Troubled home, broken family unit, abuse, and the list goes on. These are just some of the reasons a child can develop a severe depression over time. I was terribly depressed as a child. It took me until my late teens and early twenties to realize this. That’s when the real breakdown came for me. I was 18 years old the first time my depression got the better of me. I remember lying on the sofa and crying uncontrollably for hours. I went into the bathroom, locked the door, sat in front of the toilet, watched the water swirl down the bowl, and I wished to God it was me. Years of deeper depression ensued, along with a 2 year struggle with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome between the years of 17 and 19. At that time CFS was a largely under-reported illness. The CFS was crippling the first year and often I didn’t have the energy to do much of anything at all. Several years of my life were spent trying to get over my depression, and in many ways I am just now recovering. Even now I sometimes relapse and have bouts of malaise that can last for days or weeks.
In the beginning of my depression I often wanted to end it all, if it meant ending the pain and emotional torment I was suffering. I knew I had a problem when death preoccupied my thoughts at least 95 percent of any given day. During those dark moments I reflected on many ways that I could end my time on this miserable little planet. Thankfully, I never followed through on my macabre ideas, which varied from the traditional sleeping pills and whiskey, to the more messy and less graceful throwing myself from a moving vehicle (while on the freeway). Yes I was a pretty sick young woman. I admit with no embarrassment that I needed to be healed. I never sought traditional therapy. I don’t recommend doing this because it could be dangerous for a suicidal person to try and deal with depression on their own. I realize now that I was too ashamed to seek help because I saw my depression as a weakness that I couldn’t overcome. I felt powerless to change my situation and was too hopeless to try. The sorrow I felt was a soul-deep anguish that permeated every level of my existence.
Then one day I remembered reading somewhere about a method of tough-love when dealing with depression. I decided that I would apply this hard-hitting rule of thumb to myself. Basically, my rule was that every minute of my day would be filled with activities. I told myself I would not think about my depression as much as I could help it. I allowed myself a specific time each night before I went to bed to write down and indulge in my feelings of misery. The rest of the time I’d literally write down a list of things to complete before the end of the day and do it. It was pretty brutal. Many times I failed this endeavor and many times I felt like crap when myriads of negative thoughts would invade my mind, but I clung to the lists because at least they gave me some sort of reason to continue going on. Writing and music were my refuge. I looked to them like a safe haven from my often vicious thoughts of self-harm. I’d write fictional stories of people, many whom had lives as twisted as mine was. Other times I wrote poems expressing my rage and discontent. I listened to a lot of rock, rap, hard rock, electronic and folk music. Many times I would play Chopin or Beethoven to quiet the raucous noise of my thoughts. My philosophy was to get help (from online resources’, etc. I was too ashamed to seek professional help. I was afraid to take any drugs prescription or narcotic). After the ‘help’ I received, I would structure my day so I’d have the least amount of time to think about being depressed. I found that this method gradually began to work for me, but it was a long road to where I am now.
By no means am I advocating using distractions as a means to avoid the very real issues that are the reason for your illness, rather you should look at these tips as suggestions from a traveler that’s been down the tough path that you are facing, and sometimes travels the road now and again still. The following list is a way to dull the ache a bit between the times when your therapist is not available. If you can’t afford a therapist, I recommend calling you local County’s Social Services facility. They can direct you to low-cost and sometimes free help for you depression. Many doctors will prescribe drugs for your condition such as Prozac. The choice to take these is totally up to you. I opted out on the prescription drugs because I saw them as a band aid and not a cure. But that was personal choice. Some people need these aids to cope. I ended up using homeopathic methods such as St. John’s Wort capsules for my depression, and Kava Kava for my anxiety. Also later, when I was strong enough, I implemented Yoga and Walking to help me balance myself.
I’m writing this article to let the hopeless amongst us know that there is a light at the end of this long tunnel that is your inner journey. You management and /or recovery from this emotionally crippling disease can be extremely difficult, but not impossible. You can take comfort in the fact that there are millions of heavy hearts making their way through this cruel world. If you’re reading this list, you are crossing paths with one of them who understands the slow torment you endure each day. It does get easier. I promise.
Below is my top 10 list of things to do when you feel overwhelmed by feelings of despair. None of these tips are meant to substitute for professional help. All of the suggestions are healthy and do not involve drug or alcohol use or anything else harmful to your body or mind:
Many studies have been performed on just why exercise lifts a person’s mood, and none have been conclusive. Theories from enhanced endorphin levels being the reason for a better mood after exercise, to it affected specific neurotransmitters in the brain responsible for happy thoughts abound. Who knows and who cares really, when many times exercise works so well for even severe cases of depression. For those who are bogged down by heavy thoughts of sadness, I strongly recommend yoga, as it’s neither too stressing nor demands too much from your mind or body. The zoning out and meditative qualities of yoga are especially helpful. You are encouraged not to think too hard about any specific thing and to concentrate on the flow of your breath and body. Always check with your doctor before beginning any exercise program.
Listening to music
Studies are now being conducted to examine the effectiveness of music therapy when dealing with depression. So far all experts can agree on is that music does affect the emotions of a person. I say that without music, I don’t know what I would have done. It has been a salvation for me during the times when no one else could understand what I was going through. When I’d listen to someone sing about what I was going through I’d be like “Yes”!
Reading an adventure or romance novel
What’s wrong with a little escapism? Nothing at all. Reading a great story has immersed me in problems that are worlds away from my own. I will always give great respect to authors of fiction, because they recognize the value of a good fantasy.
Call a suicide hotline just to talk; or visit a trusted friend
Sometimes you just need a listening ear; someone who will say nothing while you vent all your frustrations. No judgmental or critical people need apply for this position. You are being honest and stripping away pretense, giving truth with no chaser and you don’t have time for someone that puts down or belittles the things you are feeling. Choose your confidant carefully. If you can’t find a sympathetic ear, then it’s better to call a hotline.
Go visit a local spa for a full body or back massage, or have friend give you a massage.
Never underestimate the power of nurturing touch. Research shows that kneading and manipulating stress points on the body can have powerfully positive affects on a person’s mental well-being. Just go have a massage and let the calm and caring hands of the massage therapist sooth away the stress of the day. Don’t be embarrassed if you start to cry during your session. This is your body’s way of letting go what your mind cannot.
OK this is a little obvious. But many people do not indulge in the simple act of expressing on paper what they cannot put into words. This is one of the most important things you can do if you are depressed. It’s often hard to tell those close to you how you feel, so keep a journal. If you’re really brave, purposely leave it where a loved one can find it and read it. They can gain a wealth of understanding from parts of your self that you can’t deal with face to face.
Take up a Hobby
A hobby can be a positive distraction from what ails you. In many cases a person can even achieve a large amount of personal healing. So take up dance, fishing, or photography or whatever else floats your boat. It just might get you in touch with that inner person you’ve been hiding from, and bring out the source of all your sadness.
I know this sounds shallow, but retail therapy has helped me so much through many hard times of my depression. This can work for women or men. A woman might indulge in a pair of shoes she knows she can’t afford and a man might go to Best Buy and check out that plasma screen he’s been wanting to buy. If you are on a very strict budget, go to thrift stores and look for that special knick knack or vintage record you always wanted to own. Buy yourself a used item on Amazon.com that you’ve always wanted. That little jolt of pleasure you get from knowing you will have your package arrive in a few days will last for quite a while.
Get a hug from a friend or cuddle a pet
If you can’t afford a massage and don’t have anyone willing to give you one, then you might what to try getting a comforting hug from a friend. Holding or cuddling a pet is also a great way to release the anxieties associated with depression. Don’t have a pet? offer to sit a friends’ pet for a while. For many lonely souls this is as close to a comforting hug or embrace as they will get.
Pray or Visit a Religious mentor
Many times it helps to give up your responsibility and your power of existence to a higher force or power. If you aren’t particularly religious or don’t believe in god, you can still meditate on a force that is bigger then you, like the ocean, the earth, the universe, or another force of nature like the wind, that is beyond your control; and let the powerfulness of this force carry your own powerlessness away. Sometimes it works to acknowledge that a being or force greater and stronger then we are exists and to surrender control to it for a time.
I hope that these tips will help you as you cross the rough terrain of life. Many of them have saved my life. Even if it’s only to read an article online you are making a conscious step towards inner strength and healing. Please seek help.