Like fashion and clockwork, my depression comes full circle every few months. Less frequent but infinitely more troublesome than my period; the timing’s always terrible, it seems interminable and the lows are always just as low. It’s a relentless bitch.
Three-hundred-million people, globally, deal with depression in one way or another. Chances are, some of you reading this are on your own journey. After the several well-publicised suicides over the past month I thought I’d list what does – and absolutely does NOT – help me when I’m on a ‘low buzz’. Because if it helps me, maybe it’ll help you too!
Ok let’s start with the unhelpful stuff, because these are often more commonly heard in the discussion on mental health. Often these come from uneducated outside voices. From people who mean well but basically have no idea what they’re on about. Basically, throw this shit out the window!:
The ‘other people have it worse’ thought-train of nightmares.
I’m sorry, but my response to this is always ‘OBVIOUSLY’. I’m sad, not a f*cking idiot! Clearly I know that there’s victims of war crimes, abuse and countless other atrocities out there who are having a rougher go of it than me. But you know what, me thinking about that is just adding to my guilt for not being able to get out of bed. So back the hell off and let me lie in peace.
In all honesty, protecting yourself is crucial when you’re suffering from depression. Your inclination will always be to pile onto the guilt that comes with a low. ‘Oh, you’ve more reasons why I shouldn’t be here on the couch for four days straight? I’ll gladly accept that, thanks, load it on there’.
Because we’re unable to filter this information when we are having a bad period, trying to have these chats on a good day can be helpful. Whether it’s a parent, friend or partner who tends to pass these comments, try opening the dialogue on how you receive this ‘feedback’.
It’s often hard for them to understand. I’ll always maintain that unless you suffer from a mental illness like depression, no words can adequately describe how it feels. But by you clearly saying that, in no world, will hearing that there’s orphans in Russia having a worse day than you make you leap out of your bed and beam like a Brady, you’re absolving yourself of some of this future guilt.
“A walk would do you the world of good” – hello may-juuuur Irish saying here!
This is short and f*cking sweet. C’mere, if I am telling you I am wearing the same sweater (and underwear – true talk) for the last two days, do you really think I’m about to go for a ‘nice walk’?
Once again, don’t pile on my guilt man.
This one deserves a sidenote though. Having exercise as part of my regular routine has always helped my mental health. I grew up active and now can notice the loss of it within only two weeks. I’m not talking about hours in a gym every day, but a little makes a difference. Maybe for you it’s painting or singing or sewing – but by prioritising the acts that bring joy to your day-to-day life, you can prolong the good times a little bit.
Social media – the fickle friend.
Ok so this is a problematic one, because if you’ve been in bed for the guts of a week, chances are you’ve spent 60% of that time scrolling. What the f*ck depressed people did before internet, I don’t know.
And I’m not saying to swear off your phone during bad days – because, hello, it’s 2018 and people might actually think you’ve died.
But the streams of stunning people in stunning places can make your stained pyjamas seem more flannel prison of doom that beacon of comfort. You know it’s not all ‘real’. You knoooooow these people have bad days too. But talking sense to your depressed mind … equivalent to talking to that redbrick feature wall in your favourite blogger’s apartment.
Again, there’s action that can be taken on the good days. Be selective with that feed of yours – you’ve no idea how much it curates your mindset. Delete the hell out of any account that gives you, or your self-worth, even a moments pause. Because if it’ll do that when you’re up, it’ll punch you in the face when you’re down.
Create a world that’s kinder to you on your bad days. You deserve kindness, even if your mind says otherwise.
Ok, let’s see some of the things that help me out a bit when I’m having a ‘bad patch’. These are simple. I don’t do difficult, convoluted or IG-ready when I’m down and I know you don’t either.
Keep water around you.
I told you this was a simple list! I underestimated how much of a thundering c*nt being thirsty made me – headaches, poor sleep and increased alcohol intake (because that’s thirst-quenching right?).
I know we can’t always foresee when a dip will hit. Glasses of water get stale, trust me. But since I’ve started using reusable water bottles – like Swell, but not $60, or Bobble Bottles – I fill it before bed, have a few sips during the night and usually have a mostly full bottle on my bedside table at all times.
Even getting those few ounces into you on a bad day is a good thing. It’ll also make you more likely to get up to refill, skipping the ease of that beer (hello no washing up!).
Reliable, repeatable TV shows.
I will never tell you to get up, get washed or get active when you’re depressed. I know the inability to get out from under your duvet. Kind, non-stressful TV is essential.
It’ll help pass the hours easily and will also keep your mind occupied with something cheery. Those hours of isolation can lead your mind to some dark places. Engineering your surroundings to avoid those dim corners is a win.
For me it’s shows like ‘Mindy Project’, ‘How I Met Your Mother’ and ‘Supernatural’. The later has the benefit of having about eight-thousand seasons … perfect for extended bad patches.
My only rules: keep it light; canned laughter is your friend and there should be at least three seasons.
Fighting depression doesn’t work. It creates a battleground in your mind. Pressure, panic and self-flagellation ensues.
But kindness, patience and an attitude of acceptance can do wonders.
To clarify, I’m not saying that giving-in to a depressive period without ever speaking to a therapist, trying to make better choices on your good days or communicating with those around you is the answer.
But when you’re in the pits of it, if you can, try to remember what you know. You’ve been here before, you’ve seen this pass before. You can, and have, gotten through. It can take time.
If you know that you often get to a place where you cannot pull yourself out. Communicating this to someone you trust, on a good day, can give them the confidence to intervene and help you get to a therapist appointment … or even get a glass of water. Recruit onto your team where you’re comfortable. This is something I struggle with. I’m a lone wolf folks and while there’s benefits to independence, I’m working to allow at least a couple of people into my real world.
Practicing self-acceptance has been a big turning point for me. Depression has you saying the worst to yourself – and nobody knows your soft spots, your buttons, better than yourself.
I am a woman. I have a curious mind. I have developed a physically fit body. I deal with depression.
Acknowledging my mental illness as being a part of me has changed how I view, and deal, with my bad days. Depression is a part of me. It’s not something that I lose control to once in a while. It’s not a stranger, an unknown force. It’s me against myself. And just as I know my self-destruct buttons, I know the value of my accomplishments.
And I know my tricks. I’m smart and wily and, honestly, capable of being a total c*nt. But once I’ve looked this disease in the eye and seen it as part of me, it allows a continued corner of warmth in my heart. Continue to feed this corner daily, through your daily life. Add to your current account of worth. Because once things go tits up and you’re ordering Chinese for the fourth day in a row – please, if you’re my delivery guy, pretend you’ve never seen me before! – the glimmer of that will remain.
I hope these points don’t sound cliched. I know I’ve never seen a ‘Get out of that Funk’ article that resonated with me. And I really do hope that if you are suffering, you take a little bit of self-acceptance away from this. Millions of us are in this boat. We’re paddling with both arms like we’re in a lone canoe. But open your eyes. You’re part of one of the biggest teams in the world. Like women and our periods, we can lean on each-other, share war stories and Just-Eat bills.
Treat yourself with kindness and you’re better equipped to treat others with it too. If you are a sufferer and feel alone, I’m here, reach out. We’ll split the darkness, lovie.