I guess it is a little like the flu.
You don’t have control over “catching it” aside from taking necessary health and hygiene precautions.
Yes, there are mental health hygiene precautions… I’m sure you can Google it, or we can delve into it in a different blog one day.
Perhaps it is also contagious, I think it may be, and I’d prefer not to spread it any further if it is.
So later today, I am removing myself from Facebook for a few days. As I am currently fighting the urge to put up those open ended “WHOA IS ME! GIVE ME LOVE” posts that we all adore so very much… So I shall spare myself the embarrassment and YOU the discomfort of that bullshit by removing the temptation for as long as it takes till I can trust myself to get back to my role as a social media speed bump, with more cheer than queer to share with the world.
I did want to share my depressive episode coping tips, particularly for the dozens of friends who have recently reached out to wish me well or have shared their own struggle with the beastly bastard black dog.
There’s a deep and unbreakable bond between those of us who battle this bullshit. Not having to explain, but being able to swap stories of sadness, is a sacred tie that binds us. Important drunk (or regular not drunk) dials and messages I have received (or given) in my adult life, with friends who simply could not fight the urge say: “hang in there”, or to reach out and share their struggles. I appreciate each and every one of these conversations. Cherish them even. It means that people know I am crazy and aren’t afraid to reach out to me when their own crazy sets in. That realization is one of the very few things that have raised a smile on my sullen face of late…
Too many people that I know and Love are currently coping with some level of sadness. One of them, who is very close to me geographically, emotionally and genetically, spent the afternoon with me yesterday. We are both waking up at 4:00am every morning without fail, and stricken with a sense of doom, and a deep and unrelenting anxiousness that sits in our stomachs like a brick. We do not, however, manage to get very far from our warm beds, despite waking so early.
She suggested we might all be suffering from some sort of mass depressive episode at the prospect of Trump. That’s the kind of quirky humour us basket cases can appreciate. Dark, raw, and maybe more than a little bit true. It feels like we are on the edge of something. Revolution, war, massive change, I have no idea, but I am not prepared for a major shake up of any kind.
One never does know how long an episode will last. It is also impossible to say how often they will hit. It had been well over a year since my last big shake up (or down would perhaps be more accurate). Sure there are triggers. Mine has been too much candle burning at both ends, and too many opportunities, and too much of everything really.
Too much kid stuff. Too much stimulation. Too much success. Too many failures. Too much, too often, too many, too loud, too busy, too hard to handle.
And there’s Dee off the deep-end for an indiscernible length of time.
Comparison truly is the thief of joy. The thing is, I look around at people and things, and read those fucking uplifting motivational memes all over the place. “Keep going” or “You’re powerful”. Well fuck that. We all keep going, and going, and going, but sometimes we need to stop and recharge, and there’s no shame in that.
Plus, I am constantly reminded that I could never do all the things that I feel like I should or could do, even if I had 3000 years in which to do them, as well as kick ass time management skills.
I do not have kick ass time management skills.
So there’s that.
And then there’s watching people who can prioritize and feeling absolutely jealous. Everyone on the planet seems better at holding their tongue than me. Everyone on earth seems more in control of themselves than I feel (even children!)
Worse than jealousy is the self-hatred that comes from worrying that anyone may take a peek into my life and be sad about any aspect of theirs.
THEN there’s the realization that there is true suffering, and the utterly self-induglent and pointless incapacitation is just, well… embarrassing really.
So here’s a few things that I have learned (and admittedly do not always put into practice) in the nearly 3 decades of dealing with depressive episodes:
- Booze and drugs (aside from prescription obviously) must go, go, go until your joy returns.
- Up the water and herbal teas, down the caffeine and sugar.
- Force yourself to move. Walks in nature are the absolute best, but even a trip to get groceries or forcing yourself to get out of the house and run errands. I implore you to keep moving. The gym or swimming or a jog or bike ride would be absolutely amazing, and are a bit to ambitious for me this week, but if you can, then DO!
- Seek help. There’s no shame, many organisations have an EAP, or call on one of the many support networks including lifeline (0800 543 354) and there is a wealth of resources at depression.org as well.
- Self care. Don’t be afraid to say no to extra things, and find the time and money for a massage or to get your hair done… a little bit of self care can go a long, long way.
- Laugh if and when you can. Even if it feels hollow and fake, even the act of smiling releases some good endorphin things apparently, and I can assure you the joy will return.
- Talk about it. Find a safe and trustworthy person (ideally a professional) that you can offload onto. And let it out. You’ll find that you aren’t as weird as you think, and if you are weird, they can help you to manage that in a systematic and encouraging way.
- Hang. In. There. I mean it… Stay with us. Even if you need to take a little bit of time away from work to cry and let the illness work its way through your system. Stay with us. Stay safe. And if you are in a position that you cannot trust yourself for any reason, you must find a safe place with people around, or have someone you know and trust with you always. Do this. Because you are worth it (even if you do not currently feel that you are)
- Know your brain is not on your side right now. The self-speak that you are shoveling through is probably mostly bullshit. We’ve all got baggage and we’ve all been on a journey, and when you are on a genuine down swing you CANNOT trust the bullshit your brain is feeding you.
- Spirituality. Seek it, embrace it, meditate on it… The knowledge that there is something bigger than our own understanding can be very healing and helpful when the depression flu comes to call.
There’s more advice, but I have a personal goal to never go over 1200 words on a blog, and I’ve passed that already. Hope this was in some way useful to someone.