Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Mental Health Monday

(Okay, I know it isn't Monday anymore, but I had originally planned on writing this for Monday, and then that stupid storm hit and preempted it. I liked the title though, so I decided to keep it.  Whatcha gonna do about it?  Oh, and be sure to scroll down to the bottom of this post even if you don't read the rest of it!  There is a cute video at the end!) 

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. 
No, these won't work for everyone.  No, that's not all there is that can be done.  This is what works for me.  Depression is not something that you can "just snap out of" like so many people seem to think it is.  Medications can be effective for a lot of people, but I don't like how they make me feel (disconnected is probably a pretty accurate word for it).  There are some great natural supplements that can help too, but I don't remember to take them.  So this is what works for me.  It is hard work at times, but if it helps keep my family together with me in it, it's worth the work.

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.


  1. Great post Chris. I really admire people who come right out and explain what depression really feels like.

    I battle depression too. One day I sat in the Wendy's drive thru and wondered what would happen if I just crashed my car into the brick wall. I got meds after that, and luckily they work very well for me-no bad side effects at all.

    I spent about 10 days in a hospital in high school, after I decided to run away. And I had to hospitalize my then 9 year old son for 10 days once too. Sometimes we all need a place to get us headed back up the mountain and out of the valley.

    My girl scouts are my escape and keep me going. They make me laugh and get out and do things. they are the part of my life that does not center around mental illness and disabilities. I thank God that I said yes when someone asked me to be a leader 10 years ago. i don't know where I would be without it.

  2. Excellent post! I fall into the "been there, done that" catagory, too, and I totally empathize with your worry that a few bad days might be something more. The ironic thing for me is that I often find that when I really AM sliding into the danger zone, I don't notice, but when I am just having a bad day I will over-analyze it 'till I exhaust myself.

    Go figure.

    If you're ever down and need a boost, and this list doesn't do it for you, I made one of my own at


    Wow. That was a shameless plug. But if anything I said helps, I won't be ashamed!

  3. Like you said, the power of a baby's giggle works wonders. I no longer have any little babies (my youngest turns 8 this summer), so I decided to create a go-to for depressive days.

    I created a bookmark on my computer labeled "Need a laugh?" It includes links to several hilarious videos of babies laughing, puppy and kitten antics, and other things that I've found that just crack me up. In addition to videos, I also have links to websites and web comics that give me a good laugh and raise my spirits. A couple of my favorites are mylifeisaverage.com and damnyouautocorrect.com - I NEVER fail to laugh at those sites.

    Knowing my "Need a laugh?" file is there whenever I need it is remarkably helpful. Sometimes I don't even need to access it - just remembering things I've seen there lifts my spirits.

  4. Great article! Thanks for sharing your heart:) I'm sure it was hard for you. It was especially helpful for me today, must have been fate that I happened upon it today!