About 3 weeks ago I realised I was declining into a depressive episode which I wrote about in my previous blog about my chronic depression click here to read.
So this week I began to feel my mood lift a bit. Why? I’m so glad you asked.
1. Well firstly I upped my medication. I really can’t stress the importance of this enough. As I wrote previously, depression for many people means lacking the emotional and mental will to do what needs to be done. So even though we know all sorts of things we could do that might help, like calling a friend, going for a walk, doing a project, we feel unable to do these things. That’s why it doesn’t work to tell depressed people to ‘do something positive’, or ‘snap out of it’. It’s literally our ‘snapping’ function that is impaired. Medication is really the only thing that changes this.
2. I eased up on myself. The first week after I had noticed I was on the decline, I gave in to quite a bit of guilt. I was actually in the first week of a 3 week break, but instead of enjoying my holiday and freedom, I kept making myself feel bad that I wasn’t tackling some of the projects I had been saving for this time. How silly! Now that I am starting to feel better I have tackled some of the projects with delight. I could have enjoyed reading and relaxing that first week; guilt didn’t help my situation at all. Luckily I ‘gave up’ on the guilt after day 4 as I saw it was accomplishing nothing, and I took a lot of downtime - watching TV, crocheting and reading.
3. I got some vitamin D. Don’t laugh, this is serious. I know of several people who have been diagnosed as being vitamin D deficient. Because we are so concerned with skin cancer we tend to avoid the sun and often end up having not enough vitamin D which leads to feelings of fatigue amongst others. In winter we are even less likely to get sun. I made a point of exposing as much of my body as I dared to at least 15 minutes of direct winter morning sun. It feels good too!
4. I made contact with friends. I didn’t feel like it (and if you’re severely depressed you probably won’t be able to do this) but I kept in touch with 3 close friends (including my husband). I told them how I was feeling but didn’t go on about it. We chatted about normal life stuff and none of these interactions left me feeling ‘wonderful’ but I know that cumulatively they prevented me slipping lower. (For me, social events with lots of shallow interaction tend to have the opposite effect by the way)
5. I got some exercise. I went walking with a friend and to a couple of Pilates classes. The benefits of these exercise endorphins are well known.
You might be tempted, like I sometimes am, to pick one of these things I did, and say, ‘well, it was actually THAT THING that made the difference,’ but experience has taught me that is unlikely to be true. Most probably all of them contributed to some degree, probably pretty much in the order in which I noted them. There may even be other factors at play (dietary, hormonal, spiritual). Moderate depression is one of those reciprocal circles where the better you feel, the more you can do to make yourself feel better. And conversely, the worse you feel, the less you can tackle to make yourself feel better.
Of course if you’re observant you noted that I am in a holiday period (even though I am home and have some work to see to). This can work both ways. We become more in touch with our feelings during less stressful times, so we feel worse; yet although busy times can be detrimental in adding stress to depression, they also keep us too busy to really notice what’s going on inside us; so we feel better.
One more critical thing I could have done and am in fact pursuing is counselling/life coaching. I have visited a number of different counsellors over the years and I know the value of this. One of the greatest benefits is simply making an appointment, which then sets in motion the process of thinking about what you want to discuss with the therapist, this alone can bring tremendous insights; the session, if it is good, brings insight too :- )
For various reasons I don’t feel like revisiting any of the people I have consulted in the past, hence the delay in taking this step. But I will follow up on this one because I know that mind-body, chemicals-attitude, are all connected. If my depression had felt more severe I would have taken this step as a matter of urgency and would advise anyone who feels very depressed not to delay on seeking help.
Moderate depression should not be ignored. Not only can it quickly decline into severe depression, anxiety and even panic attacks, but no-one should settle for a life that is so much less than it could be.
Even though my mood has lifted, I don’t think I am back to where I should be yet. So I will be pursuing all of the above, along with prayer. Wish me luck.