depression, psychology, self-help

Depression, for want of a better word

If you have ever felt down to the point of despair and on your own with your problems, this is a post for you. This short note is all to do with self-help and common sense, and nothing to do with the medical side of things, hence the cautious heading.

Absolutely no one can go through life without a crisis and for a lot of us it can get out of hand. You may feel like you’ve reached rock bottom, but somehow it tumbles down still. Indeed, this ‘downstairs’ motion can go on for a very long time, making you feel quite bewildered with every passing step. A lot of different circumstances in your life may drive you to this unfortunate state. It could be generally poor state of affairs, when nothing at all is going right for a long time. It could be something that you have a peculiar sensitivity to, something people around you may not understand (bad reviews, anyone?). It could be broken heart, or simply problems in relationships, insensitivity of people close to you. What do you do in such circumstances and how can you stop this relentless journey down that set of stairs?

My answer is ‘I don’t know’, but I know how to make this journey less torturous and therefore more bearable, and to allow yourself some breathing space, hoping that higher forces may let it go altogether. It’s a bit like fighting flu. No one can give you a cure, but you may relieve symptoms until you recover.

Here are four things that can help:

1) Write and read… particular things. You have to clearly identify what exactly bothers you and write it down. Then read it out. Not once or twice. Make it a routine. Do it, for example, just before going to bed every night. By clearly identifying our problems and spelling them out we are developing detachment from them.

2) Praise yourself. The idea behind this exercise is that problems, particularly severe problems, make you feel small and helpless. Praising yourself helps you to rise. Make a list of your achievements, with a cool head, without exaggerating, so that what you have written will always ring true to you regardless of circumstances. It could be anything, including minor things which nevertheless make you feel better about yourself. Studies? Career? Have you helped someone, so that it gives you comfort whenever you think about it? Absolutely anything which would convince you that you are a worthy human being and deserve better than this. If you have a public website, post it (if you feel it’s appropriate). Time to upgrade your profile? This is it.

3) Stay active… if possible at all. It helps to take your mind off your problems, even though it feels like it can’t. When you are depressed every simple task becomes a mount to move, but it’s well worth trying. Don’t neglect your usual duties, because it will give you a sense (or at least an illusion) of normality and a reason to be proud of yourself. If you have a full time job, it’s probably a blessing. However, the monotony of routine tasks may actually be counterproductive. It’s a good thing if your job is ultra-creative, but what if it’s not? In situations like these hobbies can be more helpful. Think of something you like, something imaginative, something you’re good at. Write, paint… If you can afford to travel – it’s probably the best.

4) Talk to someone. This seems like a straightforward thing. However, it’s well known that in difficult times people around you, people closest to you may be the hardest to trust. To start with they may well be causing your condition. A friend of mine once told me: ‘I live in a house full of people and there’s no one to talk to.’ Unfortunately, these sentiments are shared by many, particularly by those who are going through hell. This is why when I say talk to ‘someone’, I don’t mean to someone close, but to a trustworthy stranger, a person who could be sympathetic, yet have an objective, independent view of your circumstances. It’s not an easy task to find such a stranger, but if one comes along, don’t miss the opportunity.

One word of caution. In a volatile emotional state it often happens that one day you wake up feeling completely cured and at ease with your life. It may even feel not short of euphoric, because of the sudden relief it gives you. By all means enjoy, but be careful. This can actually be no more than our mind’s defence mechanism designed to relieve the pressure. This state may last for hours and even days, but if it passes, your low mood comes back with a vengeance. It’s important to be mentally ready to tackle it and to switch into the ‘fighting’ mode promptly as soon as you feel the tide changes.

And one last thing… You may feel completely alone in this world and on your own with your problems, but there may be a soul somewhere who deeply cares about you. Sometimes all you have to do is to reach out…

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