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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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You Are Enough

I like romance, I need someone who is affectionate, someone who will kiss me hello and goodbye, someone who hates the idea of a couple sitting apart on a sofa as much as I do. I want to be spoilt and I want someone to spoil right back. I believe in complete equality in a relationship and I don’t mean just that you take it in turns to play little spoon. I want to learn about someone, I want to be their best friend and I want them to be mine. I want someone to grow with, not just to grow old with.

I used to be afraid of saying all of the above. Afraid of being weird, prudish or uncool, afraid of being me. I sacrificed my happiness because I felt the real me wasn’t good enough for the world. “I am not enough” is my deeply ingrained, default mind set, for everything. I’m not intelligent enough to be talking to these people, I’m not funny enough to make that joke, I am not attractive enough to have that partner. As a result I have been incapable of saying “No” in the past. I’ve been unable to say “No” to dating someone I didn’t like, I’ve said “Yes” to sex I didn’t want and I’ve actively changed myself to meet another person’s need, to the detriment of my own. I destroyed partners where I felt I didn’t deserve a relationship, I have cheated where I seized attention and I have gratefully accepted damaging friendships because I didn’t feel worthy for more.

On paper Adam was a well-to-do dream; well spoken, well-educated, politically minded, career-minded, home-owner, cat-owner, plus I was physically attracted to him and apparently he liked me. In person, however, he showed no warmth, his kisses were never more than a peck and greetings were like hugging a cardboard cut-out. I couldn’t bring myself to put my arms around him, I wanted to kiss him but he had an exterior that meant I didn’t dare move in and he was incredibly, emotionally formal. I felt like I had to impress him and short of being constantly hypomanic that was never going to happen, I couldn’t be myself, I was afraid he wasn’t finding me funny, pretty or clever. This wasn’t a cute case of being love-struck this was complete incompatibility and I was desperately unhappy. A healthy person would have experienced this and left; I stayed and convinced myself I wasn’t miserable, that I couldn’t do better and that it would work if I changed myself enough. Besides, Adam validated me, my Mother enthusiastically approved, which made me think that maybe being on Adam’s arm would cure me of being less-than.

Taylor; a tall, Essexey, tattooed, smoking, divorcee who chose dogs over cats; A tradesman who drove a completely uneconomical and quite frankly, ridiculous car; A fully grown adult who wore baseball caps inside the house and spent a fortune on multi-coloured trainers. Plus, I had the constant urge to correct his grammar… Taylor also made me laugh, I pulled stupid faces at him and I knew he’d kiss me afterwards. I wasn’t afraid to hang off his neck or to curl up to him when I wanted. I would remove my make-up in front of him. He knew I watched “fluff” TV (in fact, we watched I’m a Celebrity together) and I didn’t stop dancing in the kitchen when he poked his head round the door and burst out laughing. I was happy with him, but one look at my Mother crinkling her nose at the thought of tattoos, cigarettes and an ex-wife and I stopped the conversation and agreed that Adam was perhaps the better choice.

If someone had asked me to choose to date someone who got on with everyone else or someone who got on with me I would have looked at them like they had lost the plot but hindsight shows me that that was the decision I was struggling with. I came unstuck because I didn’t believe that I had enough value to have my opinion, my wants and my needs accounted for. In the end I did choose Taylor and while we didn’t last, I enjoyed the time we spent together. Adam never stood a chance of being someone I wanted but I was contemplating sacrificing that just so that other people might like me more.

All the things I listed at the beginning of this post, well, I deserve all of those things. Not because I’m special but just because I’m me and I’m human and because everyone deserves those things, should they want them. Every emotion you have, every feeling you experience, every opinion you hold is valid and remembering that, is remembering that you are enough.

When I was in a particularly dark place a wonderful woman once said, “Who the hell do you think you are to be judging yourself that badly?” this person also showed me that my job was to love and look after myself; to show myself complete compassion, kindness and acceptance.

Today, I know that “I am enough” and I plan to act that way.