In speaking of depression defeated, we must realize that it takes repeated right royal battles to achieve this. It is often a case of "he who fights and runs away, lives to fight another day." But sometimes it is the sufferer who runs away and sometimes the depression. It is a war with many battles. Here I will tell you the weapons I have found most useful in this combat.There are many simple ways to influence the battle in your favour. These are not difficult or esoteric tools but tried and trusted allies that I have found to be wonderful friends in dark days.
How in sixty-seven years I have learned to defeat depression
What are my Credentials?
I am sixty-seven years old and so have a wealth of life experience on which to draw. My observations are entirely subjective and mostly based on my own experience of depression. I am not a medical person. I have been married twice and have two grownup children from my first marriage. For many years I have taught piano and violin to pupils of all ages.
I have led a busy and productive life and I haven't stopped yet. You would think I would not have had time to have depression and indeed keeping busy is one of the most effective ways to keep it at bay. I have reached a stage where I am mostly able to mitigate the attacks of depression.
I hope not to bore you with a blow by blow account of my life and fight against depression. I would wish by this article to be of some help to fellow sufferers.
Depression can be reactive, where events in your life can trigger it, or it can be endogenous when it comes upon you for no apparent reason and is just a part of your nature.
Can Your Doctor Help?
If your depression is not severe it is not yet time to go to the doctor. There are many things you can do to lift you mood. Exercise is vital if you want to feel better. A good brisk walk for a couple of miles at least three times a week will work wonders. Swimming would be equally as good. All sporting activity is good and with this you will also come into contact with other people.
May be it would help you to know that there are anti-depressants that can help you, but to recover you still need to work at it. If you are just on the fringes of depression, and surely everyone has been there, if this is so then the advice many would give you is to "pull yourself together." This is good advice but will not help you if you have reached the stage where the black clouds have gathered and you have taken to your bed. However after wallowing in the slough of despond, and I have often been there, after that the time will come when progress to normality can only be achieved by pulling yourself together.
I used to say,"But it's the part of me that I would use to pull myself together that is the part that is ill." This is true and that is why recovery has to be made in tiny steps of pulling oneself together. I will tell you how next.
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How do you Eat an Elephant?
Dragging oneself out of depression is as mammoth a task(ha! ha!) as eating an elephant would be. The advice for both is to do it a bit at a time. Little steps out of the dark well of depression will gradually, but surely bring you into the light. My intro photo is a view from a castle dungeon and looks a bleak prospect to climb. I know that feeling, but it can be done.After all there are lots of hand holds and toe holds. It has to be done gradually.
I can remember congratulating myself on eventually getting out of bed in the morning. On really bad days I would get up and take the children to school and then go back to bed until it was time to get my husband's lunch. One more brownie point for that. Then guess what? Back to bed until it was time to fetch the kids. Probably I would stay up then because evenings tended to be better times.
I tell you all this so that you can understand that I really do understand what you are going through. I do realize that your depression may be way more severe than mine. I have bipolar 2 and so might swing rapidly out of depression. A longer time depressed would be more difficult to cope with, but I believe the measures taken to come out of it are basically the same. I do know that every time I am depressed I feel as if I will never come out of it, but I always do and so will you.
Next we will look at the little steps that can be taken on the road to recovery.
A Stitch in Time Saves Nine
Time seems to drag when you are in depression. You will need to do things that keep your mind busy, because in this state your brain is dwelling on miserable things. I used to do hand sewn patchwork. This kept my brain soothed by the repetitive action of pushing the needle through the material, but the emerging piece of handiwork was pleasing to the eye. Jigsaw puzzles are also repetitive but it is pleasing to complete one. The brain is employed and cannot give so much attention to being anxious.
I find Free Cell on the PC is helpful when I am a bit low. There again it is repetitive, which seems to occupy the brain. In this the cards are sorted into their suits.
If you are bipolar I expect you will understand that I feel my depression was often a "black High." Where the brain focuses on anxiety. Whereas the truly depressed person may not have much feeling at all, just a numbness. Then it must be so much more difficult to motivate oneself. Nevertheless if you can do some activity, no matter how small, it will help to lift your mood. Don't expect too much at first but congratulate yourself on anything you can achieve.
Any hobby that you have enjoyed is good for you to take up again. A man might enjoy woodwork or making models. Flying model aircraft would take you outside and perhaps you would meet other enthusiasts. Meeting other people is therapeutic in itself. When you mix with others who are not having the same problem it tends to give you a more balanced view of life.
There is no need to tell everyone you meet that you are depressed. It will make them uneasy and do you no good. If someone asks you how you are, if you are physically fit there is no reason why you should not say,"I'm fine thanks." In fact it may make you feel just an ounce better and ounces add up to pounds. Treat your depression as a state secret, but not a guilty secret..The more you feel you are blending into company the better you will feel. When you succeed with this you can give yourself ten brownie points.
You will need to mix with sympathetic friends and family at first. If you can join in some sporting or social activity that is really good. I play short mat indoor bowls. In this sport there are no more than twenty four people taking part. There are no spectators. You play in teams but no one expects you to be fantastic at it, it's just a bonus when you bowl well. We play this in the U.K.
I know that some of you will be in dark straits and will find my suggestions ludicrous where you are right now. Sometimes with depression all you can do is lie back and let it wash over you. However we do all eventually get to that stage when we can make a tiny effort. I know my depression has not been nearly as bad as it is for some others. But there will be many others who have not had it even as bad as I have. These are the ones I am trying to prompt into action that will improve their lives greatly.
Eating and Sleeping
These two things are very important. With one type of depression you will find it hard to sleep. For me, if I am depressed, I will sleep far too much. If you need to sleep you may find it helpful to use head phones, the sort that pop in your ear, and listen to low volume music, or even the radio. Again this helps to give your brain something to do instead of worrying.
Eating is also important. Try to give yourself healthy and interesting meals. For some strange reason I like to eat Battenburg cake, when I am low. I think it must be the marzipan that helps.Here again my depression makes me eat more, but I know it is the opposite with many.
If you really feel bad get some frozen meals in, so that preparing takes the minimum of fuss. However if you can face going out it is better to get fresh food to eat. You will also meet and be able to interact with people if you leave your home.
I can't stress enough how much we need people at these times. When you feel really awful you will want just your family or a trusted friend. Later you will begin to feel able to cope with more people.Some families are dysfunctional but probably still better than no family. There is no family that is perfect.
Let's see what family and friends can do to help. They should encourage you to do as much as possible in the home, but be ready to take over if you are really flagging and then step back as soon as you are able to take part in things in the home again.I remember sitting in a chair trying to summon up the energy to go to the kitchen and wash up the dishes. Eventually I would get to it.
Every step is difficult. It is like walking through waist deep mud, but it is possible to make slow progress.I remember a friend coming to see me with a gift of a pot plant and all I could think was that it was one more thing to care for.
My daughter will not mollycoddle me when I'm low, for fear that it encourages me to stay like it. Too much sympathy is not good.
Below is the comment box. Please feel free to comment on this page and add any tips you feel may be helpful. I would particularly like to hear from those who have long term depression, which I have little knowledge of personally. If you disagree with anything I have said I would welcome those comments too.