I post a lot on how depression feels, but I think it’s incumbent upon me to say that depression can be more severe if I feed it. There are some things I do, when I’m depressed, that make my depression worse, longer lasting. For example: listening to very sad music, watching sad movies, eating a lot of sweets, sitting around/not being active, going online (specifically going on FB or Twitter; social media is often very negative), staying inside and ignoring phone calls or invitations to go somewhere.
And here’s the thing: those are all the things I DO, naturally, when I feel depressed because I have no energy, no will to socialize, no desire to eat well and I just want to listen to music/watch movies that understand my depression. I don’t want to be told things will get better because life feels desperately sad, and sappy sayings, happy movies make me angry. I don’t want someone on the phone to tell me, “Things will get better,” when darkness, skepticism and anger are my best friends. And that’s where my depression lies: I feel like a slumping storm cloud in last night’s sweat pants.
But I’ve been told lately that I’m not helping myself. Duh. I know that. I think to myself as my counselor tells me that my behavior is destructive. I don’t give a shit. She says, “I know it feels like it doesn’t matter, but it does matter to you. It matters to you how your kids see you, that you can enjoy the little moments. I know it does. It’s just hard to see that.” And my heart breaks thinking about my kids. I don’t want them to think of me as the woman who is, half of the time, agitated/weeping/blank or agitated/angry/maelstrom of energy.
So, I do my best to overcome those bad tendencies that keep my in my depression longer. Here is a list of things I do:
1. I shower, I shave my legs, I brush my hair, and I wear an outfit that looks nice. I understand that you feel like you look like shit or that you just don’t care when you’re depressed. Pretend to care. It can transfer into a stranger passing you in the streets and saying, “I just love your dress.” And let’s face it, as shallow as that is, that is a really nice thing to hear, and can make us feel better about ourselves.
2. Go on a hike, walk, run, or leisurely stroll. Being outdoors and in the sun (if it is sunny) is good for your vitamin intake, folks. Even if you feel hot, annoyed and sweaty, your skin is soaking in the goodness and the exercise will feed you endorphins. You won’t feel so slumpy, worthless and gross if you get a little exercise.
3. Do errands, chores, normal daily activities. Really, just move. Get off the bed, chair, etc. You might still feel testy, but, again, activity feeds your body. It gives your thoughts direction and takes your mind off of bad thoughts.
4. Hug someone who won’t mind. I hug my kids. If I’m going to sit, I cuddle them, tell them how much I love them. Hugging stimulates your brain and asks it to release dopamine (pleasure hormone). Most depressed people say, “I don’t like hugs.” You’re doing it wrong. You’re fighting it, just like you fight that long walk that could help. If you don’t have a person to hug, hopefully you have an animal you can hug.
5. Say positive things. You don’t want to. Life sucks and you don’t want to be told to be a chirpy bird. It’s your right to feel how you feel and not to hide your feelings. This means not saying, “Today sucks. Everyday sucks.” This means you say, “I’m having a bad day with depression, but it’s sunny and I’m going to try for a walk.” OR “I don’t want to be around people, people suck.” Instead, try: “I feel like people don’t understand how I feel or are bummed out by my depression. I guess I understand that. Maybe I will try to have coffee with a friend who doesn’t seem to mind, or maybe I’ll go to the gym by myself until I feel better able to socialize.”
6. Write. Journaling/blogging can really help you understand where you are and where you need to be.
7. More intense exercise (cardio health). If you have bad knees, try a light yoga. If you have intense pain, try chronic pain exercises. I have both of those things (on and off) and getting daily exercise only makes those aches less intense. You just have to be careful of the way to do things, but still do it. I know it’s frustrating to be out of breath and gross and not able to do what other people can do. Practice is the only way to make a good habit and to make it work better for you.
8. Do something you love. I take the kids to tea at a local tea shop. They don’t always act perfectly, but drinking hot tea and eating scones makes me happy. There is a nice 2 mile trail that’s not too hard for them, so I park by it and walk both to and from the tea house on that trail, so I get outdoors and get exercise and tea all in the same event. And when I’m happier, my kids are happier.
9. If you’re in a trusting, loving relationship, be intimate with your partner. This will not make you feel better if it’s a one night stand with a stranger, but sex with someone you trust, even if you feel like a lump of sad dough, is a great hormone boost and great exercise all in one. Win win win, folks.
10. Talk to a counselor, therapist, or anyone unattached to your current situation. Or pray (if you’re a spiritual person). Being listened to offers people a feeling of validation.
I’m sorry if you’re feeling depressed right now. I know how it feels–like you’re full to the brim with aching sadness one moment, completely empty the next moment, like it’s never going to go away. But, (cliche time) it can get better, and you have the power to speed it up. Don’t call yourself helpless. There are little things that go a long way when you’re depressed. Try them out, and, if they just don’t work, talk to your doctor about medicine. If you’re sick, your sick. No need to stay sick, right? Not when there are options available. Virtual hugs.