A few weeks ago I wrote about how I cope with depression. I told my husband that I really did not want to write the post, because it felt incredibly personal. However, I wrote it because it seems selfish not to share something that might help other people. I then told my husband that if one person might be helped by sharing (gosh, that sounds cliche, but whatever) that the whole post would be worth it. After I wrote, I got a few responses from people. I cried as I read the words people sent to me about what they were dealing with.
What brings me to this post, is that one of my dear friends requested to share her experience dealing with depression. Bri and I met in grad school and have stayed in touch as we have celebrated getting jobs, getting married, buying houses…. We have also called each when we need help – like when I called a few weeks ago after a slight panic attack (thanks again for talking me through it). So here are the wonderful words of a dear friend. Honestly, she does not share very personal details like this to strangers very frequently. So the fact that she was willing to share so much of herself means a lot to me. I hope it is helpful.
On coping with this depression: A guest post from Bri…
After reading Steph’s great post on how she copes with depression I wanted to share some of my own ways of coping. She was nice enough to allow me to post that here on her blog (thanks, Steph).
I was around 2nd or 3rd grade when I started to realize I saw the world differently than others. By middle school I was diagnosed with depression. That was over 15 year ago and while I continue to struggle I also continue to survive. Despite years of self-harm, sever depression, endless anxiety attacks, and suicide attempts I am still alive. Here are some my coping strategies.
I began writing when I was about 12 after my therapist encouraged me to keep a diary. Though I never stuck with keeping a diary I did learn to write when I am overwhelmed. No matter where I write- on a napkin, on a post-it, in an unsent email, in a Goggle Doc- it gives me a chance to get out of my head and sort through my thoughts and feelings. When something is bothering me my mind clouds and whirls with information. Writing gives me a chance to piece out each of my thoughts so I can see them and piece the parts I need together. I often find that writing in itself is enough. Sometimes, it gives me a sense of validation for my feelings. Sometimes, it provides answers. Sometimes, it just gives me a few moments to cry and let it all out. Sometimes, I use it to communicate by sharing my writing with others. No matter what the outcome writing has become one of my greatest coping tools.
I Try to Know Myself
When it comes to keeping relationships, despite my depression, I find knowing myself and my depression are key. I know that if I don’t get sleep I cry, if I don’t eat I yell, and if I don’t go out I withdraw. Because I know getting out of bed is one of my biggest struggles when I’m depressed I schedule things in the morning that make me get out of bed. I have also learned to recognize when my emotions may not match the situation (at least from others perspective). I don’t ever attempt to change my emotions but I do recognize it. That way if someone comments on it I don’t get offended because I already know. I recognize when I am depressed and need people around or to be out. Even if a big part of me is saying “don’t get out of bed” I know that I HAVE to get out of bed. I know that if I want to live, if I want to smile, I need to try to keep moving. It all starts with knowing me and recognizing my own needs.
I Express My Needs
Since I “know myself” I also know my triggers and let others in on them so they can help me avoid them. So, when I yell my friends they normally pass me a cracker rather than engage in an argument with me (thus avoiding loads of useless drama). My husband has almost literally dragged me out of bed because he knows that I only get worse when I stay there. At the time I was not happy with it but he knew, because I told him, that it wasn’t good for me. He cooks me dinner and make sure I eat because I have told him how important that is to prevent me from picking stupid fights. Remember, those around you are not mind readers but they probably do want the best for you. So, if you can tell them what you need you could all be better off.
I Remember My Support Network (Even If I Don’t Use It)
A support network is something that Steph mentioned but to me it is very different since I don’t really utilize my support network, other than my husband. But I do remind myself that there are people who love, care, and root for me. When I was 16 I lost a close friend to suicide and as I watched those around him grieve I realized that everyone has people on their side who love and care about their continued well being, even me. I focus on those I love the most and remind myself that they need me in their lives just because I’m me. Sometimes it may be advantageous to ask your support network for help but remember you don’t have to, just remember they are there.
I Found a Hobby
Oh, hobbies. I remember when I was young being told over and over to find a hobby and it always fell on deaf ears. I never understood why a hobby would help. Now that I have one, I get it. A hobby can keep you active and engaged as well as help you feel productive. I was lucky to find a physical hobby. Steph didn’t mention it in her coping blog but she is an avid exerciser. She said to me once “now that I exercise if I go a day without it I just feel blah. You know what I mean?” Yes, yes, Steph, I know what you mean. When you are physically active your body naturally produces “happy chemicals” (endorphins). It takes awhile but eventually you crave the activity because of those endorphins. Most of us don’t really notice the significance of physical activity until we do it for a while and stop. But whether or not you notice it, it’s still happening, and it has saved my life.
I Recognize When I Need Help
Sometimes shit is just too much. As Steph mentioned, none of us have it all figured out. When I find I’m really stuck, I get help. Steph talked about how hard that can be. It can also be expensive but I’ve decided my happiness is worth a lot more than a new pair of jeans. It can also be hard to find the right person that you can openly talk to. When I first started therapy and was about 12 and I went to at least 5 different therapists before I found someone that I would go back to. In the end that person helped save me so it was worth the trouble.
I Took Anti-Depressants
Drugs are not for everyone but I feel the need to touch on the topic since they did play a role in my coping. I was on antidepressants for 10 years. I fully believe that they are a big piece in me making it through what I hope to be the hardest times in my life. I lived through my parents’ divorce, death of people close to me, moving away from family, getting bullied, losing friends, lots of heartbreaks, and so much more (you know, like, being a teenager). All of that was hard but I know it would have been harder and possible unbearable without medication. Again, this in not for everyone, but if you are to the end of the line it may be worth talking to your doctor. Just like finding a good therapist this can also be a challenge. My medication and dosage was changed so many times I couldn’t keep track. But eventually I found something that worked and it helped me get to a better place with myself.
Coping with depression is different for everyone. Like Steph, I am not an expert or medical professional. Everything above is based on my experience alone. I hope that sharing my coping strategies will help someone with their own personal struggles.