Ooh depression. The non-glamorous accessory carried round by one in four of us.
Depression is a word that after years of dealing with, I still can’t quite get to grips with. When I’m feeling particularly down, I often harangue myself in an internal monologue; wrestling with the WHY and the WHY NOW of it all. But depression is a funny thing. According to Mind, a mental health charity, depression can be caused by a number of factors. There are still no definitive answers on whether depression is genetic, but studies have shown that if you have a close relative who suffers, you’re more likely to experience the illness. Traumatic childhood events, life events and even medications can all cause depression. It’s an odd one and not knowing what the definitive cause of depression for me is something I battle with on the reg. I’m the sort of person who needs to know why things happen, and when I don’t, I get even more frustrated. But I’m sloooowly learning to accept that I might never know why, and I just need to deal with living with the ‘black dog’ that is this bullshit illness.
Here are some practical tips from myself, and from mental health charities, on coping with depression.
Make small changes
Students Against Depression is a useful resource for those suffering, and they advise that if you’re wrestling with depression, you first take the smallest step you can to help. They suggest asking yourself; “What is the smallest change I can make that will make the biggest difference?” because the answer will be different for everybody. This could mean spending less time on social media apps if that’s a trigger for getting you down, taking time to eat breakfast in the morning, or ensuring that you see friends at least once a week. Only you will know the answer, so have a sit down with yourself and work out what that is.
Note down the good things in your life
As I’ve said above, I personally wrestle with being depressed because I feel that I ‘should be happy.’ I have a great boyfriend, friends and family, but I’m still susceptible to low moods. This exercise isn’t designed to make you feel silly or small, but I find it helps me bring a smile back to my face. Get yourself a fancy notebook or a plain old piece of A4, and note down some good things in your life. They don’t have to be monumental things like ‘a killer job where I earn 60k a year’ (though go you, if that’s the case). Do you have a great duvet cover that you love? Write it down. Can you make a mean curry? Brilliant. Did you make friends with a new person outside of your usual social group? Get it on the list. When you look at the good things in your life, you may just start to find that you were the one responsible for them. Or maybe you’re just blessed to have great friends and opportunities around you. Both are valid and both will hopefully make you feel a tiny bit happier.
Imagine what a depression-free life looks like
This is another tip from Students Against Depression. They suggest taking time to imagine what your life would look like without depression (and warn that this may be a stark contrast to your existing life, so be gentle). Would you be more likely to meet up with pals after work? Would you have the energy to go to a gym class? Write it down in great detail, and then take a look and see what you can do to take a small step in the right direction. They also say that it’s important to ditch the ‘all or nothing’ mentality that often comes with mental health problems. You don’t have to change your entire life in a day, just try and take that first small step.
“Tomorrow might be the same. But it might also be brighter. It might even bring unimaginable brilliance.”
Be kind to yourself, babygirl
Ooh this is a tough one, I know. When you’re plagued with negative thoughts and frustrated about their origins, it’s all too easy to blame your depression on you and feel bad about yourself. But know that this is not your fault. You did not choose to feel this down – nobody would. Treat yourself like your best friend, and you’ll soon learn how to be gentle and kind. If your best friend looked in the mirror and called themselves a mess, I’d bet my bottom dollar you’d leap up and be the first to indignantly tell them they were amazing. I know it makes me mad when I see my friends being down on themselves, even if they have truly fucked up, because there is so much more to them than one thing, or incident, or time they got drunk and called their ex 29 times in two minutes. There is so much more to you than your depression. You have depression and you are also a kick ass person. The two are not mutually exclusive. Be the friend you need, and tell yourself that.
Accept that you’re going to feel shit for a while
A gut wrenching thought, that. When I first recognised that I was feeling low again (my depression comes and goes, it’s a little bugger) my immediate thought was to reject the feeling.
NO SORRY I’M NOT DEPRESSED, NOT TODAY SIR. NO THANK YOU, GOODBYE.
Obviously, that didn’t work. Depression is sort of like that annoying customer at work that comes in every morning at the same time and asks for a ‘coffee’ when there are 12 types on the menu. They’re right in front of you, you can’t shake them and you don’t know what the fuck they want. So you just have to push on through, accept that it’s an annoying and rubbish thing that’s happening to you and then carry on with your day. Depression should never be your standard, however. I don’t mean you should roll over and accept that your fate in life is to constantly lie in bed surrounded by crisps. It’s important to remember that you deserve happiness and not to feel so bad – it might just take a little while to shake off the sadness.
A great tweet was trending recently, and I loved its message:
See that bench. 8yrs ago I sat on it thinking about throwing myself off Blackfriars Bridge. Today, I took this pic of my son. Tomorrow might be the same. But it might also be brighter. It might even bring unimaginable brilliance. Hang in there. Love is always coming. #depression pic.twitter.com/91mYk9hvEo
— Craig Stone (@craigstone_) November 19, 2017
It’s worth pushing through the sadness because as those who have suffered with depression will know, the heart-wrenching sadness doesn’t last forever. There are going to be countless moments of happiness again. It might not be today, but it’s going to be ok.
You can seek help from the Samaritans website, or call this number: 116 123.