I recently had a relapse with my depression. It was quite a scare as I hit some lows that I had hoped were history. I knew what triggered it, but that didn’t help at all. What did help though was still managing to implement all I have learnt over the last few months. Not only did I get the ‘positive’ from implementing them, but I got it from knowing that I was fighting back. I would love to say that after 3 days I had got myself back to the top, but the reality was more like a month. Even then it was still up and down.
I’ve been pretty good now for an entire week and thinking that we may have beaten that beast. To celebrate I thought I would share some of tips. If you have tried any of these, or have some new ideas, then please share.
1/ ‘It won’t last for ever’
As awful as it felt at the time, my logical brain kept telling me that it was a ‘blip’ and would soon be over. Experience has proved this so it’s the one thing I hang on to. Some days I would just tell the logical mind to get stuffed, it was talking rubbish, but other days the message did get through and that gave me strength to keep going.
2/ ‘Just do it!!!’
I have mentioned this golden rule before, so no matter how low I felt I always tried. I didn’t want to do anything and all my efforts were focussed on staying in work (I’ve been back for over 4 months now and don’t want to go off again). As soon as I got home I would want to crash into bed exhausted and weekends were a bit of a bed fest, just to recuperate from the week. However, each day, I would make myself do something, regardless of how I felt. So, on my weekends, I would make myself get up and shower, even if that was all I would do. When I got in from work, I would make myself have a bit of toast or something before heading to bed.
3/ ‘Be social’
I am less than social at the best of times, but I know it’s important for me to feel connected to people when low. This is a really new concept for me and I am only just getting to grips with it. However, I’ve learnt enough to know I have to try and keep connections. I have a great friend living round the corner who has a 6month old baby. If I hadn’t seen anyone for a few days, I would make myself text her for coffee and baby cuddles. Whilst there, it was a great distraction and I would feel a little better for an hour after getting home. Seeing the simple thrills experienced by Chloe really touched something in me and helped take me out of myself a little.
For some reason, even though I enjoy mindfulness, I didn’t want to do it this time round. It sounds ridiculous but I really fought it. I managed it at the weekends, but during the week I felt too tired to sit and do nothing for 10 minutes??? As I started to get better, I managed to motivate myself to do this more often and little by little I could remember and feel the benefits. When I couldn’t manage a meditation, I did try to be mindful in other ways, such as in the shower, or in the car, so all was not lost.
5/ ‘Stay hydrated’
Dehydration makes you lethargic, tired, irritable and lacking in concentration. Sound familiar? I am awful at staying hydrated, but really tried to drink as much as possible so that I wasn’t making things worse for myself.
6/ ‘Be happy’
OK, so this is a bit of a challenge, but if you really focus and think back, I am sure most people can find that one tiny thing that happened during the day that made you smile…or at least think about smiling. For me, this was most often my cat Dave. When I am low, he’s gorgeous, loving, affectionate and always by my side. However, as soon as he gets hungry, it’s all about him again. I wouldn’t necessarily laugh, or even smile, but a little part of me would feel happy and grateful to have him and his funny little ways.
7/ ‘Move your body!’
Again, not so easy, but if nothing else I would make myself do a few stretches, particularly at the weekends. The days I was at work, I used way too much energy as it was, but on a weekend, I just needed to keep the blood circulating. So, going back to 2, I just did it. 5 minutes of gentle stretching just to get me moving again. I would feel better afterwards, but wouldn’t be able to resist the pull of my bed.
I track my mood every day on moodscope.com. This is even more important to me when I am low. I know the score isn’t going to be great, but by going through the words, I can think a bit more about how I feel. Some days I would manage to feel a little pride, because I had managed to get through the day without giving up. Other days I would just feel ashamed that I was so useless. Some days I would be irritable, whilst others I would feel downright hostile. The day I scored ‘A Little’ for feeling Active was a real breakthrough. Without doing moodscope, I wouldn’t have these marks of progress.
9/ ‘Be honest’
For the first time ever, I was honest with friends and family as to how I was feeling. Not in any detail, but I didn’t put on the mask. I didn’t want them to come over or call or do anything. I just needed them to know I was low. Having learnt and developed so much I felt it was important to be honest. The only exception to this was work. Work got the mask of happiness and it always will as long as I can manage it.
10/ ‘Go easy on yourself’
Depression is shitty enough on its own without beating up on yourself as well. The hardest part for me was to stop beating myself up for being useless. Some days I couldn’t manage anything and I would feel absolutely hopeless. But, in the same way my logical head could tell me this wouldn’t last, it was also able to tell me go easy on myself. Remember this is an illness, it’s not you. If you really can’t get up to do your stretches…then you can’t do them. Big deal, we’ll try again later or tomorrow. Or we’ll do half of them, or even just one, or even just walk down the stairs.