Friday, October 10, 2014

Here's everything I know about depression and living with it

Depression is stupid. It's not stupid that you (or I) have it, that wasn't anything in you (or my) control-- it's brain chemistry, upbringing environment, current situation, all things that have nothing to do with us and our choice. But it's stupid that it's a thing, that it's so easy to fall into, that it sneaks up on you. It's senseless. 

But it's not the be-all or end-all, and it doesn't have to be fatal. It doesn't even have to stop us or slow us down. It just makes everything harder.

Here's the thing: brain chemistry is finicky, but it's a hell of a lot more understood than it was when I was eleven and so depressed I would just lay in bed and cry. And it's not required that you just have weird brain chemistry. I'm not a doctor, and you should talk to one before you start messing with severe issues, but this is what has worked for me with a whole lot of research and trial and error.

- If you're severely depressed, if you're suicidal, if you're depressed in conjunction with some other brain-chemistry issue, there are drugs you can get put on. Go to your doctor, or go to urgent care and ask for the local government's mental health facilities. 

- Call one of the dozens of hotlines--google it, they'll all come up. 

- Sign up for an online support group or a positive-leaning forum with an emphasis on coping and healing--watch out for the ones that are just there for wallowing. That doesn't help anyone and can make things worse.

- Google any of the millions of articles and websites talking about how to cope with depression yourself. Make a commitment, find a mantra for te bad times, and accept, up front, that there is no instant fix and it will take time and it will involve bad days and setbacks. Write it on the wall where you can see it: setbacks do you mean you failed; giving up does.

- If you're in control of your own income and your own buying, try herbs. They're slower and not as strong, but they're also natural, and you can often grow them yourself so you know they're clean. St Johns Wort works for me; see what works for you. Google is your friend again. But read at least five articles before starting something--look for conflicts with medications you're on, look for side effects, look for the combinations of herbs and minerals and such that support things the best. Be gentle. 

- Look for triggers and eliminate the ones you can--for me, too much white starch leads to anxiety and general ickiness, and cutting them down did wonders for my mood. Artificial sweeteners in too big a dose or too often cause panic attacks for me, and getting rid of that made it much easier to avoid the fear-and-shame spirals that make the basic levels of general funk worse.

- Learn to be kind to yourself. Depression will tell you that you're worthless and weak, but depression (and panic attacks) lie. Pay attention to when you're listening to those lies and remind yourself that they aren't true. Also, allow yourself alone time if you need it, and social time of you need it, and don't beat yourself up for needing them. Also also, focus on doing your best--and know that "best" is a moving target; it'll be different every day.

- If there are things that put you down or make you feel put down, work on getting them out and replacing them. Google "ways to handle stress naturally" and see what works for you; yoga and meditation and journaling and art work for me. Maybe biking or picking kittens or gardening works for you. 

If it's a person making you feel bad, either talk to them, ditch them, get them help--because putting other people down is a sign of their own problems, not yours--or keep your head down and work on getting out. A friend that doesn't actually like you isn't a friend. A family that is abuseive isn't familial. In cases of actual abuse, find out where the shelters and help groups and hotlines are. It's going to be the hardest thing you do, but it's better than dying.

- Struggle. If you're struggling, you're trying to make it better. When you give in, no one can help you until you start struggling again.

- Learn when to tell when you're being irrational--and depression and panic is irrational--and start teaching yourself how to step back, to start forcing your brain into better thoughts.

- Depression is sticky. It wants to hold onto all the bad thoughts and bad feelings and pile them up on you until you can't see the good things. Work on releasing them. That's why meditation is good--it's all about releasing. Work on pointedly doing things you know you love --because you do still love them, you just can't see it. Remind yourself why you loved those things. Especially focus on things for you, putting your focus outside yourself leaves you without a focus when things go pears shaped again. You need your center to be inside yourself--that's where your strength comes from.

- Look for physical indications of stress and depression. Just like that one commercial says, depression hurts. I get aches in specific places, and when I find myself rubbing them, I know I need to eat better, sleep better, take my supplements (calcium and magnesium and omega-3 help brains and hormones function right)--and always realize I've unwittingly neglected one of these. 

- Make something. Art, craft, dinner, a new piece of a garden--creation is inherently positive. Don't be negative when you can help it. Negativity breeds itself--but positivity does, too. 

And remember:
- Get up
- Always get up
- You'll fall down, that's life, but Get Up.

Do you have depression? How do you deal with it?
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