Depression isn’t the same as feeling sad or unhappy. It’s more akin to living in a dark black hole where there is no light and no chance of light either. Everything seems hopeless to a depressed person. They feel useless and worthless and they often feel others would be better off without them. The future is bleak and the anguish can be so unbearable that for some, suicide may seem the only option to end the pain.
Small steps in the right direction are better than no steps. Celebrate every victory, no matter how small, even if it’s only the fact that you got out of bed at 3pm instead of 2pm – that’s a good start.
The more we do the better we feel. Research has proven this and this is part of every cognitive behavioural therapist’s plan for someone with depression – we call it “behavioural activation”. Getting someone who is depressed to make the tiniest of changes to their, often unhelpful, way of life is always a good start in the right direction.
Anything from taking a shower to walking the dog. Whatever you feel capable of doing, just that tiny push to do a little more than you are currently doing means success.
Depression is extremely debilitating and even keeping up with personal hygiene can be a huge effort. For some, just brushing their teeth is hard work.
Show yourself compassion
Being depressed can be compounded by the fact that there still seems to be a stigma around depression. People who have never experienced depression often don’t understand what it feels like to be depressed and might say something unhelpful like “Pull yourself together” or “Snap out of it”. It’s never that easy unfortunately and this will only make a depressed person feel even worse about themselves.
Don’t trust your thinking
If you have been diagnosed with depression, it’s vital to be aware that your thinking will be ‘off’. When I have experienced depression, I became very self critical. I felt everyone else was smarter and more capable than me. I also noticed everything that I did wrong and my ‘negative filter’ (noticing negatives and being more likely to interpret neutral berhaviours as negative) gained momentum, clouding everything I did and everything everyone else said and did. Accept that you are not your ‘normal self’ and cut yourself some slack.
Being depressed is a serious mental illness. It can be even more debilitating than a physical illness, yet sadly, mental illness is still not seen as the equal to physical illness. I think this is so shortsighted because, I know for sure that if I had to lose a limb or lose my mind, I would rather keep my sanity!
If you think you are depressed – if you have no get-up-and-go, if you feel low in mood and don’t enjoy things you used to, it might be time to seek help. Anti-depressants do work but it is also advisable to try talking therapy first. A good counsellor will know whether you will need talking therapy alone (such as CBT – cognitive behavioural therapy/psychotherapy) or whether you will need talking therapy and anti-depressants combined.