October 20, 2013

Tips for coping with depression while exploring treatment

I knew I wanted to write a post on depression, but had no idea where to begin.  I must have opened and closed my laptop several times before finding the words.  

Sometimes I write unsure of where I want my post to go.  What's the point?  Of my blog post, I mean.  Do I have one?  While the answer to that last question is yes, I usually struggle with making only one point and not 50 million.  Each sentence opens up new doors and, easily tempted, I usually find myself walking through them.  When I do, I find my post going in a million different directions making my topic no longer clear to my readers.

With that said, I am going to focus on coping with depression without the use of medication.

Tips for coping with depression while exploring treatment via Cropped Stories

If there is anyone qualified to provide you with information on this subject, I'd have to say, without a doubt, that would be me.  Struggling with depression for over 24 years now, although not an expert, makes me an excellent resource at the very least.

So, here's a little background.  I have a family history of depression. And if that's not enough, I was diagnosed with a seizure disorder when I was 13 years old and anxiety when I was 23.  Sort of a mental wreck, I know.  I'm pretty used to it at this point (to a certain degree).  

I saw a psychologist off and on for the first 9 years.  And I can't tell you why, but we never entertained the idea of antidepressants.  Why am I telling you this?  Simply because after so many years of struggling, it became a do or die situation for me.  I had to either learn to cope or let myself continue to worsen which I was certain would lead to my demise.

While the advice of numerous psychologists was certainly helpful, I was, by no means, happy.  It didn’t matter what was going on in my life around me.  Whether I had reason to be sad or not, the depression just seemed to engulf me.  Every time I thought I was making progress, it would grab hold of me and, I’d find myself about 10 steps back from where I stood only the day before!  When this happened, I just loathed myself more.  How could I be so weak? 

I don’t know when it was that I finally realized I didn’t have control over it.  And I know this can come across as me just being pessimistic.  In fact, you may be questioning my mental state at this very moment.  Let me assure you, however, I have never been better.  I am just stating a fact. Certain types of depression are due to a chemical imbalance in your brain.  Without treatment of some sort, yes, it is in fact chronic.

I know from experience that treatment doesn’t always provide immediate results. And as far as medications go, it can take months or even years to find one that works.  So, for those of you that are exploring treatment options and would like to, in the short term, learn how to cope with the current state you’re in, I hope you’ll find my tips helpful! 

TIPS FOR COPING WITH DEPRESSION WHILE EXPLORING TREATMENT OPTIONS

Tips for coping with depression while exploring treatment via Cropped Stories

Keep a journal and get to know yourself better
Record your feelings as often as possible.  Use your journal as a means to vent.  It’s quite therapeutic.  And don’t just use it to write.  Study it at a later date to discover things about yourself such as mood patterns and self-destructive behaviors and when they typically occur.   The more I learned about myself, the easier it was for me to change my way of thinking.  In some circumstances, I was even able to prevent mood changes, sadness, anger, hopelessness, etc.  It wasn’t long before I discovered that my journal was not only my favorite tool for coping with depression, but was also the one that happened to work best!

Stay busy
When I wasn’t writing in my journal, I was exercising.  Whether it was a walk or run outside, climbing steps, or using the treadmill in the comfort of my own living room, it was always a great energy booster!

Think about what makes you smile or, better yet, laugh
I was always a big movie buff.  Feel-good, motivational, or comic genres are great for depression.  I would bet my life that movies such as American Pie, The 40 year old Virgin, and The Sweetest Thing will have you in stitches even in your darkest hour! 

Make a playlist
Nothing soft.  Nothing sad.  Think upbeat, empowering, uplifting, and fun!  If it makes you want to get up off your derriere and dance, then it belongs on your playlist!  According to the post Using Music to Lift Depression’s Veil on Well by The NY Times:

“The current studies indicate that music therapy may be able to improve mood and has low drop-out rates,” said lead author Anna Maratos, an arts therapist for the National Health Service in London. “While the evidence came from a few small studies, it suggests that this is an area that is well worth further investigation….We need to find out which forms have greatest effect.”

Eat something; anything
I know it’s difficult especially when all you want to do is resort to a dark hole and do absolutely nothing, but try to force yourself.  No need to go all out Julia Child or The Barefoot Contessa; a no-fuss, bland piece of toast will do perfectly fine.  Not only will the food nourish you physically, but knowing you can still take care of yourself in moments of darkness and despair will nourish your emotions as well!  More importantly, you will feel a sense of accomplishment.

Learn about your condition
Understanding your symptoms will give you back control which, let’s face it, is the one of the biggest things people with depression feel they lack.  That in itself can make you more depressed.  When you begin to understand your symptoms, then you have the tools necessary to make changes!

Join a support group (online or in person)
I can’t stress this one enough.  It helped me immensely knowing there were others out there feeling the exact things I was feeling. I no longer felt crazy or alone.  The best part of support groups is that you will be able to help others as well.  This, alone, has extreme benefits for someone suffering from depression.  It will make you feel useful again!

An excellent online support group that I highly recommend is Daily Strength.

Find out how and what others are doing (there is a world outside of depression)
Sometimes the best therapy is to get lost in someone else’s experiences and feelings instead of obsessing over your own.  I used to call my mom or sister on a regular basis to hear about their day.  I understand that with depression it’s difficult, sometimes nearly impossible, to find interest in anything or anyone outside yourself, but you can do it. I say this with confidence because if I could do it, in the dreadful shape I was in at that time, than I know you can too!  Try to focus on what they are saying as much as you can.  Even if it’s for only 10 minutes a day, giving your mind a break from your own thoughts is not only healthy, but necessary!

Get some sleep
I know with depression, it can go one of two ways. Either you feel like you could sleep the entire day, week, even year away, or you’re wide eyed and bushy tailed when it comes to hitting the hay. Either way, it’s important to find a happy medium.  You don’t want to sleep your life away especially if you have a job, classes to attend, children to take care of, etc.  On the other hand, you need your sleep!  If you fall into the group that can’t seem to keep your eyes open, try a cold shower or exercising.  If you are among the ones that suffer from Insomnia, try to keep sleeping during the day to a minimum if at all.  Warm milk, decaffeinated tea, a hot bath, listening to soft and soothing music, are all excellent ways to aid you in relaxation.  Speaking of which…

Try yoga or meditation
When my mom first recommended this to me, I was quick to respond with an eye roll.  I thought it was a bunch of bull.  And because it seemed impossible to clear my depressed mind, I shot her down almost immediately.

Of course, I didn’t expect my depression would get worse.  When it did, however, desperation was right there breathing down my neck.  I needed help and fast!

I remembered my mom’s suggestion and started a 3 day a week yoga routine.  I’d pop in Baron Baptiste’s video (of course, now it’s on DVD), and before I knew it I had perfected my downward facing dog! As you begin to improve your poses and they become easier, then you can start to focus on your breathing.  It’s amazing how listening to the sound of yourself breathing in and out can clear your mind and relax your body.  At the end of your workout, I recommend sitting Indian style.  Make sure your back is straight (no slouching) and take the time to reflect.  Think visually appealing thoughts.  Maybe of your son or daughter’s face, a grandchild, the ocean, a beautiful painting, your favorite flowers, the foliage, a waterfall, etc. 

Depression is not a joke.  In fact, statistics show that diagnoses are growing at an alarming rate according to Unhappiness by the Numbers: 2012 Depression Statistics posted on Healthline. 

“Depression is a condition that reportedly affects 1 in 10 Americans” and “Over 80% of the people that have symptoms of clinical depression are not receiving any specific treatment for their depression.”  “The number of patients diagnosed with depression increases by approximately 20% per year.”

Please don’t be a statistic!  If you are not feeling well or unlike yourself, seek treatment immediately.  There IS help out there!  

In the meantime, I hope my tips for coping bring you some sort of relief.  Need additional help coping?  Feel free to drop me a comment; it just so happens that I’m an excellent listener :)


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Okay folks, that’s all she wrote!  Happy Monday!

13 comments :

  1. Wonderful tips. I must admit, I have never really suffered from depression, so I am truly no expert, but think you definitely are from what you shared and seriously this post is so very helpful to all that may definitely need this help and could truly benefit from it. Thanks so much for being so open, honest and candid here!!

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  2. Thank you for sharing this. It is a topic that NEEDS to be talked about and I'm glad that you touched on it. Some great suggestions too, I think all of them are incredibly accurate as far as what people going through depression need physiologically, socially, and mentally.

    Thanks from a current psychology major & well done,
    Katelyn

    www.katelynnow.com

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  3. Journaling (or blogging) is good therapy for just about anything.

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  4. Having dealt with major depression myself, I agree that many of your tips definitely help. Something that really helped me was being really strict with myself. I disciplined myself to get up in the morning, no matter how difficult it was. I wouldn't allow myself to miss classes. And once I was in motion, it was easier to keep going. I worked a lot. I partied a lot (not always good, but it kept the hole at bay). Because I knew, as soon as I stopped, there was only the hole waiting for me. Long term, that's not a solution. Only understanding the underlying reasons, therapy, or maybe medication will help out there..

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  5. Just found your blog and start following you on bloglovin'. Really enjoyed this post. I have lived with depression since I was 11 (now 33) so I really appreciated your tips. They are good ones! A lot of them I've utilized to get better too. :) I'm also on medication but think it's wonderful if you're able to et better without it.

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  6. Really good tips - I know they are going to encourage a lot of people. Thanks for sharing your struggle and advice.

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  7. This post is going to help many people, I am sure. I applaud you for being so brave and candid. That is not an easy thing to do. I know about depression but mine is more situation related. When something happens I don't want to deal with, I start to shut down and have to force myself to my feet. Anxiety, I know! All of your suggestions are wonderful and right on point and, in my (non-expert) opinion would work well with either. So glad you followed through and wrote this!

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  8. As a fellow depression fighter, this is a great list of suggestions. I've become an emotional eater since I stopped riding horses (due to having to give up mine), and that was very counter productive. I'm now trying to break that cycle.

    Fighting depression without meds is really hard to do, but you've definitely given someone a very strong list of suggestions to help them cope. The best one is the exercise one.

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  9. Depression/mental illness runs in my family too. Most of my Mom's side of the family are on meds for various issues. My 6 year old worries too much for someone her age. She's already seen a few therapists. For a long time my docs didn't mention meds. I finally got on them about 10 years ago & they help a lot. I love yoga, journaling, walking. Crafts help me a lot. Blogging & reading blogs does too.

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  10. I have struggled with writing about depression and the effect it has on marriage. I struggle with depression. Thank you for sharing & giving some great tips. I must agree: Get to know your triggers and sleep is so important. Whenever I don't get enough sleep it triggers the worst in me & I get all down & out. So sleep is very important for me.

    Again, thanks

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  11. These are great tips. I particularly think that journalling can be very helpful, depending how it's done. Your suggestion of going back through what you've written to look for patterns is a great one. I have experienced depression in the past, and have found questioning beliefs and allowing feelings to pass through and be released were what made the biggest difference to me, in conjunction with journalling.

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  12. I admire the things that you can do even with depression. I had a point in my life where everything is blurry after I lost my child 2 years ago. That was the darkest days of my life. I know I have to go on with my life but it seems to hard. I had to take medications with lots of side effects. A friend of mine told me that exercise helps as well as keeping yourself busy like writing and stuff. After reading your post, it made me realize that there are so many things that one can do to occupy themselves with so many things. Thank you for these.

    -http://tmsproviders.com/

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  13. Thanks for the post. I'm currently receiving Treatment for depression in London and I personally found that hearing about other people in a similar situation to me really helps comfort me during a bout of depression.

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