Depression can be one of the most debilitating and one of the most common mental health conditions. Yet it’s cause and cure is still a mystery. There is no one thing that will make us depressed. Sometimes it can be a major life event, such as losing a job, death, or illness and sometimes it can just be there when you wake up one morning. And equally there can be no rhyme nor reason to how long it lasts. For some it can be a couple of days and for others it can go on for months or even longer.
The challenge with dealing with depression is that it focuses on the activities and thinking that we would normally employ to over-come emotional disorders. So the desire to engage in hobbies, see friends, go out, is suppressed and it is replaced by negative thinking, ruminating, and an absence of physical and social activities, which in turn exacerbates the depression.
I purposely avoid heading this entry ‘overcoming depression’, or ‘steps to escape depression’, because the simple truth is that for some people, at certain points, this won’t be possible. Sometimes the depression is simply too strong, and all you can really do is get through it. It is regrettable and frustrating but ultimately that might be the reality of your current situation. And indeed often feelings of shame and failure that you can’t escape your depression, feed back into and re-enforce your despair.
That being said, the following is a check list of activities which may help lessen or shorten or overcome your depressive episode.
Depression, particularly severe depression, is an incredibly debilitating condition and medication is normally the only thing that will work, and even then, it won’t work all the time. It can take time to find the right medication, and of course there are the side effects and other concerns with taking long-term medication, but it might only be needed to get you through this episode. There are some supplements that have worked for some individuals, such as Nature Serotone capsules, but again these can only be taken in consultation with your GP.
These are so often over-looked, but numerous studies have demonstrated the benefit of following simple six steps - exercise, sleep, healthy diet, socialisation, sunlight, drink water. At one level we all know this, we all know it is important to eat healthy, to avoid excess sugar, alcohol, or coffee, to take some exercise, but the challenge is doing this. There may be days it is simply impossible, however there maybe times, you feel stronger, more able, and these are days in which it is important to engage in activities which strengthen your mind and body.
For so many people this can be incredibly therapeutic. Write anything. It can be a regular space to put down on paper how you are feeling, or to reflect and record your internal thoughts and criticism. Often the very act of writing this down will give you a relief, provide a forum to release your anger, express dark thoughts, pour out your despair. Similar to therapy, the belief is that by bringing these thoughts and feelings out into the open we can clearly identify and ultimately change them.
Escape from things that make you deeply unhappy (where-ever possible). Sometimes depression is rooted in the internal, but often your environment will either exacerbate or even result in your depression. Evaluate your surroundings, particularly work, relationships, living space and identify the negatives, the relationships, situations, places or things that make you unhappy and if it can be changed, change it. There will be many things you can’t change, but it might only take one change to make a big difference.
For many people speaking about depression works, but it’s important to state that equally for some it doesn’t. Depression can prove incredibly resistant to psychotherapy, and indeed CBT was in part designed in response to the this resistance. Therapy can give you a chance to actually talk honestly about your despair, and it shouldn’t be under-estimated how much of a relief this can be. It can be useful in challenging negative thinking, or more accurately in addressing and evaluating hostility to challenging negative thinking, as this in itself is a process. It can also help with initiating a dialogue to evaluate your environment, and perhaps help you reflect on areas in your life that can be changed.
This may be very difficult to comprehend but there is a school of thought depression is a way of processing some very difficult information. The notion that you are depressed for a reason, of depression as the bodies way of telling you something needs to change; whether that is career, relationships, ambition or whatever.
And there is another school of thought which believes depression is a natural reaction of being an intelligent, sensitive individual existing in what can sometimes feel like an indifferent world. Most of the great artists and thinkers have suffered depression and despair, so perhaps there is a connection. As Richard Nixon said, ‘it is only if you’ve been in the deepest valleys, can you appreciate the highest peaks’.
The following articles are written to help you understand what is this process of
therapy, what actually happens in the room, from finding a therapist to leaving one,
from understanding what a counsellor can help you with and what they can't.
It includes topics on the different types of therapy, to couples therapy, and about the role of diagnosis in mental health.