PART 2 by Beth Barrett
For me, living life within certain parameters has become just who I am and what I do. For example I find travelling difficult as it exacerbates my anxiety levels so that’s not something I easily choose to do. I also feel uncomfortable in large groups of people so I avoid mosh pits and crowd surfing and that’s also why I’m not always at Thrive.
What follows here are some of the other tools which enable me to live a very reasonable life. They are extracted from a little book I have published called “How I Survive the Depression Thing”. This too was an amazing God experience but that’s a story for another time.
In the midst of the horridness of depression I feel like I might suffocate under the weight of the gloom. It seems that there is absolutely nothing worthy of appreciation in my life. I can find fault in anything and it all just feels wrong. (The glass isn’t half full or half empty it’s been leaking for ages and now is completely empty).
At these times those closest to me have learnt (very wisely) to keep their distance or choose to visit a previously unknown distant relative for several weeks. I am not fun to be with. I KNOW. But I also know that if I try REALLY hard, I can find something to be thankful for and then perhaps I am a slightly nicer person to be with.
For example, I am not allergic to chocolate. Praise God.
You need to intentionally focus on the good things around you (they will be there somewhere) and consciously shift to these positive thoughts. Write them down in a groovy little book so you can look back at what you have been grateful for on a regular basis. Do it.
The word ‘craft’ congers up for me the 1980’s style of home decorating where EVERY square inch of my house was covered in a supposedly tasteful amalgamation of patchwork, cross stitch, dried flower arrangements and Aunty Lottie’s lace doyleys.
However, CREATING something is wonderful therapy. I’m not sure if the benefits come from the process of working on the project or from the wonderful sense of achievement which comes from the finished product, but whatever the reason it’s great. Even baking a cake can be a feel good thing.
Did you realise that heaps of the famous ‘Old Master’s’ like Michelangelo suffered from depression?
What to Wear
If I’m not doing well, deciding what to wear is virtually impossible and I end up trying on a thousand different things and end up with a veritable MOUNTAIN of discarded garments. Meanwhile I’m panicking because now I might be LATE because I like to leave 3 hours early to allow for four possible flat tires and all traffic lights to be red.
However there are days when I do get dressed without too much frustration. SO, I write down these successful outfits in a book. I list the whole combination including tops, pants and accessories. I’ve been doing this for a few years now so I have seasonal categories too. Now on the days when getting dressed is hard, I consult my little book, dress in one of these proven outfits and off I go.
It’s really helpful to start the day feeling confident about how you look even if on the inside you don’t feel so hot.
A Psychiatrist once told me that it is a proven SCIENTIFIC fact that when crossing items off a ‘to do’ list, a certain part of the brain registers pleasure.
So – MAKE LISTS. It doesn’t matter if you are a stay at home mum or a high flying corporate executive-type person. Write down what you are planning to do that day (even if it’s only one thing) and as you accomplish tasks, cross them off. It actually feels great.
Don’t beat yourself up about the things you don’t get to do, just use them to start a new list. Accomplishing one thing in one day can bring a lovely warm fuzzy feeling.
I actually write my lists in a book and cross off things as I do them with a highlighter pen so I can still read what’s underneath. This way when I’m in one of those moods where I feel like I NEVER achieve ANYTHING I look back over my lists and go “hey- look at that – I AM an ACHIEVER”.
Certain scientific type bods have also said that raising your heart rate produces something or other (endorphins?) which make you feel GREAT. I personally think the best thing about exercise is just getting outside and ‘smelling the roses’ (or Nasturtiums).
I like to take a walk around the block and check out what the neighbours have been up to. There’s always someone embarking on some adventurous new project inspired by one of those television reno programs. Sometimes you can be really encouraged by the fact that your garden is definitely NOT the worst on the street or completely perplexed as to why Jeremy Johnson at no 237b has left his bins out for the entire week. All in all by the time you have returned to your own establishment you have been completely distracted for AGES.
Now if you get yourself into the habit of walking regularly you may have the added benefit of seeing Mrs Blewit’s Azaleas come into bloom in the spring time, struggle with leaf blight in the summer and get pruned almost into oblivion in the winter. Not to mention the even longer term benefits of watching newlyweds Alison and Steven Jones at no. 249 commencing a second storey renovation which you may actually see completed by their 7th wedding anniversary.
Of-course physical health and fitness bring excellent benefits too. You know that.
This is one thing which is in very short supply when depressed.
I often wish you could purchase bottles of it from the local supermarket to keep on the shelf to administer when necessary.
SO, in the absence of this solution and when it’s one of those days when you just can’t get off the lounge, check your list (see tip 3), choose something to do and go into automatic pilot.
Tell yourself that you KNOW that when you push yourself to accomplish something you WILL feel considerably better. (I have considered installing one of those pilot’s ejector seats with a button to push when it just seems impossible to move but apparently they don’t make domestic lounge suite versions) So just get off your butt and DO SOMETHING.
An hour or so later lovely fresh supplies of motivation will encompass your being and you may feel motivated enough to build The Great Wall of China version 2 ( or something a little smaller). Don’t they say – “if you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel – get yourself down there and turn the silly thing on.”
Chunk the Day
I often find that I get overwhelmed when I have a succession of things to do in a day. The enormity of it all can be stifling and mean that I don’t even want to get out of bed in the first place. So especially when I was working I would break my day into little ‘chunks’. Like this:
Get up have breakfast. STOP. Think good work, done something already. Sit on lounge. Breathe (next tip). Read book or look out window at neighbour not putting bins out (tip 6). Go and have shower. Think good work! – two things done already and crossed off list (tip 4). Back to lounge, breathe, sit and read (or watch neighbour) again. Go and get dressed (tip 3). Back to lounge. Sit, breathe. Off to work. Think wow – amazing, I actually got here – pat self on back – wait, can’t reach back that far so just imaginary pat on back will have to do. Once at desk, switch on computer. Walk to get cup of tea. Back to desk. Breathe. Check emails……and so on.
At times when I was really struggling I would actually leave work in my lunch break, go home, have a shower, get dressed and start the day all over again (fortunately I lived not too far from work).
Taking the day in smaller-do-able chunks is like tricking the brain.
“In through your nose, slowly count 1, 2, 3, out through your nose (or mouth) count 1, 2, 3.”This is very helpful to nip a panic attack in the bud or even for getting to sleep.
I guess it’s another kind of diversion therapy (concentrating on breathing eliminates other thinking) as well as having something to do with the physiology of what happens to your body when you get anxious (suggest reading medical book if interested in this).
I have used this many times in social situations when I feel like flipping out or running away. Don’t worry, if you do it correctly (in through the nose) it’s not actually obvious to others what you are doing so you actually don’t look like a complete kook. Very handy tool for all sorts of occasions. Highly recommend you PRACTISE this.
The rhythm of the waves, the sand beneath your feet, a cool breeze, solitude, soothing blissfulness. Feels like freedom or all-encompassing refreshment and that God is very near.
If you can, get yourself there regularly or at least get one of those schmaltzy CDs of ocean music, put your feet in a bucket of water and close your eyes while you listen to it and pretend really hard that you are there (and have a good explanation ready for when someone unexpectedly finds you doing this)
A routine is a truly a thing of wonder and beauty. It can help you feel secure and comfortable.
No more deciding what time to get up in the morning, you just know that you get up at 7.00am (or whatever works for you).
Similarly, try to go to bed at the same time each night.
Find something that you really like to have for breakfast and make sure you keep a good stock of it. Looking forward to your favourite breakfast is a great incentive to get out of bed in the morning.
Of course you can vary your routine (and breakfast menu) and sleep in occasionally and even go to bed later/earlier some nights but as a general rule, stick to your routine.
I am a big fan of pedicures.
A pedicure makes me feel temporarily like royalty as I sit on the squishy black vinyl throne with a kind beautician person doing soothing things to my feet whilst warm massaging effects are happening on my back muscles. It’s bliss.
I don’t have particularly pretty feet but with my toenails painted in a nice fun colour it does tend to make me feel a bit special.
If you can’t justify spending the money on an extravagance like this, why not drop a few subtle hints to family and friends when one’s birthday is approaching?
Friends come and go, this is not new news. However, when you are depressed it’s not likely that you are going to be nominated as the world’s MOST desirable friend.
Some friends will quietly disappear. Others will stick around and choose to walk the journey with you.
It’s not a bad idea to seek out others who have similar issues. These are generally the only friends who will really ‘get’ what you are going through.
Do seek out normal (is there any such thing?) friends as well though, especially those who don’t treat you as a cripple or take you on as their own personal ‘project’.
Even if you don’t feel great, try going the extra mile and helping someone (maybe make a simple meal for someone). It’s amazing how focusing on someone else’s needs can lift your spirits.
Not the religious type? Going to skip this bit? Please don’t go- I need you to know that you won’t be getting the complete picture of how I survive the whole depression thing if I don’t include the God Factor. So please just grit your teeth and read on…
I believe that God created me with all my kooky foibles. He doesn’t necessarily take the tough stuff AWAY but He seems to regularly send help in varying forms when I need it.
It’s very comforting to know that the God who created the universe also created little old me. The whole ‘why does God let me suffer’ thing can be rather confusing but if God is truly GOD then it stands to reason that he’s going to be a whole lot smarter than me and that I won’t necessarily ‘get it’.
I like knowing that He who created the cosmos in its huge immense endlessness also made me and therefore it makes sense to be friends with Him, get to know Him, talk to Him and read his words.
When I feel completely out of control it’s very reassuring to know that someone actually IS in control.
I know you have to be really careful about spending too much time in the sun these days. Basking in the mid-day rays in a slick coat of coconut oil like I used to in my teens is not recommended (pity).
HOWEVER, if you take the necessary precautions, a little sun on one’s dial is a wonderful thing.
I recommend first thing in the morning before the sun’s rays get too harsh.
It seems to almost help you wake up and that feeling of the warmth seeping into your bones is just bliss.
Winter sun is particularly restorative.
Neatness in my environment seems to directly relate to how messy my MENTAL state is -i.e. a messy house or office makes my mental muddle even muddlier.
Here’s where a dose of liquid motivation (see tip 7) would be great as most often cleaning is not a fabulous reason to get off my butt ….
HOWEVER, once the place is tidy and organised, benefits may include:
- Mother in law popping by unexpectedly will be impressed
- Sense of achievement at doing something productive is such a feel good thing
- Crossing cleaning off your list makes that part of brain happy
- Don’t have to do it again for a while
Okay. I’m definitely not a doctor so I’m not really going to try to advise here.
I CAN tell you though that in my experience antidepressants have been very helpful.
However, there does seem to be a strange and weird kind of stigma with these drugs.
I have to admit that I have been very foolish in the past and have decided to ‘go it alone’ and stopped taking my prescription pills without my doctor’s supervision. It was a HORRENDOUS experience, one which I have made a pact with my beloved and long suffering doctor NEVER to repeat.
If you were a diabetic would you suddenly decide to cease your medication? Probably not.
ALWAYS get your doctor’s advice (good idea to get a good doctor first.)
Bananas and other dietary bits
Bananas can actually assist with fighting the glooms. This cleverly designed fruit (so easy to peel -thank you God) is high in potassium which is known by diet gurus to help with mood disorders.
It is well worth studying the connections between the gut and the brain and therefore the impact of various foods on mental health. Chicken for instance is apparently beneficial, as are the B group vitamins and Omega 3 fatty Acids.
So think about what you eat, maybe make a few dietary changes but at the very least eat some bananas. Easy.