Well, hello! It’s May, which in the U.S. of A, means it’s Mental Health Awareness Month. As someone who is quite human, and thus, has and/or will struggle with depression at some point, I thought I’d share a nugget or two of my experiences.
**Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. My nuggets of advice are based on what has worked for ME based on MY experiences. I don’t claim to know everything.**
This week has been particularly difficult for me. I suddenly had a lot more free time,, which I planned on using for some creative endeavours. However, I fell sick and had to put those plans on hold in favour of rest. That caused me to think too much about where I’m at vs. where I want to be, etc etc, and I spiraled.
The trigger of the depressive episode isn’t usually the obvious cloaked villain. I really struggled to pinpoint that one thing that made me upset. It was just a “down period.” I couldn’t help it. I had to just get through it. But, I learned something about myself this week that I’d like to share.
If you have depression, or find yourself going through a depressive periods (this article explains it well and uses much better terminology than I do!), this is what I find helps me:
I learned this week that I add to my depression by feeling bad about it. I feel guilty for going through this period and being a damper to be around. My boyfriend has assured me over and over, every time this has happened, that he’s there for me and it’s ok for me to be down for a few days, but it’s never been enough to convince me. Eventually I broke down and confessed that at the beginning of university when I had a depressive episode, my boyfriend at the time made it very clear that I wasn’t pleasant to be around. The relationship ended for various reasons, but since then I’d associated my depression with abandonment. By apologizing, I was saying “I’m sorry I’m depressed. I’ll be better soon. Please don’t leave me.” You have to allow yourself to go through this. It’s not something you summon at will, it’s something you’ve been afflicted with, and it doesn’t make you any less worthy. Allow yourself to ride the wave, and it’ll pass. ALSO if you’re with someone who makes you feel bad about your depression/anxiety, then girrrrrl ↓↓↓
You need a support system. Someone needs to know that you’re going through something, even if that someone is your journal. Journalling is a good self-help option for those without access to therapy. Family members, close friends, partners- those people have your best interests at heart (usually). But if therapy is an option for you, then YAY talk to your therapist.
(For real though: please seek medical help if this afflicts you more often than just a day or two every once in a while. You should be able to function on a daily basis.)
Do Little Nice Things for yourself in the meantime
Although pleasurable things are less pleasurable during these periods, I always feel it’s worth a try. I love baking, and it always makes me feel better. Sure, as soon as I’m done baking, it creeps back up on me, but I at least have that little time that I feel a little better. Maybe you enjoy shopping (online shopping if you don’t feel like being around humans), watching Disney movies, taking bubble baths…whatever you know is a good go-to activity for you. Hell, last night a good RnB-Music-Video type shower improved my mood! Anything that feels like self-care is a good choice.
Especially if you’ve just started taking meds, they take a while to kick in. Until then, do what you can to make it through the day. For those who don’t take meds, maybe because they have mild depression that usually lasts only a few days (so, me) these things may help.
On the other hand, if a loved one struggles with depression:
Again- ALLOW IT
People don’t owe you a good mood. Of course, there is just bitterness or attention-seeking, but that behavior is easy to spot as opposed to actual depression. Especially if you’re close to the person, you’ll know that they’re going through something. Allow them to go through it. How much it hurts/affects you cannot be the centre of your comforting, it would just add to the guilt they already feel for feeling down. Of course let them know that you’re concerned because you care and want them to be happy, but don’t make their depression about you.
Ask what they need
This really goes a long way. It may be space, it may be baked goods (*ahem* chocolate lava cake, please?), it may be distraction. It may simply be patience. They just need to know that you care and that you want to be as helpful as possible.
Assure them that they’re still valuable and lovable, even when they are depressed. This is soooo important. Most people with depression probably feel ashamed of it the way I do, and want to do everything to take it away so it doesn’t ruin the mood or affect anyone else’s joy. Letting them know that they are allowed to experience these moods and still be wonderful and lovable humans takes a huge weight off their shoulders.
Thank you for reading through all of this! Hope this helps someone out there. Let me know your thoughts, and here’s to everyone’s mental health 🥂
Featured image by South African photographer Tsoku Maela