Posts tagged depression
Posts tagged depression
Some days I am so desperate
for life, to breathe,
to taste the salt in the air,
for it to fill my lungs until
they feel like popping.
Some days I am so desperate
that I count all of the ways in my head
and all of the possibilities of being
found, of surviving again,
and I find ways to counteract them
in my thoughts.
Some days I want the world,
and some days I want to be erased from it.
A while ago, I penned a fairly angry response to something circulating on the internet – the 21 Habits of Happy People. It pissed me off beyond belief, that there was an inference that if you weren’t Happy, you simply weren’t doing the right things.
I’ve had depression for as long as I can remember. It’s manifested in different ways. I did therapy. I did prozac. I did more therapy. My baseline is melancholic. I’d just made peace with it when I moved, unintentionally, to a place that had markedly less sunshine in the winter. I got seasonal depression. I got that under control. Then I got really, really sick. Turns out it’s a permanent, painful genetic disorder. My last pain-free day was four years ago.
So, this Cult of Happy article just set me off. Just… anger. Rage. Depression is serious – debilitating, often dangerous, and it’s got an enormous stigma. It leaves people to fend for themselves.
It’s bad enough without people ramming Happy Tips at you through facebook. There is no miracle behaviour change that will flip that switch for you. I know, I’ve tried.
A friend of mine suggested that I write something from my point of view because, surprisingly, I manage to give an outwards impression of having my shit together. I was shocked to hear this. And I find this comical, but I see her point. I’m functioning. I’ve adapted. I’m surprisingly okay. I think the medical term is “resilient”.
So, here it is.
My 21 Tips on Keeping Your Shit Together During Depression
1) Know that you’re not alone. Know that we are a silent legion, who, every day face the solipsism and judgement of Happy People Who Think We Just Aren’t Trying. There are people who are depressed, people who have been depressed, and people who just haven’t been hit with it yet.
2) Understand that the Happy People are usually acting out of some genuine (albeit misguided) concern for you, that it’s coming from a good place, even if the advice feels like you’re being blamed for your disease. Telling you these things makes them feel better, even if it makes you feel like shit. (If they insist on keeping it up, see #12.)
3) Enlist the help of a professional. See your doctor. You need to talk about the ugly shit, and there are people paid to listen and help you find your way to the light at the end of the tunnel.
4) Understand that antidepressants will only do so much. They’re useful, they’ll level you out and give you the time you need to figure out your own path to getting well. They can be helpful. There are lots to choose from. They may not be for you, and even if they are, they take some time to kick in. Conversely, they may not be for you. Work with your doctor.
5) Pick up a paintbrush, a pencil, an activity you got joy from in the past and re-explore that. Or, sign up for the thing you always wanted to try. There is a long history and link between depression and creativity. It’s a bright light of this condition, so utilize it to your best advantage.
6) Eat nutritionally sound, regular small meals. If you’re having trouble eating, try to focus on what you’d like to eat. I went through a whole six week episode of tomatoes and cream cheese on a bagel twice a day. Not great, but it was something – helpful context, I’m a recovered anorexic. Conversely, if all you want to do is scarf down crap, try to off-ramp it by downing a V-8 and doing #9 for 15 minutes, and see how you feel. Chucking your blood sugar all over hell’s half acre is going to make you feel worse.
7) While you’re doing #3, get some bloodwork done. If you’re low on iron or vitamin D, or if your hormone levels are doing the Macarena… these can all contribute to zapping your energy or switching your mood to Bleak As Hell.
8) If you’re in bed and the “insomnia hamsters”, as I like to call them, are on the wheel of your head, watch Nightly Business News on PBS. This has the effect of Nyquil. Swap out your coffee for herbal tea. If you just cannot sleep, try the next tip….
9) Learn how to meditate. Start by focusing on your breathing. Not sleep, not thoughts. In through the nose, out through the mouth. Meditation is focusing on being present in your body, not careening around in your brain. It may not be as good as sleep but it will give you some rest and recharge you.
10) Face a window as often as you can – at work, at home. Look out into the world. Watch. Observe. Try to find something you find pretty or interesting to focus on. And, handily remember that one in five of those people out there feel the way you do.
11) Cry. Better out than in. Sometimes it’s not convenient or career-enhancing to cry, so find a private place as best you can and let the tears go. Carry Kleenex and face wipes and extra concealer if you wear makeup. You can always claim allergies.
12) Any “friend” who resolutely believes that your depression is because you’re lazy, because you’re not trying hard enough, who blames you for not bootstrapping out of it- that friend needs to be cut off. Polite (#2) is one thing, but there is a limit. You don’t have to explain, you can just not respond. You feel badly enough, you don’t need their “assistance”.
13) Limit your time with people who drain you. You know who they are. Often you don’t have a choice- but you can put the meter on. And, subsequently, be aware of what you’re asking of those close to you.
14) Everyone has shit they’ve got to deal with. What you have been saddled with is your shit. Recognize, just as you’re not alone, you’re also not unique. The grass may look greener, you may be jealous or envious of others who don’t have to deal with depression, but you likely do not know everything that’s going on with them.
15) Let go or be dragged. This is an old Buddhist saying. It’s a very useful way to frame aspects of depression. Betrayal, anger, fear… letting go is a process – often a painful and difficult process - but it’s ultimately going to show you the path out of this terrible place. Repeating the mantra can help when you’re feeling gripped by these feelings.
16) Wear clothes that make you feel confident. It takes as much time to put on nice clothes as it does to put on sweatpants. You will want to wear the sweatpants. Fight the urge. The whole “look good/feel better” campaign isn’t limited to cancer and chemotherapy. Or women.
17) Avoid fictional drama and tragedy like the plague. No Grey’s Anatomy, no to The Notebook, or anything that won a Pulitzer prize. You’ve got enough going on In Real Life. Comedy only. Or trashy stuff. Old episodes of WonderWoman? I’ve got the box set. Mindless drivel, like the latest CGI blockbuster. Or clever, funny books. David Sedaris. Jenny Lawson. Fiction exists to elicit emotion, and the emotion you need to express most right now is laughter.
18) Simple exercise, if you can. It can be something as simple as taking the stairs up a flight, or walking around the block. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, it doesn’t have to involve climbing a mountain or running a marathon. Baby steps.
19) Depression will lie to you. Depression will try to tell you what others are thinking. That you are unloved and unworthy, that others think little of you or don’t care – or even wish you harm. You are not a psychic. Keep repeating that. “I am not a psychic”. Repeat. The only way to know what another person is thinking is to up and ask them.
20) If you are well and truly losing this battle, reach out to someone. I’ve been the random friendly-but-not-close person who has fielded the occasional outreach. I like to think I’m not judgemental and generally resourceful, and others have thought the same, so they called and asked. You know someone like me. And they will help you.
21) Forgive yourself. I’m writing out all these tips, and I can’t always muster the strength to even stick my nose outside, or walk up the stairs, or eat my vegetables. Today, I got outside for ten minutes. I will try again tomorrow. And I will try again the day after that.
This list will not cure you. This list will not flip on the happy switch. God, I wish it were that easy. The theme here is to not to unknowingly sabotage yourself. All these little things? Like your blood sugar, or watching nonstop episodes of House, or endless Try Harder lectures from your Perpetually Perky sister?
They all make dealing with depression just a tiny bit harder than it needs to be. And it’s hard enough, all on its own.
UPDATE: Wow, guys. Thank you. The feedback has been wonderful - all I wanted to set out to do was something helpful.
For those of you who want to see the original rant, Here it is.. www.diycouturier.com/post/41923259437/to-the-person-who-wrote-21-habits-…
And here’s the response to my response (?) - basically, after posting my retort, the happy people came at me with torches all over the interwebs.
Also, a few people have mentioned that having a critter is a great thing to keep you on track, that taking care of something and having something rely on you keeps you going. I went back and forth on including that, but for some, it’s just not feasible to have a cat or a dog… but my cat is my Prozac.
And, I wrote this in Canada, where we have universal health care. It breaks my heart that people don’t have access to professional support. You can sometimes find a community health centre, or sometimes your work benefits will have an employee support or assistance plan as part of your insurance. If you’re without benefits and hitting desperation, phone someone. Friend, family - even your local distress centre.
Stay well, my melancholic interweb friends…xoRR
Last night I thought I kissed
the loneliness from out your belly button.
I thought I did, but later you sat up,
all bones and restless hands, and told me that
there is a knot in your body that I cannot undo.
I never know what to say to these things.
“It’s okay.” “Come back to bed.”
“Please don’t go away again.”
Sometimes you are gone for days at a time
and it is all I can do not to call the police,
file a missing person’s report, even though
you are right there, still sleeping next to me
in bed. But your eyes are like an empty house
in winter: lights left on to scare away intruders.
Except in this case I am the intruder and you
are already locked up so tight that no one
could possibly jimmy their way in.
Last night I thought I gave you a reason
not to be so sad when I held your body like
a high note and we both trembled from the effort.
Some people, though, are sad against all reason,
all sensibility, all love. I know better now.
I know what to say to the things you admit to me
in the dark, all bones and restless hands.
“It’s okay.” “You can stay in bed.”
“Please come back to me again.”
themindislimitless asked you:
Not really sure how to word this question. But how does Islam/ the Quraan regard depression/ mental illnesses?
These are just a few thoughts I have on it; they’re not very thorough, unfortunately.
9/91 Not upon the weak and not upon the sick [l-marḍā] and not upon those who do not find what they can contribute, is there any blame if they are sincere to God and His Messenger…
al-marḍā would include those with mental illnesses and depression. A verse that stands out for me is 2/273, which appears in a passage about helping those in need:
For the deprived, those who are held back in the way of God, not are they able to move in the earth. The ignorant one thinks they are free from the restraint. You recognise them by their marks; they do not ask people persistently. And whatever you contribute of good, then indeed God is a knower of it.
I think this goes beyond material deprivation. Being trapped, isolated and incapable of reaching out to others, with people around you thinking you’re fine, are the characteristics of someone suffering from a mental illness. The above tells us to contribute good in their cause. 9/60 places an obligation on us to free “the necks” of those who are deprived, which again includes those who suffer deprivation on a metal/emotional level. So I think the Quran places the burden on society to aid people with mental illnesses and to not leave them on their own.
The Quran promotes happiness. There are several verses that tell us if we do something then we will not grieve e.g. 2/112 says those who do good will not grieve, which by implication suggests that a life bereft of good actions can lead to grief. Studies have shown that being grateful for what we have increases happiness, and this is also reflected in the Quran (14/6). We’re told not to pattern our lives on tragedies (57/23) and that we find happiness in our relationships with others; 30/21- tranquillity with our mates - which can transcend marriage and include platonic and familial bonds too. There is a strong emphasis that our happiness is dependent on one another.
For me, I see the way to develop the self and be happier is by being generous and giving. 64/16 says, “and contribute, it is better for yourselves/souls [anfusikum].” Interestingly, we don’t grow spiritually by consuming but by sacrificing and giving; opposite to our physical growth. We see this idea in several verses, like 2/274 - those who spend/give contributions will not grieve, and 92/18 - the one who gives his wealth to purify himself. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the highest rates of depression and suicide in the world are found in the most affluent societies; societies built on exploiting one another, profit maximisation, and a fear of poverty which leads to hoarding and miserliness; the exact opposite of islam.
But I digress, the Quran isn’t giving us an airtight formula here, sometimes you may do nothing wrong at all and still develop an illness. In terms of specifically how to deal with mental illnesses, I think the general principle of seeking expert help applies:
2/164 Indeed in the creation of the heavens and the earth, and alternation of the night and the day, and the ships which sail in the sea with what benefits the people, and what God descended from the sky from water, then giving life thereby to the earth after its death, and dispersing therein from every creature and directing the winds and the clouds and the controlling between the sky and the earth, surely are signs [āyāt] for a people who use their reason.
The verse directs our attention to the creation, to observe it and understand its systems and patterns. This is the scientific method and leads to signs [āyāt] becoming apparent to us. So, if a person suffers from depression or a mental illness then they should seek professional help, those who use the principles of the above verse to recognise the āyāt of mental health. I reject the claim that some Muslims make that reading the Quran more or praying will cure these problems. Mental illnesses should be treated with the same seriousness afforded to other illnesses.
“i’m so depressed,” posted the caucasion heterosexual cisgender teenage girl on her blog
“I’m so depressed” posted the person who is clinically depressed and who cannot help their depression despite their privilege because depression does not exclusively affect certain groups.