All my life, I've battled depression, at times severe enough that I've secretly tried suicide and even was hospitalized for a few days on one occasion (which is why I hate the Facebook "game" of "You and I wake up in a psychiatric ward together. Using just 4 words, what would you say to me?" Been there, done that--how's that for four words?). So now when I hit a slump, it is compounded by worries that it isn't just the blues or a minor downer day, but the start of something severe.
Since my release from the hospital and the follow-up out-patient program, I have developed some pretty effective ways to manage my depression. Sometimes some work better than others and some days they don't really seem to work at all, but after a few days of pushing forward, I make it work, so here they are, hopefully to help someone else:
- Do something with the kids. They are naturally happy people and a lot of times, as long as they are behaving, their smiles and giggles can be absolutely contagious. This one usually isn't enough to make enough of a difference on it's own, but combined with the other things, it can help. It brings a smile to my face, even if it doesn't always reach the sadness in my heart. There is something to be said for "faking it until you make it" though.
- Take care of myself physically. Little to no junk food, since things like sugar can make you feel sluggish and icky, as can too much bad fat (yes, there are good fats, but deep fried crap doesn't contain them!). Aspartame and MSG have been shown by a number of studies (that I don't feel like looking up right now, but I'm sure you can google it pretty easily, if you really want to know more) to contribute significantly to depression, so avoiding them is very helpful...if only I wasn't so addicted to diet cola! By contrast, all natural, clean food (by clean I mean chemical free, not soap-and-water clean) makes you feel good. Getting off your butt and exercising helps too, but I can't generally make myself exercise just to exercise when I'm feeling depressed. Oftentimes, I can....
- Make myself do something productive that I can feel about. A couple days ago, I had been feeling pretty low for a few days and, rather than hiding in my bed under the covers permanently like I was wanting to do, I got off my rear, went outside and got some things done. About a week ago, that thing was pruning the lilac bush (also helped me deal with some anger I had going on that day!). Two days ago, that was finishing getting the garden in (for May, more to do in June!) and building a brick border to keep the lawn maintenance guys that take care of the empty lot next to us from mowing or weed whacking my plants. Yes, it was hard work. Yes, I felt like crap doing it. But, once I got it done, I started to feel a bit better. And now every time I look at these accomplishments, it makes me smile a little more and I feel myself being lifted up out of that slump a little further.
- Talk to someone supportive. I have a real trouble with this one, but it does help, when I can find someone I feel I can talk to.
- Take time for myself. This especially works well as a preventative measure, but it can help bring me back too (although by that time, I usually feel guilty about doing something that isn't productive since I always have so many fricking things that need to get done!). When I start to slip from doing this, that's when I start noticing problems starting to creep in.
To make you leave this post with a smile on your face, and hopefully in your heart, here is a small demonstration of the contagious power of my baby's giggle.