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One of the most difficult lessons I’ve learned in dealing with Depression is that it is okay, indeed, sometimes best, to ask for help. Now, I imagine at some point, as a very young child perhaps, I had no problem asking for help. But, somewhere along the line, asking for help got equated in my mind with weakness, with ignorance, with failure. And thus, I would much rather suffer in silence, smiling on the surface, and have nobody know that inside I was spiraling down the emotional drain. Sound familiar?

In reality, far from being an act of cowardice or weakness, I’ve found that asking for help takes courage. And it takes trust.

So, if you’re one of those “I’d rather ford a river full of crocodiles in a kayak than ask for help”-types, too, how’ve you overcome this attitude?

Here’s how I’d recommend getting a start:

1) Friends can be pretty intuitive. Try asking one to have a cup of coffee / tea / walk around a random beautiful outdoor feature with you. And then, when asked how you are, be honest. A forthright, “not so good” can lead to a sympathetic ear. And simply telling your struggles can be a relief, especially if you, like me, are a “bottle it up”-type.

2) Sometime when you’re feeling great, make a list of lifelines: who to go to for help and how to reach them, a hotline to call (do some internet research here), perhaps a Depression crisis centre in your area, maybe a mentor or spiritual leader if you have one. Keep this list somewhere easy to get to in a time of crisis. The simple act of creating this list can make you feel less alone.

Finally, if you’re not sure that this is such a good idea, if you feel that you’re probably better off staying mute, why not give it a try? Everyone is different… if you find that asking for help backfires and leaves you feeling worse, than abandon the experiment. What you may find, though, is that you have more support than you know, you are more loved than you thought, and you are not alone.

Being Depressed can make you feel very isolated. Asking for help is a great way to learn that Depression is not abnormal or insurmountable. And it gets easier.

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And now, a Smile Inducer from The Muppets!

 

“The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft a-gle…”

 

The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft a-gle…”

 

For the non-Scottish among us, what Robbie Burns was saying is that regardless of planning and preparing, and despite the best of intentions, our plans “gang aft a-gle” (often go astray). What does this mean, when you’ve bravely battled your Depression – remembering to breathe, getting your exercise, proper diet, asking for help from your support group, getting enough rest etc. etc. etc. – and along comes the blackness and just swallows you whole, reducing you to a tearful mass of non-function?

 

It means you’re human.

 

It means you’re not going to win every time.

 

Acknowledging this is important. Because the last thing I want to do when sunk in a deep Depression is beat myself up for being depressed. This only exacerbates matters.

 

So, the next time you find yourself spiraling downward and you’re not able to head it off, try not to worry about the depression itself. Try not to blame yourself. Every warrior gets tired. So, take a break. Curl up with a book for an evening. Cry if you need too. Keep breathing. Because guess what? Every time you make it through a depressive episode and out the other side, every time you can hang in there until you can function again is a win.

 

And just because I know your appetite was whetted by that tantalizing bit o’ the Scottish bard above, here’s the entirety of the poem in it’s original form. Try reading it aloud in your best Scottish brogue:

 

To a Mouse

 

BY ROBERT BURNS

 

On Turning up in Her Nest with the Plough, November, 1785

 

Wee, sleeket, cowran, tim’rous beastie,
O, what a panic’s in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty,
Wi’ bickerin brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an’ chase thee
Wi’ murd’ring pattle!

 

I’m truly sorry Man’s dominion
Has broken Nature’s social union,
An’ justifies that ill opinion,
Which makes thee startle,
At me, thy poor, earth-born companion,
An’ fellow-mortal!

 

I doubt na, whyles, but thou may thieve;
What then? poor beastie, thou maun live!
A daimen-icker in a thrave
’S a sma’ request:
I’ll get a blessin wi’ the lave,
An’ never miss ’t!

 

Thy wee-bit housie, too, in ruin!
It’s silly wa’s the win’s are strewin!
An’ naething, now, to big a new ane,
O’ foggage green!
An’ bleak December’s winds ensuin,
Baith snell an’ keen!

 

Thou saw the fields laid bare an’ waste,
An’ weary Winter comin fast,
An’ cozie here, beneath the blast,
Thou thought to dwell,
Till crash! the cruel coulter past
Out thro’ thy cell.

 

That wee-bit heap o’ leaves an’ stibble
Has cost thee monie a weary nibble!
Now thou’s turn’d out, for a’ thy trouble,
But house or hald,
To thole the Winter’s sleety dribble,
An’ cranreuch cauld!

 

But Mousie, thou art no thy-lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!

 

Still, thou art blest, compar’d wi’ me!
The present only toucheth thee:
But Och! I backward cast my e’e,
On prospects drear!
An’ forward tho’ I canna see,
I guess an’ fear!

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Get Out!

Ah, the great outdoors.  Ah, the not-so-great-but-still-better-than-inside neighbourhood block.

One of the most effective coping mechanisms I’ve found in fighting Depression is simply getting out – literally, going outside for a walk – as often as I can.  I work in an office, and find that I have a much more tolerable afternoon if go for a walk outside the building in the small park adjacent during my lunch hour.  Here’s a little exercise I use:
While walking, breathe in slowly and deeply, counting to four (I time my counts with my steps).  Then, hold for a count of four / four steps.  Finally, exhale slowly for a count of four / four steps.  Repeat. (You should adjust the count according to your own breathing rate — but make sure your exhale is as long as your inhale, and your holding breath is not so long that you gasp for breath afterwards).

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Doing this for 15-20 minutes (of a 30 minute lunch break) really clears my head, helps me to undue stress from my work morning, and gets my energy circulating after being at my desk for several hours.

Being more relaxed and clear of mind on a daily basis is a great way to increase your chances of heading off the downward spirals.

Mood Panda and Friends: On Quantitative Monitoring (QM)

One of the best tools I’ve found for fighting Depression is to head that slavering, rabid bull off at the pass, before it completely flattens me. And the best tool I’ve found for prevention is monitoring. Now, this may sound like a lot of work, frequently monitoring your emotional state, your moods, but I’ve found it worthwhile.

I really enjoy the Mood Panda app (available for both Android and iPhone). This colourful, easy-to-use app allows you to quickly rate your mood on a scaled of 1-10, record it with an optional brief comment, and view the results in the form of a graph, chart or a diary. You can also compare your reports over the last year, see how the rest of the world is faring, and “follow” other pandas, leaving them hugs or words of encouragement.

All well and good for smart phone users, but what if I’m not? I hear you ask. QM’s feasible without the tech, too, of course. Calendars/diaries/journals are useful for recording mood. Make a habit of it. Is there something you do regularly several times a day? Why not add one more step to it, and jot down how you’re feeling (I like the simplicity and rapidity of the 1 to 10 scale)? I’ve found that noting patterns in my emotional state can give me an advanced warning…and let me know when I need to pull out my paintbox of tricks to stop a downward spiral.

Additionally, utilizing frequent QM to note my emotional state helps me stay in the present, worrying about the past and future less. Dwelling in the past and having anxiety about the future are big triggers to Depression for me, so anything that helps me avoid that wins in my books.

What QM methods have you used? Have they yielded positive results?

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“A pearl is a beautiful thing that is produced by an injured life. It is the tear [that results] from the injury of the oyster. The treasure of our being in this world is also produced by an injured life. If we had not been wounded, if we had not been injured, then we will not produce the pearl.”

Stephan Hoeller

Not a doctor, just a sufferer…

Hello Folks!

Before I get too deep down in it, here, I just want to clear up any budding misconceptions:

1) I am not a doctor, a psychologist, or any kind of expert on Depression.  I’ve been dealing with my Depression since I was a teenager, so I’m speaking from my own experiences.  Your mileage, of course, may vary.

2) I am not Amish, a Christian Scientist, nor an adherent of any of the ‘faith healing’ paths that forbid use of medication as evidence of distrust in deity.  I’m not advocating that anyone refuse medication for Depression, or stop taking said, without consultation with a medical professional.  I’ll speak on why medication doesn’t work for me in another post, but by all means – if the meds are working for you, great!  I’ve heard they can make things a lot easier.

3) I have no agenda other than to record and present what works for me in living with Depression, on the chance that someone out there could use some ideas, encouragement, or just to know that s/he is not alone in struggling.

So, please enjoy this blog and feel free to comment at will.  I do ask that we be kind and gentle to each other.  No one is alone.