Today I want to talk to you all about managing depression. For those of you that don’t already know, I am diagnosed with “long term” depression. Basically meaning it’s is something I have been battling with for probably about 18 years now. I have learnt ways to manage it better, but it is always there. It’s an illness that I don’t see ever going away, maybe I’m wrong and it will. But I don’t see hoping for it too suddenly go away as helpful, I have to deal with the here and now. So managing depression is what I have to do.
I said I’ve had depression for 18 years, I came to that conclusion with a counsellor. After finally going to see a doctor 4 years ago, as for the previous 14 years my depression was hidden from the world. I hid it well. Looking back, there were definitely signs that people could have seen. Some ways that I acted at times, but when people did ask if I was alright. I was quick to say of course and put on a happy face.
Tell people you are struggling
That’s the reason I’m writing this post. Like a lot of men out there, I just don’t like talking about how I’m feeling. I think we should all know by now, that’s not a good things. If you are struggling, be it depression, stress, anxiety or anything your worried about. Finding someone to talk to is the best thing you can do. It’s a hell of a lot easier telling other people to do that, than doing it yourself though.
This is where I take a deep breath, and tell you I am really struggling at the moment. I’ve not used this platform for this before, and I’m not even sure how I feel about it. Or even if I will end up posting it. I’ve just picked up my phone and started typing, to get out of my own head for a bit. This isn’t a planned post, and I have no idea where it is going…
What depression means to me today
To this day, I still don’t talk about my depression a lot, and I still mostly hide it away. There are a few reasons for this. Probably at least once every day, even during the good times, a suicidal thought will appear. I don’t want to be telling people everyday, what’s going on in my head. I’d worry them to death. But I feel like I’ve got a pretty good handle on things, I’ve learnt to recognise when there’s a real problem forming, and I have strategies in place for “surviving depression”.
I use words like survive and battle, because to me that is what it feels like. My depression doesn’t come from a specific event or some trauma, for whatever reason it is just part of who I am. People have asked me in the past what depression is like, and to be honest I’ve always given a vague answer. Saying things I’ve heard other people say, rather than what it’s like for me. Things like being in permanent low mood, which isn’t true for me. Even at my lowest points, if I forced myself to do something I liked, I could be happy for an hour or 2.
Natalie was the first one to realise that, me acting in a hyperactive silly manner. Was a sure sign I was struggling, and that was my attempt at managing depression. It usually lead to making everyone around me getting angry, and was massively self destructive. I’m working on not letting things get that far, before talking to people. Managing depression for me is a constant work in progress, there is no super cute. There is no, I do this and then everything is better. But I have things in place that I would like to share with you now, I’m no doctor or expert, but this is what helps me.
My 5 tips for managing depression
- If you haven’t already, go see your doctor
- Build a support Network
- Try to improve your lifestyle
- Learn to manage negative thoughts
- Create a wellness toolbox
Point one is the obvious starting point, you need to seek help and any possible medication or counselling you might need. I take anti depressants, and have been through counselling and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) all of which helped me get to where I am today.
Building a support network is the big one, when it comes to managing depression. You can not do it all on your own. You need the help of supportive people, whether that be your spouse, parents or friends. Or a support group, or even people you’ve met on social media, whoever you feel comfortable confiding in. Having someone to talk to, is probably the biggest thing that will stop you doing something stupid. I have my people now, and it is the most important thing in my life.
Improving your lifestyle is an obvious, eat better, sleep betters exercise regularly, and it’s likely you will feel better. It’s easier said, than done of course, but keep trying.
Learn to manage negative thoughts
This is going to be my favourite bit! I often read things about “stopping” negative thoughts, and that can “eliminate” your depression. Maybe that works for some people, I don’t know. I wish I could just stop the thoughts in my head that tell me I’m worthless, that I’m failing, that I should just look myself. I really do. Whilst I can’t do that, I can manage them, and that’s what CBT taught me. Not magic ways to stop everything, but how to manage them. So I can function somewhat normally.
Knowing the signs that I’m starting to slip, and I need to talk to someone in that support network. Before it’s got to a point that it’s too late, and I’ve shut myself away. Being proactive, and making sure I make time for self care, and doing things I enjoy. For me personally the science behind depression I learnt through CBT, was a comfort. One of my major frustrations was I didn’t see a reason for being depressed. I couldn’t say this event happened, and that’s why I’m depressed. Learning that it is an illness, and all I can do is manage it helped me come to terms with depression and move forward.
Finally, create a wellness tool box. Which is basically just making a list of the things that make you happy, then having it on hand when you are feeling down. So you can quickly look at it, and choose something of off the list to do. In an attempt to make yourself feel better. This feels like it’s been a long post, so I’ll leave it there and talk more about the wellness tool box another time. It deserves its own post to be looked at in more detail.
I’d just like to say, that I am okay. I don’t know what this post is like, and I don’t much fancy reading it back. But I feel better for emptying my thoughts like this, if I do decide to post this, as always, thank you for reading.