Depression is a very serious illness. I’m not going to beat around the bush here. We all know it’s a debilitating problem for some people, and there is no single ‘solution’ or even something we could consider to be a ‘cure’. It’s a singular, personal battle that most fight on their own, and it’s tough.
Whilst I classify myself as having ‘depressive issues’ I have never been formally diagnosed as having depression. These hints and tips are based on my personal experience with my parents, rather than my own (much less serious) issues. Both my parents have depression; well, they’re not especially effected by any bouts of it currently, but it’s not exactly something that once it’s gone stays away forever. My childhood and teenage years were shaped around their bouts, and they were pretty bad. I’m just lucky they didn’t coincide. Both involved confinement to the house and a refusal to eat, or to interact. It was terrifying as a child because I never understood what was happening. But I saw and I observed, picking up a few neurotic problems, and a few hints to pass on.
An achievement a day.
This is one I picked up from my therapist, and let’s consider it the lynchpin of the points I’m going to give. These are no ‘cures’, per say, just things to alleviate mood and make you happy in yourself. An achievement a day will go a long way. It doesn’t have to be a huge thing, just something enough so you can go to sleep thinking ‘Yeah, I did that.‘ And that feeling, that proud inner voice, can be used to combat the critical voice. Hold it like a talisman in your chest, as an amulet against negative thoughts. Cause you went out and fucking did it. It could be anything, something creative or practical, or even just learning how to balance a spoon on your nose. Possible suggestions include: doing all the cleaning, spending some time weeding, or doing some cooking. Anything that makes you feel like you’ve accomplished something.
Exercise is an anathema to me. I hate it, my body hates it. But daaaaaammmmn, does it improve my mood. It’s achieving something, it’s changing your scenery, and it’s doing something healthy for your body. It’s all good. If like me and you are made of sloth, try swimming, which is fun and can be lovely and social, or just walking. I try to walk about two to three miles a day and it helps me no end. Try to tie it in with achieving something; try and set yourself the task of walking every street in your town, or area, or walking down the same street every day for a month and taking a picture of a particular tree or house as a sort of project, or my favourite, trek out to a shop that is right across town, one that is forever away, buy a chocolate bar and savour it on the way back. Chocolate + excercise combined! Win win!
This is a more difficult one to advise on – after all, we don’t all have the luxury of running out and buying an animal! Interaction with animals had been shown to have a great mood enhancing effect, and The Mother found that having a dog really improved her depression – so much so in fact, she was able to be off medication for years. If you haven’t got a family pet, talk to your parents about it and see what they think (obviously, ignore this step if you are able to this yourself). Can’t get a conventional animal? Think outside the box. As a family, we adopt and rescue battery hens. It’s an amazing feeling; you get to rescue animals that are hurting, but are ignored by most. You get to nurse them back to health, see them thrive, and they lay fresh eggs. Two or three battery hens (never get single chickens; they get depressed too, and can lose the will to survive if they’re on their own) can be kept quite cheaply and happily in small gardens. If there are no chances of getting your own animal, then consider a bird table, and feel proud to help wild birds in your area. Or even set yourself up as the neighbourhood dog walker; you’ll interact with animals, you’ll get the chance to help some people out, maybe make new friends, and there’s the chance of making a little money.
Getting a job
This can help some people. Others find it too stressful. Depends on what you think you should do. You do achieve something each day, meet new people, and spend time in a new setting, all things that can improve mood. There’s also the chance to earn money.
Starting a creative project
This can be anything; writing, drawing, music, knitting, sock puppets, nail painting. Anything that makes YOU feel good. It’s a means to distract your mind, stop your thoughts from going inwards. I started my video site purely on this basis, and because it makes me feel like I’m doing something with my life. Sure, it’s not succesful or popular (at least, not yet. Give me time.) but it’s something to be proud of. Set yourself a creative goal, daily, weekly, or even monthly, for you to work to. I try to write at least a thousand words a day, for example, and sure, I might not do it each day, but I feel good that I’ve tried and I’ve sat and done it. Try to do a drawing a day, or say, twenty lines of knitting, or possibly making a soft toy a month. Sign up for a writing project. Try the Album challenge – where you pick a favourite album, and write a story, or draw a picture, to the time or theme of a song, for only as long as the length of the song. Whatever your talent, you’ll have something you can look at and think ‘YEAH I DID THAT I AM AWESOME’.
Happy or kickass music improves your mood so much. I always found that The Cure always greatly help whatever mood I’m in, but that’s just me. Pick something and spend an afternoon just listening. Take some time for yourself and spend a day just listening to all the albums by your favourite band, or questionable old albums you bought when you were twelve. Invite friends. Dance.
A little of what you fancy does you the world of good.
TV, music, food, art, shopping… do a little bit of something you find tempting. Relish the feeling.
Do things with your friends
It doesn’t have to be much. If you can’t face going outside, then invite some friends over and have a TV or movie marathon. Make it a regular thing, so there’s something nice to look forward to. Have a nice meal, just you and some close friends, that doesn’t involve outside influences or alcohol. Have a tea party, or an inside picnic. Plan something crazy and creative to do together and savor. My friends help me on the Digital Scum site, and it makes me feel so much better inside. When I’ve collapsed into a misery, and I can’t feel like I could ever cope, ever again, and I want to tear my hair out until I’m bald and bloody, I think to myself how lucky I am in my friends, and the things we’ve done together. And I can push myself to the next day.
Do something a bit crazy
Act out a scene from a famous play in public with your friends. Get a strange new hair cut, dye your hair, or get rid of it completely. Have a party with the theme of your favourite TV show or film and make everyone come in costume. Get a piercing. Get a tattoo. Do something you’ve always wanted to try but never found the courage to do. Do something that makes you proud of yourself for having done it, something that makes you hug yourself with glee.
Record your thoughts and feelings
This might sound redundant with the prevalence of blogs and tumblr and twitter, and coming from a blog itself, but keep a log. Not of events or places, not a journal or a diary, but just somewhere where you can write the things you don’t even want to admit to yourself. Write them all down, anything and everything, and get them out of your head where they can’t bother you anymore. They’re out and they’re gone.
Mediatation and breathing exercises
Very helpful, very calming. Take time every day or so to sit and think about nothing.
Find help. Don’t struggle on your own. Make people listen to you. Make yourself listen to other people.
Don’t be alone. There’s always someone. Me, for example. I will always give time to someone who needs me.