What Do You Do To Fight The Blues?

Busy-man

Do you ever look back at a version of yourself from a few years ago and say, “how the hell did I used to do ALL of that?” Maybe you were running around your house like a mad person scrambling to get your kids out the door for school followed by unloading the dishwasher, hopping in the shower, making coffee for the road and then heading into work. After a busy day (regardless of the job), you come home to your second job of “parenthood” and tend to all of it’s often unpredictable physical and emotional demands. You also kept up with emails and making/going to appointments. You made dinner, or at least took the time to figure out what to do about it, you went grocery shopping and took the car in for repair. You settled a health insurance conflict, which took months to resolve, and you frequently stopped by your parents house to do the laundry and clean up a bit since they were both not as spy as they once were. MAYBE you were even able to squeeze in a little “you” time and go for a walk, or have coffee with a friend. Just maybe, you were able to manage something along those lines in. Regardless, you were able to “do it all”, or at least it seems that way upon reflection.

Perhaps you were doing all of those things even while you were living with depression. That may give you even more reason to ask yourself in wonderment, “how?” I have moments when I look back about 7-8 years ago while I was an undergrad student. I have no idea how I found the energy to live the lifestyle I did. I was depressed then, too! I was a full time student and worked nearly 40hours per week as a waitress. If you’ve ever waited tables, you know exactly how exhausting it tends to be. It truly tests your temperament and your patience. I used to go out after work ALL of the time, too. My schedule was all sorts of screwed up with me often working until 2am, getting home around 3 and not falling asleep until around 4 or 5. After a busy, chaotic shift, it was often difficult to wind down. I’d sleep until 1pm and scramble to accomplish as much as I could, including homework before having to return to work at 4:30pm. My days off consisted of classes, studying and taking care of any appointments or running errands. Just thinking about all of that exhausts me, but I somehow feel a sense of accomplishment about it.

We do that don’t we? We feel proud of ourselves when we’re able to accomplish things. Naturally, our energy levels are higher when we’re young, so go ahead and cut yourself some slack for no longer being able to work all day, party all night and do it all over again the next day (sans hangover, too!) We set long-term goals like getting a promotion at work, losing weight, going back to school/graduating, being an active member of a commendable cause, writing a book, traveling the world etc. The list is infinite. But as we’ve learned or are currently coming to understand – things don’t always work out as planned. Things just keep “coming up”, don’t they? It’s disappointing when you realize you need to put something off for a “less hectic” time. That sense of disappointment can hang us up a bit, but we continue on with our daily responsibilities.

But what about when you’re experiencing a depressive episode? What happens to those goals and dreams? Sometimes it’s as if they never existed in the first place. That’s often the scary part of it all. Those goals were what set you apart, they were the driving force in your life. Your dreams – they were the fuel which ignited the light in your eyes. In their absence, not only do you feel disappointment, you feel empty. You no longer feel like you. I would panic as my mind took me “there”. I was abandoning myself by allowing my dreams to slip from my psyche. Depression does that, though. Suddenly, everything seemed silly and pointless. “Who cares if I ever write a book, I have nothing of importance to say.” “It doesn’t matter if I travel to other countries, the world is just a rock filled with people who don’t give a damn about anyone.” “What does it matter if I lose weight? I’ll still be an unworthy, bad person on the inside.” The ambition you once had is whittled away by the coarse grain of depression. I’d look at myself in the mirror and ask, “what happened to you? Fuck you.”

Having said all that, not only does depression rob you of your soul, so to speak, it often makes daily tasks arduous. Things that ought be simple and mundane like, running to the grocery store or washing your bedroom sheets become challenges. Sometimes we can’t take a shower because the thought of getting wet and then having to dry off seems exhausting. Eventually, I would NEED to go to the grocery store and I’d find myself aimlessly pushing a cart. Outwardly, I appeared normal, I’m assuming, but in reality my blank eyes were glossing over the dozens of bread brands and the unnecessary varieties of toilet paper. Plush? Pocketed? What did I used to buy? What does it matter? It’s toilet paper – it’s going to be used to wipe shit from my ass, right? In each hand I’d be examining a can of soup. Which was better, Campbells chicken noodle or Progresso? Suddenly I’d realize that I wasn’t even thinking about soup and I’d set them both down. Why so many choices? Why can’t I just pick one? Eventually, I’d check the time and realize I’d spent 45 min in the store with nothing but oreos, pizza rolls and 2 free-rolling apples in my cart. “Fuck this.” And with that, I’d walk out empty handed.

empty_cart580

So, not only had I lost sight of my goals, but I could no longer accomplish small tasks. Realizing this made me feel even worse about myself, subhuman. Remember how I mentioned that we feel good when we’re productive? Yeah, that wasn’t happening. My sense of self-worth was dissolving. “What good am I to anybody if I can’t even take care of myself?” For me, it was not only difficult to realize I wasn’t needed by anybody, even friends, but I had become a burden to some people. I had my mom worrying about me like I was a newly licensed 16 year old driving around on my own. She worried about me losing total control and putting myself in danger – causing harm to myself. She had every right to worry. I had contemplated suicide dozens of times. I could never go through with it because I was scared of the pain. I was at least “well” enough to know that my emotional pain wouldn’t be as bad as the pain of hurting myself.

Once the depression has lifted a bit, whether it be due to therapy, medication or a combination of treatments, you realize that you have to start cleaning things up. You’ve made a mess – you were an absent landlord when your property was falling apart. I was taking each day as it came and had to relearn the meaning of accomplishment. At one point, just doing my laundry was a big deal. The simple act of doing it was negating thoughts of it not mattering what condition my clothes were in because I didn’t have anyone to see. I just did the laundry. With each task I completed, day after day, I started to feel a small sense of routine again. The sense of accomplishment was reintroducing itself to me. For anybody that hasn’t experienced depression, this entire story may read as pathetic or lazy. Believe me, the depressed voice inside my head whispers this from time to time and it’s not easy to ignore. But, moving past depression involves learning how to combat those negative voices with actions.

This is where the title of this post finally makes sense (thanks for getting this far!) I’d like to know what you do to fight the voice of depression. Have you been able to find the energy to get involved or re-involved in a hobby? Have you taken up a form of meditation or exercise? Do try seeking faith or spirituality? Have you gotten involved in a group or club? Even small things count, they count a tremendous amount. There were a few things I began as a means of turning my life around. I started running, which was something I always believed I hated. Why running? One day I was so angry and I’ve never been the type to punch a wall, but I needed to exert myself in some way. I was pacing, pent up in my room needing to scream or break something. I went outside and I ran. I didn’t get far, mind you, but I ran fast and hard and it felt good. Afterward, I huffed and wheezed and massaged my knee but I told myself that when I woke up the next day, I’d do it again. I got to a point where I could run 8 miles a day 5-6 times per week. No doubt about it, it was a ROUGH start. I often thought I’d quit, and my depression told me that I inevitably would. Within a month, I saw that I was beginning to lose weight so I began to change my diet. I got into cooking again, which was something a couple years prior, I highly enjoyed. After a year, I had lost 50lbs, which put me right back into a healthy weight for my frame. Talk about feeling a sense of accomplishment.

homer runner

My journey with running began nearly 2 years ago and I now consider it to be a part of my lifestyle. I love searching for unique music to add to my ipod, put on my running shoes and go! I’ve been able to keep the weight off and I continue to develop my cooking skills with new recipes. I have down days where I don’t feel like cooking, but don’t we all? I also have periods of time where I don’t run, sometimes I take a couple months off, but I always start getting the itch to get back out there. It’s become therapeutic and, if I’m not mistaken, that’s exactly what a depressed gal like me needs.

Depression does affect my energy levels, often causing a lack of motivation but I try to stop it there. If I continue with that train of thought it can lead to “rationalizing” why I shouldn’t do things. Thoughts like “there’s no point in me leaving the house today because I’m not needed anywhere” or “I’m not going to bother applying to jobs today because I already know what’s out there and I’m not qualified”. See? I can’t allow those thoughts to run me. I’m trying my best. A big step in the healing process is just being able to identify the negative self-talk. Hear it, ask yourself if you actually believe it and make the decision about how to respond. How do I know I’m not qualified for a job that I want? My boyfriend applied to a job he didn’t think he was qualified for and ended up getting hired. That’s how we ended up here in the desert.

So tell me, what do you do to fight the blues?

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7 thoughts on “What Do You Do To Fight The Blues?

  1. When I look back to the many years I suffered from depression I do wonder how I was able for the most part to raise 3 children (who turned out wonderful…not perfect but wonderful)… hold down a job outside the home, eventually becoming a manager of a department, deal with M.S. when I finally got the diagnosis…. etc. And I remember doing so sometimes…the worst times just automatically …. and then falling apart in my room usually to hopefully recover enough to handle the next day.

    Occasionally, I had to quit work, or go on leave… or be let go because I couldn’t go on and went into hospital….

    That’s how I did it… of course with breaks in the depression with medication and maybe some therapy…always with hope that some day I’d be without the depression

    Today while I have times of sadness, heart-ache and sometimes feeling overwhelmed.. I do not have the ‘darkness of the depression’ … I know that what I feel is temporary whereas with depression there is that feeling of hopelessness.

    I recently wrote a few posts about some of my difficulties… but a lot of my posts deal sometimes with it also. I finally made it to where I am today…because of a wonderful doctor, a supportive husband (who wasn’t in the early years)… and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy… and I must add my faith in God….

    I truly hope you find the combination of factors to help you out of your depression… There is hope…. Diane (hope I didn’t overwhelm you with too much) Diane

    • No, no your response is not overwhelming! I appreciate it. It gives me hope to know the opposite side of growing up with a depressed parent – that the children can be OK! Their not doomed! That’s been one of my greatest concerns about depression as I enter the next stage of my life. I also know what you mean about having to either leave work or be let go. I’ve experienced both. We’re you honest with your employers about why? Initially, I was afraid to talk about depression with employers, afraid I’d be blacklisted and never hold a respectable job. It wasn’t until the last year that I’ve been able to openly discuss it, should the need come about. I will surely read the posts about your difficulties. I appreciate you sharing.

      • When I was 18 I left the place I worked basically because I was upset (down) over not getting a promotion because someone saw me crying in the washroom…. and they used that against me saying I was not emotionally ready for a supervisor…

        Other times I took sick leave and while It wasn’t really for ‘depression’ it was labeled ‘fatigue’

        One time I was let go in 1978 because I broke down and was hospitalized twice within two weeks… (worked in a doctor’s office) and they thought “it was better if I didn’t come back”

        I totally thought I would never be employable again with the stigma attached to mental breakdown. However I had an experience regarding this… that maybe since it’s a bit of a story… you would like to read it.. I’ll put the link to it at the end. But aside from my story … I think the stigma is lessening .. I don’t recall right at this moment what you said you were doing now… or whether they have sick leave etc. but there is definite physical aspects to depression such as great fatigue and perhaps not sleeping etc. that hinders working so I think many companies recognize that. Maybe some employers also allow work to be done from home if it involves computers etc. that would help. In any case you can read about my experience with finding another job…after my biggest breakdown and incidentally I had 3 ECT treatments with that one that likely saved my life…. I also on a few occasions took overdoses but only one bad one … anyway if you want to here’s the link; Diane
        http://hometogo232.wordpress.com/2012/06/06/dreams-can-be-real/

  2. I do not have clinical “depression” but have found myself very depressed with all the changes I’ve been through in my life the past three years. It’s a very real feeling that I know will subside at some point, so I do my best to deal with it and feel the feelings that are there. Yet, I find myself wondering why I have deserved all the things I have, the “I’m not worthy” syndrome, and I do my best to silent those voices. The best thing I can do for myself is to run, go sit on the beach, and then run. It is my therapy, a time for me to work out anger, have those imaginary conversations in my head, find happiness, and be thankful that I can do what it is I am doing. I hope you can find that within running…. it’s a gift to those of us who can unwrap it.

    • You are completely right. The ability to run is a gift. It was one I didn’t know I had and now that I’ve discovered it, I feel that it’d be a complete shame to not use it. It amazes me, sometimes, when I think about how my body is able to do it. I, like you, find it therapeutic. When I’m angry I can run hard. When I need to think something through I can test my stamina with a long run. Or, sometimes I don’t want to think about anything and just focus on pushing and training my body. Congratulations on making the Boston Marathon. What an accomplishment! That’s actually a new goal of mine. I just moved to the southwest from Boston a little over a month ago. Last year, the day before the Boston Bombing, I ran a small 5k through the city and ended my run at the finish line (not actually crossing it, but being right there). That’s when I told myself I’d work my way up to the point where I could try for it. After the bombing occurred, the city was in lock down. It was horrifying to be near it, but even more horrifying to think of how it affected all of those lives. You are fortunate to be part of the 2014 marathon. I won’t be able to see it this year, but I’m sure you must feel proud to be part of a group that will make history. Best of luck to you!

      • Thank you 🙂 I consider it to be an honor to be a part of the qualifying field for the 2014 Boston Marathon. I’m very excited and I’m working very hard to do my best for this race, not only for me, but for those who cannot. Best of luck to you…. Run as the wind blows and don’t let depression suck it out of you!!!

  3. I like this – “Thoughts like “there’s no point in me leaving the house today because I’m not needed anywhere” or “I’m not going to bother applying to jobs today because I already know what’s out there and I’m not qualified”.

    That’s sums up how I feel nowadays. I can go days & days without leaving the house and only go out to restock on food. It got so bad that my mother (who lives out of town) had groceries DELIVERED to me. How sad is that?

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