I am writing and sharing this to support anyone who experiences depression – so you know you are not alone and so you may be able to feel less afraid of it.
As 2018 comes to a close I want to share that this has been one of my most difficult years in terms of depression. It has been a low-lying, miserable depression which prevents me from believing in myself, which just sucks the life out of life.
Now here’s the thing about depression, I am not unhappy – I have a lovely little life with my family and I have the best little business – I laugh, I love, I smile, I plan, I do, I hope and I cope – but this year I have also struggled, I am struggling, to stay positive, to accept me, to feel good enough.
My default – like so many other people – is worthlessness and feeling useless: it can be all consuming and crippling but I am lucky, I have robust coping strategies, brilliant support and there is almost a sense of familiarity when the black dog visits. I am not often a gloomy, negative person, I am just quiet and I want to hide and sleep. So it does take a lot of energy to motivate myself, to find some get-up-and-go, to believe in myself rather than giving in to I’m-Not-Good-Enough thoughts.
This year I have felt more Eeyore, when I would rather be more Pooh, with a touch of Tigger. When I have energy, I feel invincible. This year I have mainly needed to feel safe.
My coping strategies are varied but they can often make a difference…
- resting & sleeping when I need to – it can be about deep rest, pjs and early nights
- reducing stress and simplifying life which means saying no more often
- feeling comfortable and safe – with good friends and family or just staying in more
- writing to offload and writing to focus and clear my mind – it gives me something positive to focus on, especially when negative thinking creeps in
- walking – sometimes I have to force myself out the door but it always worth it
- working – I love my work
- no booze to drown out all the shit – it just doesn’t help when I feel low
- cuddling my kids – because who doesn’t want to cuddle their kids?
- watching favourite movies or any movies because films are important as books to me – I will cuddle up with any kid or my husband who is quiet
- curling up with a book – and god help anyone who interrupts me
- going with it, rather than battling with it – sometimes it is a wave to ride and I just have to accept it
- breathing practice – to keep me calm and focused and less stressed
- lists to keep me on track with work and with life – always essential
- knowing it will ease again – it always eases again, eventually
- eating well – junk and sugar don’t help, neither does irregular eating
- believing in me – knowing that the negative thoughts I get are not the real me
I live with depression and I do not feel weak and I no longer feel damaged but I do feel the need to do what feels right for me, to slow down, to give myself a break and to allow my head to rest when I need it. Coping strategies will be different for everyone. After years of depression I now know how best to cope.
Acceptance can a huge part of managing depression – for me, hoping it would go away, so I would be ‘better’ was not helpful. Accepting that depression is a part of my life, that it comes and goes, that I needed to learn to live with it has been the best strategy . Now, I am kinder to myself and I can look after myself. And I know myself better – I know how I act, think and process, I know what I need.
For some people, depression lasts a lifetime, for others it is short-term – depression is very misunderstood and it is very unique to us all so we all need to find our own coping strategies: this doesn’t necessarily make it easier but we can feel better equipped to deal with the rough days/weeks/months.
Therapy and anti-depressants can also be part of managing depression. Good therapy in the past has equipped me with the coping skills I now use and medication has worked in the past when I have needed it to get back some control.
And you may need to just hang on when it is hard: sometimes depression is low level misery, sometimes it is rough – desperately, painfully, cripplingly rough, when all you can do is cling. Look after you and get all the support you need. It can also make a difference to know who your support team is – some people will not understand, they just won’t get it; other people will just let you down or ignore you until you contact them again; but others will be there to listen, to help and support, to keep checking in with you when you go quiet. It could be a small group but find your support team.
Reach out, share, be honest with others, be honest with you. Depression can be tough and miserable and lonely but you’ve got this. I don’t want depression to be a dirty little secret, something to hide, something to be ashamed of – that doesn’t help anyone. I am immensely proud of working hard to develop coping strategies that work, of the changes I have made, of being able to accept it and live with it. It has been a tough year but so much good change has come out of it and sometimes we need to put ourselves first for better health.
My depression has made me strong and resilient and it makes me very good at my job and this is what keeps me going when I just want to curl up into a ball.
Sources of support & coping strategies…
Janine – antenatal teacher, postnatal group leader, doula, mother, friend, wife and, sometimes, just me