Tag Archives: sadness

Give Depression the Bird

depression photo

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Give Depression the Bird

Let’s get one thing straight. Depression is real. It is not something to be trivialized, snapped out of, or sucked up. In fact, trying to do this often makes it worse. I know, because I’ve been there. I would have loved to have been able to give myself a shake and a rueful smile and reset my mind. Wouldn’t it be great if you could just instantly be happy? Like those heat packs you snap, shake and they heat up? Super cool. And totally ridiculous.

Depression appears in many ways, shapes and forms, and no two people get it exactly the same. Not only does this make it hard to treat, it makes it hard for people to understand. It can’t be put in a box like other illnesses and diseases. There are symptoms, but responses to those symptoms vary. It isn’t a disease, so medication doesn’t work as well as we wished it would, although it does work well for a lot of people.

Not only is depression very real, but it is incredibly misunderstood, and surrounded by an almost palpable stigma. People who have depression are labelled. Crazy, lazy, not trying hard enough, weak. It doesn’t matter if the people wielding these words are trying to help or not, they are all labels, and they are stopping people reaching out for the help they need.

The very way we think about, and react to depression needs to change. And it needs to change fast!

When you think of depression what picture springs to mind? I see a girl curled into a foetal position in a darkened room, sobbing. And this picture is what I thought people with depression did all the time. I was so incredibly wrong.

Last year my husband gave me an ultimatum. Be happier or go and talk to someone. And by someone he meant one of those freaky head shrinking people…

I know that sounds harsh, but he was trying to make me see what he did. You see, up until that point I was convinced I was fine. Tired, but fine. I wasn’t crazy. And I couldn’t have depression! Everything I knew about depression said you had to be constantly sad, crying on the sofa, or suicidal, and I was none of those things. Oh I cried a lot, but more often I was irritable and cranky. (Did you know that was a sign of depression? Me neither)! So the couple of times ‘depression’ crossed my mind I quickly dismissed it.

Was I tired? Absolutely! Sad? Frequently. Did I feel like I wasn’t achieving much even when to others I was doing incredibly well? Only every day. But I wasn’t depressed! Heck no. Depression was for weak people. For people who had suffered massive loss or pain in their lives. For people with a rough childhood, or adulthood. I hadn’t had any of that. I grew up in a loving family. I have an amazing husband and a healthy, happy (albeit very stubborn) child, and I have had a relatively pain free life. And yet the more I looked at it, the more I realised the truth.

I was depressed. And I had been for quite a long time.

During a discussion (on why I couldn’t possibly have depression), my husband told me I seemed to be sad from the minute I woke up, till the minute I went to bed. It took me a while to process that. I couldn’t imagine what living with that must have been like. And that was the moment. Right there. That was the moment I decided I was going to be happy. Whatever it took.

I started researching depression, and working out what made me tick. I found ways to head my bouts of sadness off at the pass, to make sure I focused on my responses to different situations, and how I could react to them differently, and I used any hacks I could to make sure each day I was choosing happiness over sadness.

Scientists have proven that just like paths in a forest, the pathways of the mind can be worn in, the more traffic they get. And when sadness has been your companion for a long time, then those paths of sadness are the well-worn ones. They are straight and wide, and you are comfortable there in an odd way, because it’s familiar. The happiness pathways by contrast, are like little deer tracks. Narrow, precarious, and easy to fall off.

The biggest key to battling depression is to make sure the path that’s getting the most traffic, is happiness. Ever heard the expression ‘fake it till you make it’? Well, that’s how I started. When I woke up, and whenever I thought about it during the day, I smiled. It wasn’t a true smile. I wasn’t happy, and I didn’t want to smile, but smile I did.

Some days I even pushed my mouth upwards with my fingers, all the while wanting to cry. I must have looked as crazy as I felt. But you know what? It got easier. I got better at it. And I started feeling happier.

Your body is a pretty amazing thing. Did you know that every time you smile your brain releases feel good neurotransmitters – dopamine, endorphins and serotonin? Endorphins act as a natural pain reliever, serotonin release brought on by your smile serves as an anti-depressant, and smiling activates the release of neuropeptides that work toward fighting off stress.

Smiling literally makes us happier.

Smiling is one of the most well-known, and easiest to implement, of many ‘happiness hacks’ out there. My books ‘Finding Happy’, ‘Choosing Happy’, and ‘Keeping Happy’, due out mid-2017, will focus on discovering many other hacks, and implementing them in your life. Some are great for people with clinical depression, others are better for people who struggle with sadness, but all the books will be available for free on kindle when they are first published.

I was lucky. Thanks to my amazing husband I was forced to face my sadness before it became the crushing force that so many people have in their lives. I still had the energy (most days), to work on myself, and to focus on choosing better ways. Many people don’t. And this is where medication helps. Because when you can’t move off your bed, can’t shake the feeling of despair and overwhelming sadness, and you think about death far more often than you should, choosing to be happy is just not an option.

Medication provides your mind with enough space to see those fraudulent thoughts for what they are- thoughts not facts, and to look at options to help you heal. It’s not for everyone, and it’s not without its side effects, but it does provide relief from the worst symptoms of depression.

Medication is not the only thing you can try either. There are the talking therapies such as CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), which is a type of psychology that helps people change unhelpful or unhealthy habits of thinking, feeling and behaving. It is practical and involves self-help strategies. And research suggests that if you do 13 or more sessions it can work just as well as medication for some people. You can even do CBT at home.

Even things like routines and goal setting, eating healthily with lots of omega 3 fatty acids, getting enough sleep, walking in nature, and challenging negative thoughts can help with depression. Exercise (yes the dreaded E word), can even have similar effects on the brain as anti-depressants.

There are so many options out there for anyone suffering from depression or sadness, that sometimes I think just diagnosing depression is the hard part. It certainly took me long enough (5 years I suspect..) and even then it was only my husband intervening that really pushed me to see it- and fight it.

These are some of the main symptoms of depression. How many did you know? Some people get a few, some get them all. Everyone is different. But they are certainly not as cut and dried as I used to think.

• Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness
• Fatigue and decreased energy
• Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
• Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
• Irritability, restlessness
• Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
• Overeating or appetite loss
• Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment
• Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings
• Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts, or self-harm
• Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions

Beyond Blue says ‘you may be depressed if, for more than two weeks, you’ve felt sad, down or miserable most of the time, or have lost interest or pleasure in usual activities, and have also experienced several of the signs and symptoms listed (on their page).

Depression symptoms can also be caused by conditions such as thyroid disease, vitamin D deficiency, and other medical problems. Make sure your doctor does full blood tests to rule these and many other things, out first.

Recognising I had depression was a turning point in my life. I’m smiling as I write this, and I can see the myriad ways in which I’ve changed over the past year. I choose to laugh when my daughter does something silly instead of scold. I’ve learnt ways to make myself happy on a daily basis-before the sadness and apathy take hold, and I’ve learnt how to block that annoying voice in my head that wishes me anything but the peace and happiness I so desire.

Don’t get me wrong, I still have bad days where I have to remind myself to smile. Where I chant my mantra like an actual crazy person to stop my mind turning over conversations that haven’t happened, and futures that will never be. I still have to think about my reactions, swallow my retorts, and examine my thoughts, to see if I can choose a happier path, but it is getting easier and I am getting better at it all the time.

Because I refuse to live my life in sadness. I refuse to let something as intangible as depression steal my laughter, my dreams and my love of life, and turn them into endless days of melancholy.

I choose to be happy!

And I desperately want you to choose happiness too.

I know life sucks sometimes. There are usually patches where it sucks a lot! But when you’ve had depression or even been ‘down’ for an extended period of time, I think we forget how to focus on, and choose those things that make us happy. We forget to try. Because being happy doesn’t necessarily come naturally, and as spontaneously as people make out. You have to strive for it, search for it, and grab it with both hands when you find it.

But you don’t have to do it alone. If 350 million people worldwide (almost 5% of the worlds population), suffer from depression, how many of those around you do you think may also be silently struggling?

Please, if you, or someone you know is struggling with depression, reach out and talk to someone. There is help out there. And for every person who says #ihavedepression another person will find the strength to seek help. And slowly but surely depression will become just another cold to be cured.

And that’s why I’m writing this post. Even though I’m scared of what people will think. Even though it’s taken me a month to hit publish. Even though I don’t want to be labelled. More than anything, I want to give people the courage to choose happiness for themselves. Someone did it for me, and I hope you can do it for someone you know.

I would love to hear your thoughts on depression (whether you have it or not), as part of research for my upcoming books. Please complete the anonymous survey, and then share it on your Facebook or Twitter page, to help raise awareness, give depression the bird, and #endstigma for good.

If you don’t feel you can talk to friends or family, there are some wonderful organisations who can help – even if you want to remain anonymous. The sites below will give you information on depression, hotlines to ring to speak to people who know what you’re going through, therapist directories, and self-help activities you can do at home.

Hold onto hope. You are not alone, and you can beat this!

This is a guest post written by Heidi Farrelly. You can find out more about her here: Heidi Farrelly

Surviving Loss: You always have a choice

loss and choice

 

Surviving Loss: You always have a choice

When you lose something important it can really knock you for six and change your ‘landscape’ immediately. Illness, death, the end of a relationship…there are many surprises that life sends all of us. I have been through experiences that have left long lasting impressions. At the time, the pain felt unbearable, a searing inescapable pain.  A time when I would have done anything to fast forward life so that I could feel better again.

I wouldn’t wish those times on anyone but I thought it might be a good idea to write a post with tips on what to do to survive those awful times.

When you feel overwhelmed as if you cannot take anymore, remind yourself that you are more resilient than you realise. You can either either sink or swim. Sinking won’t do any good so focus on swimming!

Learning how to swim

Tell yourself that you will get through it. You are strong. You are brave and you CAN do it. You are not going to let this event destroy you. Focus on what is possible…

 

Be philosophical

Everything happens for a reason. You may not know the reason and it may seem completely unfair but looking at life in a philosophical manner will help your mindset, help you cope better.

Post traumatic growth

Every hardship in life teaches you something. All those tears and times when you stayed hidden under the duvet have helped to make you stronger and learn skills that will make you more resilient in the future. Unfortunately no one escapes suffering, we all get out turn. It’s not personal – it’s just the way life is.

Look after yourself

It’s so tempting to just go ‘mad’ and indulge in all the things that won’t make us better in the long term but might help in the short term. The urge is to drown our sorrows. There are no quick fixes. Focus on eating right, getting some exercise (great for stress) and don’t overdo it on the alcohol. Strive for balance and show yourself the compassion you deserve. Make time for yourself. You will have good days and bad days, learn to treat yourself kindly and patiently.

Don’t isolate yourself

The worst thing you can do it hide away. People are far more caring than you may realise but you will only find this out if you risk it and reach out. Maintain your connections with others. This can be a life saver when you are going through a time time. We all need emotional support. Everyone is bumbling through life, trying to figure it all out.

Do what you love

A sad or stressful event will drain you as it encompasses a lot of negative energy. Make sure you find ways to introduce some positive energy into your life – seeing movies, listening to music, watching a comedy, playing with animals, going for a walk etc..

Make a list of things you love doing and make time for them! Keep your mind busy and off your problems.

Keep busy

Deal with the things you need to, but once that has been put into action, try to keep busy instead of wallowing and overthinking. This will lead to self pity and negative thinking and you will feel worse. Don;t give your mind time to allow those negative, self critical and/or fearful thoughts to pester you and affect your mood. Your mind is very good at churning out thoughts – get used to dismissing them…having a thought does not mean it is true or that it deserves any attention.

Life rarely goes as planned but it doesn’t mean your life is over. Be patient, as the days pass you will find things easier. Use the above tips to help you and if you find that you are continuing to struggle, it may be useful to speak to a therapist/mental health professional to make sense of things.

Mandy X

 

 

 

 

 

 

The quickest routes to unhappiness

 

routes to unhappiness

thoughtsonlifeandlove.com

The quickest routes to unhappiness

We can often be our own worst enemies, engaging in behaviours that lead us down routes to unhappiness. Here are the most common ways that we end up unhappy:

Overthinking

The more time you have to worry endlessly about something, the more likely you are to feel unhappy. Rumination tends to lead us to negative thinking and a whole lot of “what if” thinking. If you find yourself going over the same topic in your mind without looking for an active solution – distract yourself. When you are in your mind, you are in enemy territory. Learn to become a better ‘thought manager’. Distinguish between real (the car has broken down) and hypothetical (“what if…”) thinking. Ask yourself if your worry is something you can/can’t control and take action if there is something you can do. Worry in itself is wasted energy. It’s a myth that it keeps you safe and prepared. Life is uncertain – accept it.

Making comparisons

Comparing yourself to others is never a good idea, especially if you compare yourself in a negative way. You don’t really know what is going on in someone else’s life. Stop focusing on them and focus on your own life and where you want to be. The less you focus and compare, the happier you will be – it’s that simple.

Living by too many rules

The more rules you tend to live by, the more anxious and unhappy you are likely to be. The more rules, which often take the form of “if this…then that”, the more often they will be broken – leading to tension and anxiety. We all have ‘rules for living’. One of mine is: If I don’t please others, they won’t like me. This rule for living leads me to agree to do things I often don’t want to do or don’t really have the time for. This leads me to feeling time pressure and I feel less happy as a result. The more flexible you can be in your thinking the better…let the rules go.

Chasing the wrong things

When we feel under threat, we look for immediate ways to self soothe and feel better. This could be alcohol, drugs, shopping, having illicit affairs and so on. This works for a short while but the original threat usually returns and then we turn to the negative unhelpful behaviour once again. Research suggests that the things that tend to make us happy include experiences, friends and family rather than material possessions. Spending time with others, bonding and connecting, releases the chemical oxytocin – a long lasting ‘happy hormone’ that the body releases. Get your priorities straight and have a plan and a direction.

Living with no purpose

Have you set yourself clear short term and long term goals? A little structure in life and a sense of purpose can do wonders for self esteem and confidence, thereby increasing happiness levels. Make sure you have something to work towards and check regularly that you are on track and going in the right direction. Help others, donate to a charity and spread some kindness in the world. It leads to happiness.

Living in the past or the future

Get back to being present in your life. When we live in the past or we live in the future, we aren’t fully engaged with the current moment and this is the moment of ‘power’. Learn to be more mindful and really enjoy where you are – the physical environment around you.

Try This:

Focus on 5 things you can see, 4 things you can hear, 3 things you can touch, 2 things you can smell and 1 thing you can taste. Relish the moment.

The above definitely challenge your ability to be happy – make an effort to stop doing them and you might just realise that happiness is possible.

Mandy X

Don’t despair

 

despair

Don’t despair

Life can certainly get on top of us all at times. I know I get days when I feel like nothing is going right and everything is awful. That’s normal and it’s a horrid place to be. The trick is to give yourself a time limit. Self pity and wallowing is fine, even necessary, but after 2-3 days it’s time to take hold of your wayward thoughts and focus on climbing back out of that depressed hole you have dug for yourself.

Yep, sometimes life sucks and it can truly feel as if you are completely alone in what you are going through but you can take solace in the fact that we all get those times. We are all just good at hiding it from each other. It’s okay to feel like you have had enough. Despite all my psychological training I have not found a way to prevent life from getting to me at times.

We can easily go off track and begin to focus on everything that isn’t working and give in to our insecurities. Remind yourself that it is just a frame of mind, not necessarily the reality. You may feel that you aren’t loved or that you are unimportant but more often than not, the reality is not that way at all. It is our thinking that needs adjusting.

Write a list of all the good things you have in your life. Write a list of all your good qualities – what do you like about yourself? These can be physical attributes or personality characteristics.

At times, it’s not about having what you want ‘its about wanting what you have. Focusing on what you don’t have or looking at your perceived lack is never going to help you to feel better. Do what will work – force yourself to think about what is going right for you, no matter how small and build on these small successes.

Also – force yourself to DO more. Even a small thing like walking the dog when you don’t feel like it or getting out of bed one hour earlier. DO it – be strong. Talk to the strong part of you and take back control. You are in control of your life, not your thoughts.  Don’t be so hard on yourself. You are wonderful..you are amazing…believe this at all costs. Mandy X

positive affirmations