Let me start with acknowledging that my last several posts have not been entertaining, funny or even enjoyable, possibly. I’m aware of this. They have been primarily educational in nature. Now, I get that this isn’t the best strategy when writing a blog. However, every once in a while, I think there are certain issues that are important enough – prevalent enough – that they deserve some ‘air time’. I think depression is one of those issues. Hmm…. ‘air time’ doesn’t really work here. ‘Screen time’, maybe? Not sure if that’s valid, but it’s what comes to mind. Screen time is a highly valuable and coveted commodity in our household so the word is thrown around quite a bit. I digress. Anyway, this post is the last installment in my little depression series. Things should pep up around here after this.
My last post covered lifestyle choices that can help keep depressive episodes at bay. Unfortunately, even making responsible decisions doesn’t mean you will always be able to prevent the arrival of depression. It does, however, mean that you can be prepared and potentially lessen its severity. I thought I’d share some steps that can help you cope once depression rears its ugly head.
If you’ve been depressed before, you probably just said, “Yeah right!” Perspective tends to be the very first thing to go in the midst of depression. In those times, you have to trust what you know and not what you feel. You might even need to have some things written down that you can refer back to when you’re stuck. Think Stuart Smalley. “I’m good enough. I’m smart enough. And doggone it, people like me!” Okay, maybe not that cheesy, but you probably get the idea.
Bottom line – you have to keep in mind that the feelings and thoughts you are experiencing are probably being skewed by depression. All of those lovely brain chemicals are reeking havoc on your mind. Running things by a trusted friend to gain perspective and clarity can be super helpful with this.
Inform Your Support Network
In a previous post, I talked about establishing a good support network. When you think depression is on its way, be sure to let your circle of people know. They need to be watchful for anything that might seem concerning. A good support network is invaluable when dealing with a mood disorder.
Avoid Big Decisions
Decisions are usually pretty overwhelming anyway when you’re depressed, but they can also be pretty destructive. More than likely, a decision made while you’re depressed will be regretted later because you’re not thinking clearly – especially a substantial one. Some decisions can be un-done, but those that can’t can cause serious problems for you or a loved one.
Depression also tends to make you feel incompetent, which will probably cause you to second guess many of the life choices you’ve already made. Now, it could be that you realize some of your choices are contributing to your depression. If that’s the case, talking through these with your support network will help you know whether you need to make a change immediately or if it can wait until you’re feeling a bit more sane.
Alcohol is a depressant, and it will just send your system further down. I know this is a hard one because depression will cause you to look every which way for something, anything, that will make you feel better, and alcohol is a commonly used remedy. Alcohol might provide an immediate escape or relief from your feelings, but in the long term, it will depress your system.
Shutting out others will be instinctive, but isolating from others just leaves you alone with your thoughts. Considering that your thought processes are negative, sad, angry or destructive, just sitting in those is extremely unhealthy and will just exacerbate your condition.
Keep Your Normal Routine
Get up at your normal time. TAKE A SHOWER. Get dressed. Eat normal meals. (By the way, Nutter Butters and Sunkist do not count. As much as you might want to believe you’re getting a nut protein and fruit serving – you aren’t.) You won’t may not feel like doing any of these things, but you have to do your best to keep as much “normal” in your life as possible.
Pray and Read the Bible
This may not be something that you normally do, but I would suggest giving it a try. Getting outside of yourself in these times is super helpful. Depression tends to keep us very self-focused, which in my opinion is never a good thing. Reading about other people’s struggles and how the Lord faithfully took care of them is great for gaining perspective. The Lord desires for us to go to Him with our pain and our worries. This doesn’t mean that either will suddenly go away, but you can be assured that the Lord is with you, and you are not going through things alone.
I will say that spending time with the Lord through prayer and reading the Bible will not always make you feel better, but it will remind you of the things that you know. There have been times in my depression when everything that I knew to be true about God, Jesus and His plan for mankind didn’t seem real. It all just felt like stories I had read. During those times, I had to trust what I knew to be true. I had to remind myself of the countless times the Lord has shown Himself faithful though the work He has done in my life.
Consider Seeking Professional Help
Sometimes you can do everything right, and you still can’t shake depression. If you reach this point, it’s probably time to seek professional help. It is okay to do this. Repeat it with me – “it is okay for me to seek help.” Think through this for a minute, if you had diabetes and your blood sugar levels were all over the place, wouldn’t you go to the doctor? Would you really just try to “will” yourself better? I’m gonna go out on a limb and say your wouldn’t.
Sometimes you have to find a reason to get help that’s outside of yourself. What finally broke me down to get on an anti-depressant was realizing that for me to be the best mom and wife that I could be, I needed to suck it up and do it. I even decided that it didn’t matter if I really had a medical condition. If the anti-depressants made me a better mom and wife, then I should take them.
Okay, now that we’re past all of your denial, the first step is to ask around to find a good psychiatrist. This is super important. Because there is so physical test for depression, you are at the mercy of the judgment and experience of your doctor.
If you still have hesitancy about seeing a doctor, just keep in mind that you are simply seeking a professional opinion. It’s up to you as to whether or not you choose to follow the prescribed treatment plan. Just because you walk out of an appointment with a prescription, doesn’t mean you have to fill it. Getting a doctor’s opinion can’t hurt a thing, but not getting one could cause you serious trouble.
How to Pick a Shrink
Gotta love that heading. So, if you do choose to see a doctor, there are several things you want to evaluate at your appointment. First, don’t call them a shrink. They really don’t like that. 🙂 Second, you want a doctor who really listens, instead of talking the majority of the time. If he prescribes medication, you want his methods to be on the conservative side. Starting more than one medication at a time for a psychiatric condition is not the best idea. For one, if you experience side effects, the doctor won’t know which medication is the culprit. Then, on the flip side, if you start to feel better, you won’t know which medication is working. The goal should always be to be on the least number of medications at the lowest effective doses.
So there you have it, friends. That’s what I have to offer. In the end, you just have to persevere. You have to push through and know that the majority of what you are feeling is not true. And that it will pass. You have to do your best to tether yourself to reality. Sometimes you can do it by yourself, but more often than not, you can’t.
Rely on those who love you. Be honest about how you feel. Trust the Lord to help you make it through.
“Yet those who wait for the LORD Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.” Isaiah 40:31
This post is the 3rd in a series called “The Big D.”
Post 1 – What Does Depression Feel Like?
Post 2 – Ways to Lessen or Even Prevent Bouts of Depression