“There is no standard normal. Normal is subjective. There are seven billion versions of normal on this planet.”
At this point in my life I’m come to terms with the fact I will never truly be rid of depression. It will lie dormant for long periods, and then either drag me deep into it’s depths, or slowly gnaw inside for days on end. (I’m still not sure what’s worse, a short burst of absolute devastation where my personality disappears and I cannot communicate, only sob breathlessly… or a more drawn out stretch where I’m numb other than the festering knot of negativity, that almost feels like rage, residing inside me.)
Yes, I’ve come to terms with the fact there is no cure, but I make an effort to do small things to help my mental health. I do these in the hope of avoiding the occurrences described above as much as I can. I also try to do them when depression drowns me, and I need to fight my way back to the surface again. Which is easier said than done.
My concentration level is pretty poor when it comes to TV (I get distracted too easily) whereas reading requires all of my attention, and provides escapism. Also, a beautifully written book can bring me happiness. You know when you read something, and you’re in awe of how they’ve crafted the sentences so the words almost sound like art? That feeling.
I get that being active is great for mental health, the endorphins etc, but sometimes I just need to let myself rest. (I’m great at sleeping by the way. If there was Olympic event for napping, I would happily represent England.) If I’ve had a week that has left me drained, and the thought of going outside makes me throw a mental toddler tantrum, I listen to myself and rest. Shut the curtains, put something easy on TV, curl up under a duvet, and my if my eyes feel heavy I close them and shut the world out.
Sleep also helps me hugely if I’m overwrought with depression. As I know the desolation will eventually pass like a dark cloud in the sky, it helps me bypass some of that waiting time.
I cry ridiculously easily; when I’m happy, sad, angry, irritated, even when I find something cute. I’ve well and truly opened my tear duct flood gates and that’s fine with me. Crying is so cathartic; I’m metaphorically shedding my misery with my tears. If I try to hold in my tears, it actually makes my head and face ache. For me it feels more healthy to let myself feel rather than try to fight it.
It’s soothing. There is something really reassuring about having a warm body to fold yourself into. I would guess it’s knowing you’re not alone, they care, and them giving you respite from trying not to fall apart; they’re here to hold you together. The quote “One day someone is going to hug you so tight that all of your broken pieces will stick back together” comes to mind.
My dog becomes incredibly calm when you hold him closely against you: something about the warmth and the feeling of a heartbeat is comforting to him. I’m the same.
When you’re depressed the most basic parts of looking after yourself seem like a mammoth task. I’ve had moments where just the thought of washing my hair exhausts me so much I’ve wanted to cry. The twisted thing is bathing is relaxing and being clean makes you feel more human. Depression is tricky like that, it dissuades you from doing things that may actually make you feel better.
If you’ve ever stared with dead eyes into a mirror and felt that disassociation, the feeling your own being is alien, staying fresh and clean can help (slightly) with this. At least for me.
I go outside.
I make an effort to leave the house at least once a day. Whether that’s for work, or to the shop, or to walk the dog. Too long without going outside makes me incredibly anxious, it’s like I need reminding that I am part of the world, and do not exist parallel to it. Going outside also makes me get up, get washed, get dressed which again, adds to feeling more ‘human.’
I take antidepressants.
They’re not a cure, but they give my mind the perfect amount of numbness where I can actively focus on getting better. I’ve tried without them and I get no where; depression just overwhelms me and I cannot even try to help myself. They’re not for everyone but they work for me.
I used to love writing as a child and English was always my best subject at school, so I feel like it’s left me with some residual desire to write. I’m not a great writer, but I get satisfaction from finding the right words to adequately describe something. Writing is also massively cathartic. Although I have friends that I can talk to, the process of writing down thoughts & trying to structure and explain them is therapeutic to me.
I switch off.
Social media and smart phones are both a blessing and a curse. Yes, it’s incredible having access to so much at the tap of a finger, but there are a lot of negatives. World news (and a lot of it bad and discouraging) is unavoidable and shared everywhere. Comments from bigots worldwide are easily visible and bring despair for humanity. The feeling that everybody is living their very best life today while you’ve been cleaning up dog sick. Sometimes it’s all just too much and it’s best to hide your phone at the other side of the room and just breathe, and stop the deluge of unattainable perfection or mass bigotry from flooding into your mind.
Having something to look forward to is key for me, it helps with my anxiety that life is all work and responsibilities. So, I love making plans, especially for travel. Researching destinations and making itineraries is a great distraction; it gives me something to be excited about and reminds me of all the things I want to do and keep living for. The itch for exploring will never be fully scratched, which means it will continue to drive me forward even on my darkest days.
Surprise! Travel has given me some of my happiest moments. Not only does it provide me with a massive sense of fulfillment, it helps create a stockpile of positive memories that I will have for the rest of my life. The older I’ve gotten the more I’ve realised material things do not make me happy, but exploring our world does. It helps me feel less trapped and more positive about the future; it helps me focus on the beauty of the world instead of the negativity. It also puts things into perspective – it makes me (and my issues) feel tiny and insignificant in comparison to the world, and that really comforts me.