Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional, merely a fellow sufferer of depression. Please don’t substitute my advice for professional help. If you live in Australia call Lifeline on 13 11 14 if you are experiencing a mental health emergency.
As I was showering this morning, I thought over and over again, “I don’t want to be here”, “I don’t want to do this any more” and wondered how do people do it? How do they keep going through each day when they feel as low as they possibly can? And then it occurred to me – I actually know, because I am doing it. So far, my track record for getting through bad days is 100%. So, in fact, I should write this advice, even though I feel like shit, because I’m still here.
Many don’t make it this far. For some, the place beyond depression is suicide. Things become clear, you feel huge relief when you actually start planning how you will end your life. If this is you, read on. If you haven’t reach that place yet, read on.
Find something to live for
When you feel as low as you can go, you long for relief, you long for not being. It is a short step from there to wanting to end your life, but stop and think about all the people you will leave behind. Think about the devastation your death will bring. Go read Eden’s blog. I don’t know about you, but even my relief from suffering is not worth the suffering that my death would cause others. Primarily, for me, this is my children. I would never deal such a blow to them. Living with a mother who has depression has got to be better than living without one.
If you don’t have children, think about all those others around you. I know for a fact that my parents and my sister would be devastated by my death, and to a lesser extent some of my friends. If you don’t have family, find something else. An interest, a cause, a community. Ring Lifeline. Go to see your doctor.
Get professional help
Admitting you need help can be tough, but would you seek help from a doctor if you were diagnosed with cancer or diabetes? Mental illness is still an illness. Yes, I know there is still stigma around it, especially for men, but fuck the stigma. Fuck what anyone else thinks of you. Get to a doctor. Find a therapist. If you don’t click with the first one you see, insist on a referral to someone else. I know that I am lucky to live in a country where I can get heavily subsidised, and even free, access to a psychologist for a limited number of sessions; if you don’t ask your doctor for what options there are. Are there community resources that can help? Please, don’t give up.
Reach out to friends
I don’t normally want to burden my friends with my depression, but I will reach out just for the social contact. I will arrange a coffee here, a lunch there, just so I can talk to another human being.I probably won’t talk about how shit I’m feeling, but normal every day conversation about kids, about work, about cats, can do wonders for your frame of mind.
If I have a specific issue I need help with, then I will reach out to someone who can help me. Whether it’s financial advice, housing information, or business help, I will find the people I can talk to and reach out, even when I feel like crap. It’s not easy. It can be so hard to get motivated to make that one phone call, or send that one text, but believe me, the benefits are enormous. Getting practical help and advice on actions you can take to make your life easier, will lift just a little bit of the burden from your heavy mind.
I know. Everyone says that and I know how hard it is. Motivation is zero and getting out of the house feels impossible. Find an accountability buddy. Join a group that exercises together. I joined the Learn to Run program back in March for the group support and accountability and I was doing really well, until my Facebook account was disabled. It’s been two weeks since I last got out the door, but I haven’t given up. Every day might just be the day that I put my running gear on and go out in the cold.
Put it in your diary. If you can’t manage a run, go for a walk. Put the times and dates in your diary and follow through. Small goals and small accomplishments will make you feel better. Every little bit counts.
Sometimes the best I can do is sit on the couch and watch Netflix. The relief from feeling awful is immense, even if it only lasts a couple of hours. Sometimes in those couple of hours, the feelings of doom can pass, or transform into something more bearable, like exhaustion.
Comedy is great for mental health. My standard go to is the Black Books TV series. Find your favourite comedy show either on DVD or on your favourite streaming service, or even on YouTube and watch it often. It will help.
If all you feel like doing is sleeping and you don’t have any other responsibilities, take yourself to bed for the morning, or afternoon, or a whole day. Just don’t overdo it. Staying in bed for days at a time will just make you feel worse, so get a friend to come over, or go out for a coffee, or a walk. Find an errand you have to run, or chores you need to do at home. Make yourself follow through.
I’ve gotten into a bad habit in recent weeks of spending most of my mornings sleeping. The first time felt great and I felt re-energised in the afternoon, but after weeks of this, it just felt awful and I felt less and less like doing stuff. It’s school holidays now, so there is no reason to get up early, but I really need to get into a better routine, one that will make me feel better not worse.
I almost didn’t write this, because I just take it for granted. If you’re ill and there is medication that can help, you take it. You wouldn’t say no to insulin if you had diabetes, so why would you say no to anti-depressants? Yes, it’s true, they might have side effects, it might take a while to find the right one, or the right combination of meds for you, but I believe that they are life savers. They certainly have been for me and they are the main reason that I can do any of the things I wrote above.