatment for their depression.” “The number of patients diagnosed with depression increases by approximately 20% per year.”
Please don’t be a statistic! If you are not feeling well or unlike yourself, seek treatment immediately. There IS help out there!
In the meantime, I hope my tips for coping bring you some sort of relief. Need additional help coping? Feel free to drop me a comment; it just so happens that I’m an excellent listener :)
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Okay folks, that’s all she wrote! Happy Monday!