I was directed to this on the internet by a friend, and felt it was worth reblogging. It’s a wonderful blog post, and I couldn’t have written it better myself. Please read it, it’s well worth the read. SO well written and expressive, and I don’t even need to mention the important content, do I? 😉 Peace out and be well, my friends.
A while ago, I penned a fairly angry response to something circulating on the internet – the 21 Habits of Happy People. It pissed me off beyond belief, that there was an inference that if you weren’t Happy, you simply weren’t doing the right things.
I’ve had depression for as long as I can remember. It’s manifested in different ways. I did therapy. I did prozac. I did more therapy. My baseline is melancholic. I’d just made peace with it when I moved, unintentionally, to a place that had markedly less sunshine in the winter. I got seasonal depression. I got that under control. Then I got really, really sick. Turns out it’s a permanent, painful genetic disorder. My last pain-free day was four years ago.
So, this Cult of Happy article just set me off. Just… anger. Rage. Depression is serious – debilitating, often dangerous, and it’s got an enormous stigma. It leaves people to fend for themselves.
It’s bad enough without people ramming Happy Tips at you through facebook. There is no miracle behaviour change that will flip that switch for you. I know, I’ve tried.
A friend of mine suggested that I write something from my point of view because, surprisingly, I manage to give an outwards impression of having my shit together. I was shocked to hear this. And I find this comical, but I see her point. I’m functioning. I’ve adapted. I’m surprisingly okay. I think the medical term is “resilient”.
So, here it is.
My 21 Tips on Keeping Your Shit Together During Depression
1) Know that you’re not alone. Know that we are a silent legion, who, every day face the solipsism and judgement of Happy People Who Think We Just Aren’t Trying. There are people who are depressed, people who have been depressed, and people who just haven’t been hit with it yet.
2) Understand that the Happy People are usually acting out of some genuine (albeit misguided) concern for you, that it’s coming from a good place, even if the advice feels like you’re being blamed for your disease. Telling you these things makes them feel better, even if it makes you feel like shit. (If they insist on keeping it up, see #12.)
3) Enlist the help of a professional. See your doctor. You need to talk about the ugly shit, and there are people paid to listen and help you find your way to the light at the end of the tunnel.
4) Understand that antidepressants will only do so much. They’re useful, they’ll level you out and give you the time you need to figure out your own path to getting well. They can be helpful. There are lots to choose from. They may not be for you, and even if they are, they take some time to kick in. Conversely, they may not be for you. Work with your doctor.
5) Pick up a paintbrush, a pencil, an activity you got joy from in the past and re-explore that. Or, sign up for the thing you always wanted to try. There is a long history and link between depression and creativity. It’s a bright light of this condition, so utilize it to your best advantage.
6) Eat nutritionally sound, regular small meals. If you’re having trouble eating, try to focus on what you’d like to eat. I went through a whole six week episode of tomatoes and cream cheese on a bagel twice a day. Not great, but it was something – helpful context, I’m a recovered anorexic. Conversely, if all you want to do is scarf down crap, try to off-ramp it by downing a V-8 and doing #9 for 15 minutes, and see how you feel. Chucking your blood sugar all over hell’s half acre is going to make you feel worse.
7) While you’re doing #3, get some bloodwork done. If you’re low on iron or vitamin D, or if your hormone levels are doing the Macarena… these can all contribute to zapping your energy or switching your mood to Bleak As Hell.
8) If you’re in bed and the “insomnia hamsters”, as I like to call them, are on the wheel of your head, watch Nightly Business News on PBS. This has the effect of Nyquil. Swap out your coffee for herbal tea. If you just cannot sleep, try the next tip….
9) Learn how to meditate. Start by focusing on your breathing. Not sleep, not thoughts. In through the nose, out through the mouth. Meditation is focusing on being present in your body, not careening around in your brain. It may not be as good as sleep but it will give you some rest and recharge you.
10) Face a window as often as you can – at work, at home. Look out into the world. Watch. Observe. Try to find something you find pretty or interesting to focus on. And, handily remember that one in five of those people out there feel the way you do.
11) Cry. Better out than in. Sometimes it’s not convenient or career-enhancing to cry, so find a private place as best you can and let the tears go. Carry Kleenex and face wipes and extra concealer if you wear makeup. You can always claim allergies.
12) Any “friend” who resolutely believes that your depression is because you’re lazy, because you’re not trying hard enough, who blames you for not bootstrapping out of it- that friend needs to be cut off. Polite (#2) is one thing, but there is a limit. You don’t have to explain, you can just not respond. You feel badly enough, you don’t need their “assistance”.
13) Limit your time with people who drain you. You know who they are. Often you don’t have a choice- but you can put the meter on. And, subsequently, be aware of what you’re asking of those close to you.
14) Everyone has shit they’ve got to deal with. What you have been saddled with is your shit. Recognize, just as you’re not alone, you’re also not unique. The grass may look greener, you may be jealous or envious of others who don’t have to deal with depression, but you likely do not know everything that’s going on with them.
15) Let go or be dragged. This is an old Buddhist saying. It’s a very useful way to frame aspects of depression. Betrayal, anger, fear… letting go is a process – often a painful and difficult process – but it’s ultimately going to show you the path out of this terrible place. Repeating the mantra can help when you’re feeling gripped by these feelings.
16) Wear clothes that make you feel confident. It takes as much time to put on nice clothes as it does to put on sweatpants. You will want to wear the sweatpants. Fight the urge. The whole “look good/feel better” campaign isn’t limited to cancer and chemotherapy. Or women.
17) Avoid fictional drama and tragedy like the plague. No Grey’s Anatomy, no to The Notebook, or anything that won a Pulitzer prize. You’ve got enough going on In Real Life. Comedy only. Or trashy stuff. Old episodes of WonderWoman? I’ve got the box set. Mindless drivel, like the latest CGI blockbuster. Or clever, funny books. David Sedaris. Jenny Lawson. Fiction exists to elicit emotion, and the emotion you need to express most right now is laughter.
18) Simple exercise, if you can. It can be something as simple as taking the stairs up a flight, or walking around the block. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, it doesn’t have to involve climbing a mountain or running a marathon. Baby steps.
19) Depression will lie to you. Depression will try to tell you what others are thinking. That you are unloved and unworthy, that others think little of you or don’t care – or even wish you harm. You are not a psychic. Keep repeating that. “I am not a psychic”. Repeat. The only way to know what another person is thinking is to up and ask them.
20) If you are well and truly losing this battle, reach out to someone. I’ve been the random friendly-but-not-close person who has fielded the occasional outreach. I like to think I’m not judgemental and generally resourceful, and others have thought the same, so they called and asked. You know someone like me. And they will help you.
21) Forgive yourself. I’m writing out all these tips, and I can’t always muster the strength to even stick my nose outside, or walk up the stairs, or eat my vegetables. Today, I got outside for ten minutes. I will try again tomorrow. And I will try again the day after that.
This list will not cure you. This list will not flip on the happy switch. God, I wish it were that easy. The theme here is to not to unknowingly sabotage yourself. All these little things? Like your blood sugar, or watching nonstop episodes of House, or endless Try Harder lectures from your Perpetually Perky sister?
They all make dealing with depression just a tiny bit harder than it needs to be. And it’s hard enough, all on its own.
UPDATE: Wow, guys. Thank you. The feedback has been wonderful – all I wanted to set out to do was something helpful.
For those of you who want to see the original rant, Here it is.. http://www.diycouturier.com/post/41923259437/to-the-person-who-wrote-21-habits-…
And here’s the response to my response (?) – basically, after posting my retort, the happy people came at me with torches all over the interwebs.
Also, a few people have mentioned that having a critter is a great thing to keep you on track, that taking care of something and having something rely on you keeps you going. I went back and forth on including that, but for some, it’s just not feasible to have a cat or a dog… but my cat is my Prozac.
And, I wrote this in Canada, where we have universal health care. It breaks my heart that people don’t have access to professional support. You can sometimes find a community health centre, or sometimes your work benefits will have an employee support or assistance plan as part of your insurance. If you’re without benefits and hitting desperation, phone someone. Friend, family – even your local distress centre.
Stay well, my melancholic interweb friends…xoRR
Happy New Year! It feels so weird to be saying “Twenty Thirteen” instead of “Two Thousand and Twelve,” but also a lot easier. Although I suppose some people already were saying “Twenty Twelve.” Still, for me it’s something new and amazing.
New years often bring new beginnings, new adaptations, and changes. This blog is going to undergo some radical (as in fun, creative, and revolutionary) changes, and I’m hoping you are able to adapt with me. But I have been unhappy for a while and I couldn’t put my finger on it. I realized I was writing mostly to make you the reader happy. And since I’m codependent – like, to the max – I have to check those sorts of behaviors and head them off at the pass.
The definition of a blog is, first and foremost, an expression of self. To that end, I would like to ask you to suspend all your past notions of what this blog has been about. Just try to clear your mind. Please take on an attitude of curiosity and adaptability.
There will be some changes here. It might take some time to adjust, for both you and me. When I post it will be a post maybe about something I’ve learned at a meeting or from my sponsor, or something that’s happened to me that has caused me to question something in my life, or whatever. Hopefully, what I learn and what I question will also help you. But I can’t be responsible for you. Only you can do that.
Also, Fridays will be for Flash Fiction. That is, every Friday I will post a very short story (1,000 words or less) about anything I want. It’s Flash Fiction Friday! Yay! I hope you will enjoy that as much as I certainly will.
As we have closed out an old year and are embarking on a new year, I have asked myself these six questions, and maybe they will help you as well:
1. What have I done right this past year (in 2012)?
2. What tricky situations did I navigate well?
3. What were my accomplishments—big or small—last year? What worked well for me last year?
4. What attitudes have helped me last year?
5. How did I meet challenges and frustrations in ways that worked?
6. How did I nurture myself?
The answers to these questions may help you see your strengths and give you the courage, motivation, and commitment to reach higher and dig deeper in the upcoming year.
If any one faculty of our nature may be called more wonderful than the rest, I do think it is memory. There seems something more speakingly incomprehensible in the powers, the failures, the inequalities of memory, than in any other of our intelligences. The memory is sometimes so retentive, so serviceable, so obedient; at others, so bewildered and so weak; and at others again, so tyrannic, so beyond control! We are, to be sure, a miracle every way; but our powers of recollecting and of forgetting do seem peculiarly past finding out.
— Jane Austen, Mansfield Park
There are two memories I’d like to share with you today, and they both concern my dad. I’ll try to be brief, so you don’t fall asleep. 😉 My dad was a difficult person to live with. He was abusive to me verbally, emotionally, and I’m told physically, though I don’t remember the physical part. I’ve always prescribed to the belief that we do the best we can with the knowledge we have at the time. My dad’s father was also abusive; so that’s what he knew. And he didn’t yet know Jesus Christ, the ultimate Healer and binder of wounds.
On March 5, 1997, I prayed for Jesus to come into my heart and make it His dwelling place. That was remarkable on so many levels, but it’s not even the most remarkable event. Almost exactly six months to the day after I received Christ, my father prayed with me and I gave him his own large print Bible. He was 77 years old, and had Alzheimer’s for four years already, but this was a divinely appointed lucid moment when we prayed. I know I will see my dad in heaven when I die.
The other significant memory is three days before he passed on, which was December 14, 2000. All my family (I have five brothers and one sister) was gathered home from various parts of the states to be with Dad and say their goodbyes. We were keeping him home with hospice care.
Anyway, for some reason (divine appointment?) Dad and I had a rare moment alone. He turned to me, eyes quite lucid, remarkably so, and said, “I hope you don’t hate me for the rest of your life.”
I knew as clear as day he was asking for forgiveness. I didn’t even hesitate.
“No worries, Dad,” I said, “I love you.”
Just a couple things about this step. Some people, in their zeal to “come clean,” list every single person they think they have every harmed, including their children if their feelings got hurt when they were grounded, and things like that.
I am not responsible for other peoples’ unfulfilled desires. Simple as that. Other peoples’ expectations are not my responsibility unless I have helped to create them.
Also, willingness is key here. Some people find it helpful to divide their list into three parts: the people they are willing to make amends with, the people they might be willing to make amends with, and the people whey never will be willing to make amends with. As they work through the list, they find that some of the “mights” become “willings” and some of the “neverwills” become “maybes.”
Just something to chew on. It doesn’t have to be done perfectly. It just has to get done.
My need to control can show itself as a need to know exactly what’s going on, all the time. We cannot always know. Sometimes, I need to let things be and trust that clarity will come later, in looking back.
Just like in this painting, I see exactly what I need to see . . . for now. It’s okay. It’s already okay. If it doesn’t make perfect sense now, it’s not supposed to.
More will be revealed. Peace out.
What would you do if you found a note written by your daughter saying she had been sexually molested by a member of your church, a friend of the family? This is the terrible truth and problem that Issy and her parents, Zara and Sam Heymer must face as Christians.
This book is based on a true story, and it is not an easy read. What I mean to say is, it is about a young teen who is sexually abused for several years by a church member/close family friend and it takes place in Australia where apparently they do not have mandatory reporting laws. Issy’s Mom, Zara, struggles so much in her faith, wondering how God could allow such a thing to happen, and she feels a total failure as a mother. Sam, Issy’s father, is helpless himself’, as Issy will not allow him to touch her. Issy herself goes on total self-destruct for a while, and, although this reader determined to remember the promise of God: “Though the bud be bruised, there will be a flower…” at times it was very hard.
Because of the topic I would recommend this book only for adults and mature young adults who perhaps have been through the same thing.
I don’t mean to seem impartial, but I loved, loved, loved this book. I know, I know, tell you how I really think, huh? 😉 It’s just, in spite of the subject matter, in spite of the fact that I cried (a lot) at times . . . I could not put it down. I read the book in two days. You know, I’d want to skip out on being a mom if I was faced with all that had happened to my daughter as well. It’s so human. Wanmer doesn’t present her characters as super-Christians; you know the type? They never get mad at God, never doubt Him, wouldn’t even dare. Zara is breakable, and she breaks, yet God is the One who puts her AND Issy back together. God is the thread that binds the whole book together.
I was very challenged in my faith reading the book. I got mad at the church members with Zara. I didn’t understand. I don’t like change very much, either. 😉 So yes, I had to trust God a lot while I read the book, knowing it was based on true happenings.
I would highly recommend this book. In case it’s not obvious, I mean! 😀
Disclosure of Material: I received this book free from the publisher through theBookCrash.com book review program, which requires an honest, though not necessarily positive, review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s CFR Title 16, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Happy Friday! Peace out.