I am glad to share with you today, 5 more helps for enduring severe depression. These are things I learned during my deepest and darkest depression–the hardest thing I’ve had to endure so far in my life.
I have learned that small changes, practiced consistently can reap large dividends. This has been my experience. Though simple, I hope you will find these helpful.
Have a routine. My mind felt so mixed up when I was in the worst of my depression. Extreme emotional pain, and darkness made it difficult for me to function, but I had children to care for and somehow I also had to make sure that I cared for myself.
I soon learned that having a routine for my daily activities had a calming effect on me. Prior to learning this, I felt almost constantly frantic on top of the depression, because I felt like I had so much to do and I couldn’t make heads or tails of it all. So I did, roughly, the same sequence of events each day. I would try to focus only on what I was doing, to prevent my thoughts from going wild, and me getting overwhelmed with all of my daily tasks. A key part of this routine was time spent doing activities that calmed my mind. This is an essential component. I encourage you to try it. I still find calmness in keeping a daily routine.
Know your needs. Having severe depression forced me to get to know myself in a way I never had before. I quickly learned what activities and circumstances increased my pain and what alleviated it. I had to really be sensitive to my own thoughts and feelings in order to learn this. This was a challenge at first but I can say now that it is one of my greatest strengths.
In the beginning, I realized that I had a bad habit of ignoring my own thoughts and feelings as they pertained to my needs. If I was tired, I would keep going. If I didn’t like a situation, I would forget my feelings, if it meant it would make someone else more comfortable. But this kind of self-neglect is not consistent with the kind of self-care and love needed to heal through depression. So I learned to really listen to my own inner voice and act on what I felt.
Here’s what I learned, as I got to know my self and my needs: I am an introvert. I need a lot of quiet time to unwind. I love to read. I need time to reflect and ponder on ideas I’m learning about. I get tired out by social situations and need to recharge afterward by being alone. I need a more open schedule, with lots of down time to stay well. These are all things I had no clue about, until I had to live through this period of severe depression.
So, take time to get to know you. Listen to your inner voice and act on it. Although I am still working on this, I have come a long way and it was been a key force in helping me get through my depression. Give yourself what you need.
Be open about your struggle. I acknowledge that it is usually a process of time before one feels like they can get to this point of sharing. It took me years before I openly began to talk about this with others, but I can’t say enough how much this has helped me.
If you consider how many thousands of people suffer with mental illness in the world, it is very likely that there are those in your acquaintance who are intimately familiar with the struggle. When I began to share, I learned how many of my friends had suffered at one time or another with mental illness. I learned that I was not alone.
I have been so grateful to have friends approach me to talk about their struggles because they knew I was safe to talk to. They knew that I had struggled and would understand. This has meant the world to me.
Now I am openly sharing the darkest and scariest moments of my history for all the world to see and even posted it on facebook for all to read. I’d be lying if I said this doesn’t scare me, because it does. But I want to be a voice of hope and an active part in ending the stigma associated with mental illness, so I push past my fear and let the chips fall where they may.
You may not be here, yet. And that is ok. But maybe consider sharing with a trusted friend what you are going through. Sharing can help us and others realize that we are not alone.
Find happiness and joy in moments. I naively used to think that I should feel happy and ready to take on the world all the time. This is a false idea. Life is only complete with ups and downs–you can’t have one without the other. I learned a better way to approach life when I was wading through deep depression and that is this: Happiness and joy are found in moments. To me this means that I can stop expecting to feel good all the time and I can stop trying to make that happen.
Instead, I can create and enjoy moments that make me happy. For me, this is time with my children–where we are talking or reading a book or enjoying a family event. This is also moments I have alone, or time in the beauties of nature. This is time with my husband when we don’t have to stress about anything. When my depression was really bad, this took a lot of effort and focus. I had to really try and relax and find a moment that I could enjoy. It wasn’t even really that enjoyable at the time. However, it helped me to recognize my need to find those moments and enjoy them. I need to create these moments in my life. I need to actively do this, because otherwise life starts to get really mundane and dull and this can swiftly start things spiraling back down into depression.
So, instead of wishing for the end of depression and return of happiness, find or create a moment that will help you feel that. Make it a habit of your life to do this and you will start to find greater happiness in life.
Accept the present reality. This is a hard one. We all want to get better! I remember wanting this so badly! No one wants to live with mental illness. It is not a desirable situation. I really was hoping for a quick fix, or even a quicker fix would have been nice. But that was not to be for me. What happened was a very long, desperate struggle.
On top of my depression symptoms I was discouraged, I was struggling with feeling hopeless. I was unhappy about my situation and feeling sorry for myself. I couldn’t control my depression, but I could certainly control feeling sorry for myself and how I was wishing my circumstances away. I finally got to a point where I started to ask myself, “What if I feel this way for the rest of my life?” I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life making myself miserable on top of being depressed. So I made a decision that I was going to try my best to be happy, in spite of the hand that I had been dealt.
I didn’t feel happy in the traditional sense, but I had peace. I accepted that this is where I was and maybe where I would be for a really long time. I had to make the best of it. Depression was still intense and still very difficult, but I had peace. I found joy in moments and little by little things got better.
What about you? What have you learned from having mental illness? What advice would you give to someone else who is struggling? I’d love to hear your thoughts.