Coping With Depression

As you may have noticed, I haven’t written in a while, not because I haven’t wanted to but because I couldn’t. Since my last blog post my moods have been more than fluctuating, they’ve been plunging downward only coming up for air in spikes so steep and fast they’ve made me dizzy, each time I’ve risen to the surface I’ve gulped down the air only to be dragged downward and it feels like I’m drowning. I know I’m not and I know I will be fine and that this will end but that doesn’t make it easy.

With my depression comes panic attacks, paranoia, anxiety and stress. My immune systems plummets, I crave sleep and food, I want the world to leave me alone but, above all else, the thing I want to do most, is lie. I look my loved ones straight in the eye and I laugh, I tell them I had a great day, that dinner tasted great! I dress better, do my make-up better, push harder to be the image of happiness so that people leave me the hell alone. None of that helps when what I actually just need someone to stretch a hand in to the abyss and help pull me up. Only I know what/who will help me but unfortunately, I have a deeply ingrained issue with trust. Asking for help is practice and one day I’ll get there but in the meantime, I have my lists.

I created these lists when I was in a depression bad enough to warrant home care and emergency treatment. With constant thoughts of suicide as my companion I focused on making what I am about to show you. These lists helped me to survive day to day, born from a sign I once had, above my bed, which read, “Your one and only job is to get in the shower”. These lists are tailored to myself and feel free to tailor them to you. I actually make these in to foldable pocket versions that fit in a wallet; if you want one please let me know via email and I’ll be happy to help.

 

Depression Lists

 

Before you read on please take note that I am not a medical professional, under no circumstances should you take my advice over that of your doctor. If you are suicidal or at risk please seek medical attention. I have created these lists as a guide, only to help.

List 1 is more like a day-to-day guide, list 2 is for when you are really struggling and list 3 is when you are at your worst. The final list, I call a filler list and it’s designed to make you pick things to do to aid mental stability. Again, these have been tailored to me so feel free to swap things in and out depending on what works for you.

 

List 1: This is for when you are stable-mildly depressed

1.)           Eat at least 3 square meals. High protein and fibre, minimal sugar

2.)           Drink at least 2L of water

3.)           Try to get approximately 8 hours sleep, not a lot more, not a lot less

4.)           Get some exercise

5.)           Get some fresh air

6.)           Constant self-love, compassion and acceptance – You are enough.

7.)           Learn something new, even if it’s just a word of the day – www.reddit.com/r/mildlyinteresting is pretty good.

8.)           Be grateful for what you have – Grateful alphabets are fab if you’re struggling. Pick something that begins with each letter of the alphabet that you are grateful for.

 

List 2: This is for when you are moderately-severely depressed

1.)           Take a minute to acknowledge that this is depression and that you know what it is; try to accept that this is just how you are right now

2.)           Remind yourself that how you are right now is not how you will be forever

3.)           Show yourself complete love and compassion and self-empathy for what you are going through, congratulate yourself for showing some self-care by doing these steps

4.)           Deep breaths, notice where in your torso your breath is most active (collarbone, rib cage or stomach?)

5.)           Remind yourself that even if it doesn’t feel like it, you are in fact absolutely fine, safe and you’ve got this, believe in yourself

6.)           Get in the shower

7.)           Eat and drink something; the more nutritional the better. Avoid hunger (and junk food) and stay hydrated at all times

 

List 3: This is for when you are suicidal and at risk

1.)           Focus on your breathing. Where in your torso is the breath most active (collarbone, rib cage or stomach?)

2.)           Take a minute to acknowledge that this is depression and that you know what it is; try to accept that this is just how you are right now

3.)           Try to think of anything that could have triggered you, or if this is today’s natural progression of your depression. If it is a trigger, make a note of it, if not, that’s okay, let yourself feel what you are feeling.

4.)           Accept how you are feeling with complete love, compassion and empathy and wait until you have completed these instructions before you act on your feelings

5.)           Remind yourself that feelings come and go, good and bad. Remind yourself that how you feel right now is not how you will feel forever

6.)           Find Sub (Sub is my cat) Feed her, give her some fuss and check her over for any health issues. Remind yourself that she only has you and that she loves you even when you forget to

7.)           Remember how much of a butterfly effect your death/life has/will have on the world around you. If you’ve ever been to a funeral you will know how much it hurts the people you leave behind and you can never really know how many people’s lives you’ve improved just by existing; if you’d tried to guess I guarantee you’d be underestimating

8.)           Remind yourself that even if it doesn’t feel like it you are absolutely fine, safe and you’ve got this. Believe in yourself.

9.)           Get in the shower

10.)        Eat and drink something; go for nutrients over sugar, avoid hunger and stay hydrated all day

11.)        If you still feel the same as you did before call the crisis team (The name of my area’s psychiatric emergency team, It’s useful to keep yours handy) If you feel safer go to the 4th list

 

List 4: This is your “filler list”. Pick 4 or more things and complete them after doing 2nd/3rd lists

1.)           Get to a group therapy meeting

2.)           Reach out to a newcomer in group therapy

3.)           Write a grateful list or go through the grateful alphabet (assign each letter to something you are grateful for…i.e A-nimals videos on Youtube. It can be serious or silly, whatever you prefer)

4.)           Do some Step work

5.)           Talk to your higher power, be honest about how you feel and what you want – if you don’t have a God or HP just talk aloud to yourself about how you feel and what you want, I find it just irons out the creases in your mind about what your next move will be.

6.)           Talk to someone who KNOWS what you are going through and will understand you, be 100% honest – If no one springs to mind there are hundreds of online forums/communities.

7.)           Go for a walk and listen to upbeat music. Make a mental note of the following;

  1. What is the atmosphere/weather like?
  2. What colour is the sky, try to name anything else that is exactly the same shade/colour/texture
  3. What animals you can see – Name them all….seriously. Bonus points if you can make all the names rhyme. If you feel like a 5 year old whilst you’re doing it, even better.

8.)           Meditate (Headspace app is great)

9.)           Do something manual – do the dishes/re-pot some plants/de-weed the garden/change the bed sheets. Do something where you can SEE the achievement and once it’s done, stand back and admire your work

10.)        Engage with another human being. Talk to a stranger/phone a friend. Anything that gets you talking but only talk positively. If this results in travelling to see someone, even better!

11.)        Yoga

12.)        Learn some upbeat music with your guitar or just sing as loudly as you can. Stay standing while you do it! (Tip: Tops of stairs are great for this)

13.)        Go to the Gym/Go for a run – Personally I prefer weight lifting when I’m depressed, I find it REALLY helps

15.)        ONLY If it is after 2PM Watch TV but only one of the following and only one episode at a time; The next episode in a season you’ve been watching weekly (NOT a Netflix binge episode). or The Thick of It/Extras/Louis Theroux Documentary (My favourite shows) – The reason this has rules is because spending a day binge watching TV will not help you, you need to get up and get moving even though you really don’t want to.

16.)        Book a massage/Hair appointment/Treatment

17.)        Experiment with make-up (Guys you can also do facial hair) and whilst you’re doing it make note of the little things you like about yourself and love the things you don’t. There is no such thing as an ugly person. Even if you don’t like how you look right now it’s good to bear in mind all of the weird and wonderful people out there and in those millions there are hundreds, thousands of people and you will match their type. So, make the decision to see what they see and know that you’re amazing.

 

And there you have it, my depression lists. I hope they help should you ever need/want them! If you can think of anything that should go on the filler list or anything that helps you, let me know; nothing is a one size fits all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

The Little, Yellow Cat

The oversized chandelier, ornate bathrooms and servants’ quarters on the third floor didn’t quite match the nicotine stained walls, broken window frames and three write-off cars that lay in the driveway. The house had a tragic beauty to it that, at the time, I adored. I was a 20-a-day smoker and whilst I never really liked using the stuff, I loved the smell of weed, so it made no odds to me that my new housemates, new landlord and even my new walls reeked of the stuff. I’d found the house on a spare room website and had made up my mind, before I even arrived, that I’d take it. The location was great, the room was huge and a large portion of my housemates were musicians; the pièce de résistance was discovering that they actively encouraged me to make as much noise as possible. The Grade II listed property, once a place of un-rivalled charm, had been run down over the last decade; there was subsidence towards the back and missing tiles at the front; the windows had no double glazing and the basement flooded, however, with all its faults and for all the times I and my housemates would moan, we loved the place. The manor pulled you in and had a way of making you fall in love and nothing seemed to be able to stand in its way.

On the day I moved in, I let my bag thump to the floor of the hallway, half of the contents instantly sprawled across the floor. Catching something in my peripheral, I looked up and there, sitting quite majestically, atop the wooden radiator cover, was a little, yellow cat, who I later found out was called Sub. Just like the rest of the house she, too, had been tinted with the smoke that billowed from bedrooms, living rooms and kitchens. I instantly went to say hello. Moving as slowly as I could, with my hand out stretched, I barely got halfway across the distance between us before she bolted for the door. Every day we would follow the same routine; she would set up camp and wait for me to see her, I would try to make contact and she’d run. She only really got on with Jonathan, I know you shouldn’t have favourites but I completely understood why that particular housemate was hers. I quickly grew to be openly jealous of the affection that she showed him; I loved cats and she was terrified of me, I reminded myself not to take it personally, after all, she ran from most people.

She’d been brought to the manor, with her sister, by an ex-tenant, who, upon leaving, had left the pair behind. Her sister had been re-homed, leaving Sub on her own, she was petrified of the next door neighbour’s cat but that didn’t stop her spending most of her life outdoors. It didn’t help that the manor was an abrasive environment. Don’t get me wrong, there wasn’t an immoral disposition in sight, but there also wasn’t a clean, sober or sensible person among us. With a cocaine dealer in-house and a weed dealer who visited regularly we were a far cry from your perfect neighbours; parties would go on for days, sometimes stretching a week, and the base would shake every pane of glass in the house. Sub, as a result, would disappear for an impossible amount of time and return with a couple of extra ribs showing.  Jonathan would feed her but she never kept the weight on and she had a permanent, unhealthy, greasiness to her coat. Things took a turn for the worse when Jonathon left and not long after, the dog arrived; whilst he was adorable with humans, he would chase her across the garden and back the moment they locked eyes. She was withdrawn, miserable and jumpy; sometimes I felt like she was living the cat version of my life except she got more sleep.

I was still at the manor house when I got sober. My room got cleared of alcohol, it was no longer frequented with strangers lolling on the floor or snorting God-know-what off of my dresser. It became my safe-haven, I filled it with candles, cushions, I cleaned it within an inch of its life and regularly aired it out; I even gave it a lick of paint. It didn’t smell of cigarettes anymore and when I shut the door, bar the vibrations, you could be forgiven for thinking I was the only one home. Sub wanted in. She would appear, mewing at my door, whenever they upped the volume. She’d take refuge on my bed, in the warm, quiet and clean aired space and I would join her. She was my companion in the evenings, before I could trust myself enough to go out. If my boyfriend wasn’t busy, she was happy to third wheel. Over time and with a lot of ice cream-based-bribery she began to let me hold her, pick her up and give her a proper cuddle; as her hard shell softened to me as did mine to the world in general. On days when I was struggling I would think about getting home to her, I would spend money on cat treats instead of booze, if I wanted to go downstairs and join the party I would make myself feel guilty for contemplating leaving her all on her own and if I had a craving for alcohol, I would think how much Sub would lose if I went back out there.

When the time came for me to move I knew I couldn’t leave her. Luckily my Landlord had no problems with a cat-free home. My friend and I picked a house that had a garden, specifically for her, it was surrounded by space and I knew she’d love it. We moved in April and by summer, Sub had lost all the yellow from her coat. She is no longer slick and greasy but white and fluffy and nowadays, she’s capable of inflicting snow-blindness when she lounges in the sunshine. Jonathon has come to visit us in our new home and even he can’t believe it’s the same cat; she’s forgotten all about her outdoor ways just as I have forgotten mine; she couldn’t teach you to hunt any more than I could tell you how much a double at the local costs. Sub epitomises my recovery and how I feel inside; she no longer runs and hides from people, she’s still and calm and happy, if, perhaps, a little spoilt.

When I’m struggling, I think of her, I’ll seek her out, sit, fuss her and give her a quick health check and remind myself that whilst she played a massive part in saving my life I think I might have saved hers.