A big part of depression is how it takes over your whole life while you’re in the middle of an episode. One day you can be fine, going about your business as usual, and the next, you can’t even get out of bed. Watching TV may relieve it for a while, but then you realize just how sad it is that this made up dysfunctional family of alcoholic, cussing, redneck ranchers in Colorado, seems a heck of a lot happier than you’ll ever be again, and it just gets to be more than you can bear.
It’s hard to see the light, anywhere, even when you know it’s there, when you’re in the middle of a major depressive episode. You don’t want to bother people by asking for help, or appear weak by acknowledging your brain is beating you up and winning, but it’s nothing to be ashamed of. It really is no more humiliating than getting cancer, or pneumonia, or the flu.
Of course, we all know people who feel any type of sickness is a sign of weakness, people who just won’t go see any kind of doctor without being dragged there or drugged there. The problem with mental illness, though, is that, like cancer and pneumonia, without professional help of some sort, it can very easily kill you, or someone else, depending on the illness in question.
Untreated bi-polar disease, for example, can lead to all sorts of bad behavior that has very negative consequences. On the manic side, it can lead to promiscuity, and risk taking, among other things, as well as extreme, uncontrolled bouts of anger or rage. On the depressive side it can lead to isolation, loss of joy, or even suicidal thoughts and actions.
The hard part of being in the middle of a depressive state is things just don’t matter anymore, not like they used to. If you’re tuned in enough to your body and your mind to even catch that you are depressed in the first place, it’s hard to take any actions that help improve things. You really don’t care about what you used to love and can’t find yourself able to get interested enough to even try something, in hopes of sparking a reminder.
You wonder how you ever got the energy to do anything before, or why you felt your hobbies were even worthy of doing in the first place. Your brain doesn’t focus well, and your attention span is almost as good as a four month old puppy’s in a backyard full of squirrels, birds, and new scents enough to spend a week trying to decipher.
You want to sleep all day because you’re so bored being around yourself you can’t imagine spending another minute doing it, but then, you can’t sleep at night, because, 1) you’re not tired, and 2) your mind won’t shut up about what a failure you are for accomplishing absolutely nothing the day before, maybe not even leaving your bed, or your house.
If you’re lucky, you realize that people and pets still love you, and you will be happy again, if you can just hold on long enough, but even those facts often don’t stop the tears … trickling, or sobbing. Maybe you don’t want someone to see because it will only make you feel worse, because you worried them, or embarrassed them.
Sometimes getting outside, or being with other people, or any of the things on the list of self treatments just aren’t things you can make yourself accomplish. I’ve been there. You look at the list and laugh, out loud or to yourself, and think, “Yeah, right, like that’s gonna happen.”
This is why I genuinely feel everyone should have a psychologist or social worker to talk to in difficult times…a psychiatrist if you take medications to help control your mental health. How do you get through having to wait for that appointment that’s six days away, when every day feels like a week in itself? You can’t eat, even though you may be hungry. You sleep way too much. You get nothing accomplished except maybe cleaning out those extra boxes of tissues you had stored in the closet. You’re lucky if you shower, even though it does help for a little while. And no one really understands, maybe not even you.
You don’t want to be pitied, because that just verifies the feelings of worthlessness that you’re having. Some may not want to be acknowledged, but then feel the oversight as a slap in the face when it does come. Every little thing stings, even the accidental and the honest forgetful memory, we all have those once in a while.
You try to keep things in perspective, but perspective changes drastically when you are depressed. Matter of fact, I think it may even disappear altogether at times.
You think during your good times that it really wasn’t as bad as you’re remembering, and you don’t need to prepare for if…when it happens again. But that is exactly what you should do. Make notes for yourself for the next time the depression rolls around. Write down your accomplishments, and what you’re good at. Ask loved ones for help by seeing if they’ll write you a letter for the next episode and seal it in an envelope for you to only open if you’ve bottomed out. Make a playlist of your favorite, uplifting songs. Take a small notebook and fill it with scripture verses and quotes that make you happy and lift your spirits. Keep a small supply of your favorite snack treat hidden somewhere safe in your kitchen or pantry.
While binging isn’t advised (thus the small supply), sometimes a little dark chocolate can boost a mood with the Serotonin found in the cocoa. Walnuts have depression busting Omega 3s in them. Egg yolks are high in Vitamin D, which is proven to increase a positive mood. Low fat dairy, whole grains, legumes, and seafood contain Selenium, which helps prevent oxidative stress. Green teas and herbal teas have mood stabilizers in them. Any of these items are good for you at any time, but especially good during a depressive state.
Whatever you do, don’t give up. If at any time you have thoughts of hurting yourself or someone else, call the National Suicide Prevention Helpline immediately. You won’t get in trouble. You can even do so anonymously, if you feel you must. They are there to help you–24/7/365.
And remember, I love you.