Dealing with Depression

I deal with depression on a cycle: I have what is called "bipolar disorder" and used to be referred to as "manic depression". Through a bipolar support list and other networks I communicate with many people who experience mood disorder, including chronic depression. These are some of the techniques I have put together for taming the "black dog" (as Winston Churchill referred to his depressions.)

Some tips in handling depressions:

  1. Depression is a liar. That one bears repeating a few more times all by itself. Depression is a liar. Depression is a liar. Anything negative you think or feel about yourself in the next few days, chant this at it -- Depression is a liar.
  2. If you are like me, you don't feel like eating -- well, like eating, maybe, but not like getting up to get something to eat. You might be able to stuff crackers into your mouth, straight from the box.
        Eat some crackers, then. With the energy from that, get a glass of milk to wash the crackers down. With the energy from that, buy or prepare some vegetables. Eat lots and lots of vegetables -- especially leafy green stuff.
        Take vitamins, especially B.
  3. You don't feel like moving. Go for a walk anyway. Physical exercise helps.
  4. If you veg around in an old t-shirt and let your beard grow -- take a shower, you'll feel better. Wash your clothes. However, it is okay to let your beard grow. I like whiskers. <g>

This post was originally written in response to someone on my poetry-exercise list -- no-one present -- but when I re-read the following paragraph I decided it was applicable to more than just poetry exercises, so I'm leaving it in, with just the personal identifier removed.

Now, about writing -- I was about to send you a message, saying "Just go ahead and post what you've got." Now that I know about the depression, I'm going to repeat that. I'm going to ask you to re-read point 1 above,and just post any of your poems -- it does not have to be perfect. It doesn't even have to be *good*. Re-read the exercise criteria. Did I say anywhere in there that your poem had to be *good*? I asked you to play with a list of words. It's difficult enough to play when you're depressed. Don't make it more difficult on yourself and insist on playing perfectly.<g> Just play.

Whatever you are trying to do -- don't try to do it perfectly, just do it. Three swipes with the toothbrush in the general area of your mouth is not following your dentist's directions to the letter, but it beats not brushing your teeth at all. Part of the susceptibility to depression seems to be a susceptibility to expect perfection of ourselves. Lay off awhile.

Some things I have learned that keep me going:

  1. You never know what effect you have. After all the energy I have put into big things, I find the things that people come up and thank me for, that changed their lives, were a moments act of kindness, or something I said that I wasn't even paying attention to at the time. If you areliving kindly, you will have kind effects, and you won't even know most of them.
  2. You can't do it all. The little things count, even if you haven't fixed the planet. A Jewish rabbinical saying is, "If a man saves one life, it is as if he had saved the world." The whole world is too overwhelming a project for anyone, but if we each take responsibility for one square inch, we can handle it.
  3. The life you save may be your own. What you do for yourself is a good deed, an act of kindness toward humanity, just as much as what you do for anyone else.
  4. If you blow one, you blow one. Ooops. Keep on going.
  5. One of the ironies of the universe is that the bastards who need a good dose of introspection haven't got any. Us people with ideals and sensitive consciences have it all. We question, belittle, and beat up on ourselves at a great rate. Most of us wouldn't talk to *anyone* else like we talk to ourselves.
        Lay off. Do unto yourself as you would have yourself do unto others. Forgive your blunders and omissions just as you would a co-worker. Take care of yourself like you would -- someone you loved.
  6. Faith is a choice. For a long time one of my favorite phrases from the Bible was, "Lord, I believe -- help Thou my unbelief." I chose to believe that a Hand was holding mine for many long, dark years when I couldn't feel it. There were many grim and barren days when I bleakly recognized that there was no purpose to existence and no future out there at all, except what I *chose* to put out there and *chose* to go after.
        Now that Hand is warm around mine, I can lean against a solid Presence, I am certain of hope for the future. Have I generated these things for myself? Maybe. Hope does create its own reality. Despair creates its own reality. I would rather live in the realities created by hope.
        You do not have to wait for the feeling of hope, to begin hoping. Hope is a choice.
There will be pain.
Live anyway.
There will be evil.
Love anyway.
You can, and will, fall on your ass royally.
Fly, anyway!

More Information on Mood Disorders and Depression, with webrings
Anitra's Essays