Dealing with Depression: A Letter to My Depressed Self.
I have a confession, up until surgery, for the last two or so years, I spent a considerable amount of time contemplating taking my life. It wasn't because I had a bad life, I was acutely aware of how much I have to be grateful for - but I just couldn't feel it. The pain, tiredness, stress from hospital trips, having to manage work, took its toll. I was worried that my friends thought I was boring, with nothing interesting or positive to say and I was terrified that even though my work was supportive, my team were secretly plotting how to let me go.
My physical condition was only heightening (or causing) the problem - inflammation is heavily linked to depression and my body was in a state of chronic inflammation as a result of the disease. In addition, I had hormone fluctuations, that had me on the phone to suicide helplines days before my period, digestive problems that were affecting my nutrient intake leaving me feeling weak and unwell, the negative affects of too much cortisol due to being constantly stressed and the continuous insomnia which left me crying as I battled to get up for work.
Post surgery, my recovery from depression has felt like a weight being lifted. Though the pain has not completely disappeared, my energy levels are noticeably better and I suddenly feel motivated, inspired, energised and hopeful. This is wonderful, but also scary. Now I know how good I can feel, I've realised just how depressed I felt and deep down, I'm terrified of returning to that place. Yet, there have been days or weeks since my surgery when I've felt defeated, low and depressed - it's nothing near what I was encountering before and I've been able to manage it. It's left me thinking, once I come out on the other side, that I need a tool kit for dealing with depression, on the days that I feel rough, to help me get through it quicker. So below is a letter with self help ideas for depression, for whenever I need it and I hope some of it helps you too.
So I know you're feeling shit today. I know you're fragile, tired, you want to cry at your desk, the train passing you by makes you yearn for an end, you want to rest, you want to sleep, you can't find your purpose, you're scared you'll never really make it. But this will pass. This will all pass, like clouds in the sky and you will see the blue again. Some days not all of these things will work, some days everything will work and some days nothing will work at all, and in that case I suggest you hold out, be kind to yourself and get some rest as soon as possible, but if you feel you can, try thinking about the following...
- Have you slept? Remember what you're like when you're really tired - the world seems black to you, you can't think of any good thoughts, you can't see the hope or feel any inspiration. It's okay, this is not you. It's the biological affects of sleep deprivation on the brain. Once you're home, try to get to sleep as early as you can. Don't feel bad for it, your body cannot perform on this little amount of energy.
- Are you due on? In two weeks? Yep, it'll be early, it always is. Don't dismiss it - the days you feel the worst are always a week or 10 days before your period, so expect it and realise this is probably a lot to do with your hormones and try not to hold on to the thoughts in your head, they're not real - they are a symptom of PMS.
- Listen to a Podcast in the morning whilst you're getting ready for work. Listen to one that you find inspiring, motivational or feel good. Headspace Radio is always a good option, but there are loads of recommendations out there - just google what you're interested in. Podcasts take you out of yourself because you become absorbed in someone else's conversation and life, they offer new perspectives and often leave you thinking and energised.
- Light a candle, remember when you were super depressed? You'd wake up, make a green tea, light a candle and put it in the bathroom whilst you showered. I have no idea why, but it was comforting. Candles look pretty and make you feel cosy.
- Make a tea, green tea has always gives you a light, warming vibe. Make yourself a cup or if you have time, make a pot. Sit by the window, watch the world go by and watch the steam catch in the natural light, you've always found that mesmerising and comforting, you weirdo.
- Meditate, in any form. Sit and focus on your breath, the movement of your chest going up and down. Or if you can't focus doing it alone, use a Headspace one, maybe from their SOS pack or something from YouTube. You could also try some mantras or positive affirmations, ifyou're talking to yourself then the negative chatter will fall into the background. If you're too distracted for any of these, hold down one nostril and breathe - this will half your breathing rate and heart rate and will immediately calm you down.
- Don't drink more coffee. I know coffee is your go to comfort thing (despite it giving you pain!), but it also heightens your anxiety. If you need one, have a small cortado and leave it there, because often you end up feeling worse and more stressed, anxious and down after caffeine on a bad day. I've listed some nice replacements you can buy to give yourself a feel good buzz further on.
- Text a friend, better yet, call, even better - go out with a friend. You know who understands how to talk you through your low moods. If you can't face talking to someone on the phone or in person, whatsapp them and start an honest conversation. Talking through how you're feeling allows you to step back and explain your feelings to others in a way that they can understand and I always find you understand them yourself better by the end of it. Don't forget, we are social creatures - we're not designed to be alone. The energy of others is good for us and lifts us out of our own minds, even if you don't want to talk, watch a film together, go to the cinema. Just try to be with people if you can.
- That leads me on to... go watch a movie. The cinema is always a nice thing to do. If you can afford it, go to an independent one, because they always feel a little luxurious. Get yourself some of your favourite snacks and watch a feel good movie or at least one that's not full of guns, violence, possessed people and drugs. That probably won't help. Don't worry if there's no one around to go with you, taking yourself off to the cinema during the day is a lovely and indulgent treat for yourself. I understand in the evening it might make you feel a bit lonely, so you could always opt to watch a film at home instead. But getting out and in a comfy fun environment will be good for you.
- Nourish yourself, go get some really lovely food. If you're in town, find a health spot and get yourself a nutritious meal that leaves you feeling satisfied and like you're doing your body good, get a comforting healthy hot drink, like a turmeric latte, vegan hot chocolate, or match latte or maybe get a smoothie or vegan shake. Get some of your favourite sweet treats, a vegan cheesecake, raw chocolate or dairy free ice cream.
- Read a trashy fantasy novel. Vampires, wizards, witches, kids with special powers, werewolves. You know your weakness. You love fantasy books because they provide you with escapism, no matter how badly they are written. Take yourself to the nearest book shop, go find the teenage fantasy section and geek out.
- Buy some power books. You've bought 'self-help' and business books for years, but the other day you did good. You were tired, in pain and emotional, so you got to work and ordered yourself two motivational books written by some badass female entrepreneurs and writers. Just the act of buying these gave you hope and made you feel like you were progressing and it gave you that 'I've just bought something' rush of dopamine.
- Buy some books on mental health. Mental health memoirs are everywhere right now and they're really bloody helpful. Remember how much you related to Matt Haig in Reasons to Say Alive? They help you feel less alone, work through your own stuff through reading their stories and are even funny. Try Mad Girl by Bryony Gordon next, I've heard good things.
- Exercise. I know when you're really really down this can be a struggle to get up and do. But please try, just make a start, give yourself 5 minutes and see how you go. If you don't have the energy to do something more vigorous, do some yoga. I know your brain is probably mush right now and you can't think of any moves, so get on YouTube and just pick a yoga video because you always feel better after those. Yoga will calm you down, quieten your brain and just give you a bit of self-love and rest - remember, you've never felt bad after yoga, only good. If you can, do a a little more - maybe try doing a work out for abs or legs, it's short, gets you moving and you always feel the difference physically afterwards. This will make you feel rewarded, strong and will give you a release of feel good hormones.
- Buy something, anything really. Maybe not something that's like £100 and will leave you feeling riddled with guilt or you have to get from Oxford Street (bad idea). Maybe get yourself a small present that you associate with feel good moments. A new mug, some props for your shoots, a cushion for the bed, a cosy jumper, a throw for the sofa, that thing you've had your eye on, a plant, even a course!
- Get outside, sometimes this is half of the battle. Sometimes your home can just feel like an extension of your brain and the walls vibrate with your negative thoughts. Find some green space. Go for walk at the nearest park or just down a road with lots of trees. Green actually has a positive affect on the brain, so go find some.
- Book or think about booking a holiday. If you're out of money, then don't actually book one right now! But looking into holidays has been shown to increase feelings of well being and positivity, because you are planning something positive, for the future and a rest. What can you look forward to or work towards?
- Write a list of all the things you're grateful for. This might be hard in the beginning, but persevere, you'll be surprised how your list grows. This has been shown time and time again to help people experience feelings of well being and change their perspectives on life.
- Remember that podcast you listened to? By that really successful female entrepreneur? She said everyone has to be a bit shit in the beginning, everyone starts somewhere. Push through the shit bit, stop comparing yourself and feeling defeated, don't give up.
- Just. Keep. Going. This too will pass.