"How I Cope with Depression"
This article was written by a member of the Sirius Project message boards. In it, she explains the things she does to help her cope with depression, and provides links to some helpful websites. You can also read her account of how she stopped cutting herself here.
The thing that helps most when I'm depressed is to make sure I look after myself, and treat myself well, even though it's the last thing I feel like doing. I try to make sure I eat properly, get some exercise, don't drink too much, etc. I also find small ways of treating myself, like taking a bath with some nice bubble bath. (Lush is good.) I remind myself that I don't hate myself, and that I deserve to be treated well. (If I really can't believe this, I remind myself that I don't want to hate myself, because I don't want to feel this crap!)
If there's an obvious reason why I'm depressed, I try to tackle it, using the tools on this site and other CBT stuff. If it's a situation making me depressed (for example having had a fight with someone), the Five Steps are good. I try to break everything down into small steps and tackle it in tiny chunks, so I don't get overwhelmed and give up. If thoughts are the problem (for example thinking that everybody hates me), I use the exercises on the Challenging Thoughts page.
If I don't know why I'm feeling depressed, I find it helps to write about how I feel in my journal. Sometimes then it becomes clearer what's making me feel bad, and I can do something about it. Other times, there doesn't seem to be a reason at all. If that's the case, I remind myself that this is just brain chemistry, it's not my fault, and it will pass.
When I'm depressed, I tend to get easily overwhelmed by things, and the slightest incident (like losing a hairbrush!) can send me into crisis mood. Again, I find the Five Steps helpful here, as well as RET.
If the depression goes on for a while, and I can't deal with it myself, I talk to my doctor. She can often help by changing or increasing my meds, or providing other forms of support.
I don't have a therapist, so I find this sort of stuff essential in overcoming and surviving depression! It really does help. The stuff I've suggested above can seem way too overwhelming and difficult to even attempt when I'm feeling crap. So I set myself really small goals, and make sure I reward myself for reaching them.
Being depressed is horrible, but if you know how, you can get through it.
Hope this is of some help to people.
More serious depression
Following my latest bout of depression, there are some things I'd like to add to this. I feel my ideas above are good ones, but they don't really take into account how hard it can be to do anything when you're depressed.
One thing I've realised is that when it came to recovery, as with every area of my life, I was pushing myself too hard. When I got depressed again I blamed myself, thinking I mustn't have been trying hard enough, when in fact the opposite was true! If you can relate to this at all, a book I really recommend is Depressive Illness: The Curse of the Strong by Tim Cantopher. That's what finally got me to see I was being way too hard on myself. It's aimed at people with stress-related depression.
Five Things To Do When You're Too Depressed To Move
I've stolen this idea from another book I read (but the five things listed here are my own). Strictly speaking they do involve moving, but are designed to be as easy as possible.
Reach out for support. This means letting people know that you're feeling low and you need their help. I find the easiest ways to do this when I'm depressed is to post on message boards and text people.
Give yourself lots of small treats. Small treats are better than big ones because there's less expectation - not enjoying a cuppa and a bar of chocolate doesn't seem as disastrous as not enjoying an expensive night out! Over time I've built up a list of things that I can usually get some pleasure or comfort out of even when depressed - for me these include my favourite foods, pampering myself, classical music, and comedies. I try to pay attention to what I really feel like doing, and unless it's totally self-destructive I allow myself it in moderation.
Get some sunshine and fresh air. I find getting out of the house really helps, especially if the weather's good.
Reduce your responsibilities. This could mean taking some time off work or choir if I need to. Or it could just mean suspending my listings on Amazon (I sell my old books & CDs there) so I don't have to worry about getting things in the post. I try to keep life as simple as possible.
Get professional help. This isn't always as easy as the other things I've mentioned, but it's very important. Depression is a treatable condition and meds and therapy can really help. If I don't keep my doctors up to date with how I'm doing, they can't help me. So I try to be as honest with them as possible.
Things To Do When You Have A Bit More Energy
Cognitive behavioural therapy. Most of the things in my first post come under this category, like Challenging Thoughts and the Five Steps. It definitely helps me cope with all the negative thoughts I get when depressed.
Set yourself small goals. The trick here is to be realistic about how depression affects you and what you can achieve. Reaching your goals will help you feel a bit better about yourself, so don't sabotage yourself by setting them too high! Break tasks down into small chunks and reward yourself at every step.
Journalling. As I said above, journalling can help me figure out why I'm feeling so bad. It also helps get things out of my system - it's easier to look at stuff rationally when it's down on paper than when it's swirling around in my head!