I’ve gotten a handle on the depression and have been able to manage it fairly well.
But that doesn’t mean sometimes it doesn’t try to sneak back up on me.
What is different now from fifteen years ago is that I am pretty aware of the warning signs.
And I know the things I need to do to help myself when I feel it coming back.
It wasn’t always like this.
Fifteen years ago when I started getting headaches and then I wasn’t sleeping and then I wasn’t eating and then I couldn’t stop crying, the only way I knew to deal with it and the only thing that made life bearable was to smoke massive amounts of weed.
That didn’t help my situation.
But that is the catch-22 of depression and other mental illnesses.
You are often so far gone that you don’t have it in you to take the first step to make yourself better.
It doesn’t help that mental illness still has a big stigma attached to it.
And you are right on one account when you are thinking that people won’t understand.
There will be some really ignorant people who don’t get it.
And they never will.
They might tell you to suck it up or ask what have you got to be depressed about? or say but you are so beautiful!
Maybe your mental illness is more anxiety and OCD and when you acknowledge to someone that you perform rituals to just get your ass out the door every day or that you do some really weird shit when you first sit in your car to guarantee that you don’t get in an accident or so your mom doesn’t die, they might look at you like you have three heads and say, That’s kind of fucked up.
I know it’s tough when you are in a fragile mental state. But you have to just not give a shit about what those people say.
They know not of what they speak.
While there is a chance someone will say something less than supportive, there is a much, much MUCH stronger chance that you will discover lots of people who are supportive.
In fact, I would wager large amounts of money and even a couple children (and not the ones being annoying at the moment) that in addition to the people who will never get it or who might judge, there are many many many MORE people who do get it.
There are fucked up people everywhere.
I mean, I’m one of them!
But now I’m a recovering fuck up.
Or I’m less fucked up than I used to be, anyway.
So in the past couple months, I’ve gotten quite a few messages from people who are struggling with depression.
Some have gotten to the teflon phase. The phase where they are unphased by the things that the people who don’t get it say.
But some people are still in bed.
And can’t get out.
I really understand where you are.
And I understand how hard it is.
There is a way out. I promise.
It won’t be easy.
In fact, it’s going to be fucking hard.
But it’s not anywhere near as hard as the way you are living your life right now.
Where do you start?
Well, I’d recommend following these steps:
1) LET IT OUT.
I know. That sounds terrifying.
And you might be thinking, if I admit that I need help, that makes me weak.
No no no no no.
Acknowledging you are in trouble is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of strength.
Staying in your bed 24/7 or being a prisoner to thoughts and obsessive behaviors makes you weak.
Literally and figuratively.
Asking for help shows that you are taking the steps to get some help. And it takes a lot of strength to do that.
How do you let it out?
This is where Facebook can be your friend when you are depressed.
You can just put it all out there.
That is terrifying.
But if Bruce Jenner, one of the best male athletes of all time, can, at 65 years old, admit to the world that he is going to become a woman, well, then anybody can do anything.
And there are more people than you know who have been through or who are going through the same thing you are right now.
More than you know.
If really putting it out there on Facebook is too much for you to even fathom, send a private message or an email or a text to some friends. Call youR closest friend or relative.
They will help you.
Here is the important thing. You cannot be vague. You cannot post a status or send a message that says something like, “I just don’t know if I can do this anymore…”
Do not force people to ask questions.
You have to be direct.
You say, “I’m in trouble. I’m not sleeping/I can’t get out of bed/I can’t stop crying/I cannot get myself to take a shower or eat or whatever, and I need help. Does anyone have a therapist they recommend?”
Which brings me to Number 2.
2) Find a fucking therapist!
This is another one that has a stigma attached to it.
Only crazy people go to the therapist!
Although, right now if you are going to be honest, you are going a little bit crazy, and you need help!
When your body is sick you go to a doctor.
If your body is really sick, you go to a doctor quite often.
And as your body gets healthier and stronger, your appointments with the doctor are spread out more and more until you are deemed recovered and you don’t need to go anymore at all.
Same thing with your brain.
Sometimes your brain gets sick and it needs a doctor.
Sometimes it has a cold. Other times, your brain is in critical condition.
When I first started seeing my therapist, I had to go twice a week.
After lots of work on my part, my therapist and I knocked it down to once a week.
Then it was every other week.
And now, I’m in maintenance mode.
About a year ago I had little meltdown, and I started going once a week again for a couple months.
Then once I got myself back on track, I was back on hiatus.
The hard part is finding a therapist you like. Ask your friends for recommendations.
That is how I’ve had the best luck finding a good one.
3) Get some (legal) drugs.
I think for some people, antidepressants have the potential to become a crutch or a band aid. Because there are lots of ways you can make your brain healthy that don’t involve the pharmacy.
But if you are way far down that rabbit hole, it can be too hard for you to do those healthy things. You just can’t muster up the motivation.
That’s when medication can really help.
It can help you get on your feet until you can do the following things which require no medication at all.
You know when someone is laughing so hard and you have no idea what the hell they are laughing at but if you watch them long enough then you just start laughing uncontrollably yourself?
You can’t help it.
So watch a funny movie. Watch an episode of the Big Bang Theory or Seinfeld or Friends or Modern Family.
Sometimes this is enough to get you motivated to do the next thing.
5) Eat protein.
Kind of another catch-22 because sometimes when you are depressed you just want to binge on carbs.
But protein helps your brain produce serotonin which is the stuff in your brain that makes you feel good.
And if you are taking antidepressants, protein helps them to be more effective.
So eat a turkey sandwich.
6) Take a shower.
Dry your hair.
Get out of your pajamas and put real clothes on.
Put on some jewelry or lip gloss or something to make yourself feel better.
7) MOVE YOUR ASS.
This one can be really tough.
Because if you move, then you won’t feel so depressed.
But when you are depressed you really have a hard time dragging your butt out of bed or off the couch.
It’s another catch-22.
But if you can get your foot out the door, there is a good chance you will keep going. Even a 10 minute walk can change the chemicals flowing through your brain.
And regular exercise, 3-4 times a week is as effective as antidepressants are.
This one is probably the most important one on the list.
It’s how I avoided hopping on a flight to Puerto Rico today.
Instead, I went for a run.
And now I don’t really want to run away.
Not forever anyway.
8) Get some sleep.
Sleep is the zamboni for your brain.
And if you are having trouble falling asleep, getting up off your butt and moving will help you to fall asleep.
So these two go hand in hand.
When your body is sick the doctor tells you to get rest.
Same thing for your brain.
Of course, you can’t spend all day for a week in bed.
But an exhausted brain cannot heal very well.
Whatever you haven’t gotten done can wait another day or two.
Go to bed an hour earlier, or sleep in an hour later. Or both.
9) Lean on your friends.
Those ones you reached out to when you admitted you were struggling?
That’s why they are your friends.
Let them know you could use help exercising.
Let them know you could use help around the house for a short time or maybe you just need an afternoon away from the kids.
Don’t worry about having to reciprocate.
The people who will offer to help you aren’t doing it in anticipation of you “paying them back.”
They are helping you because they care about you. And there is a good chance that at some point, they had to lean on friends to get through the day, too.
10) Accept all help offered to you.
Remember what I said earlier? Asking for help doesn’t make you weak.
And neither does accepting it.
Accepting help allows you to regain your strength.
And once you do that you won’t need the help anymore.
In fact, eventually, at some point, you will be so strong that you will be the one on the other end, extending your hand to someone else.