In todays post I’m going to look at some of the qualities which can help in battling depression, both for the immediate sufferers, and for those who are carers. For people like myself who have depression, it can be hard to see any positive qualities in ourselves. That being said, I’ve never met anyone without any! The problem is getting past that relentless self-deprecating voice in your head, the one that loves nothing more than to constantly put you down and convinces you that you’re useless in everyway. Such a powerful and emphatic voice can be difficult to ignore, but believe me when I tell you, you’re much stronger than you realise. It’s extremely difficult, believe me I know, but if you delve deep enough, you will find at least some- if not all of the attributes I’m going to list in this post.
ACCEPTANCE AND APPRECIATION – First you need to accept that you have a serious life changing illness and that it’s not your fault. That might sound strange, buts it’s actually the most important stage of your journey. It took me a long time to come to terms with my illness and stop blaming myself for it, feeling ashamed, and thinking that I was strange and weak for feeling the way I was. You can’t begin to plan ways to live with depression until you have reached this stage of acceptance. Your family and friends also need to accept it, and realise that you’re going to have your limitations, and often plans may need to change at the last minute. If your friends don’t even try to be understanding or empathetic towards you, then I would question whether they’re true friends at all.
A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out. ( Walter Winchell)
When you have depression, your good days tend to be fewer and farther between. That’s why it’s so important to embrace these moments and make the most of what ever you love to do. I can honestly say that I appreciate the smaller things in life and take less for granted, much less than prior to me having depression.
BRAVERY- You can’t tackle depression on your own. It doesn’t matter how strong you think you are, you will need help. And asking for help is not anything to be ashamed of. Depression is life changing and debilitating. If you had any serious physical condition, you wouldn’t hesitate. So why do so many people insist on struggling on their own, when they’re actually suffering something that millions of people can relate too. The problem is when you’re battling you’re mental health, it doesn’t feel this way. Instead, it seems like you’re the only person in the world like this, you’re painfully abnormal and nobody could possibly understand. It’s a frightening, confusing time. It seems cruel to inflict your misery on others and you don’t feel deserving of any support. Try to remember though, this is the depression talking. You are worthy of support and people will appreciate your honesty. It takes a lot of courage to confide in others, but it will be a huge relief when you do so. For me once I started opening up, I was surprised by just how many people could relate to my illness. I took a lot of strength from this, and it’s now much easier to open up about my mental health. I no longer hide behind it. For more on this see my strength in numbers post.
COMPASSION AND SENSITIVITY- In my family and friends, I have amazing support and I appreciate this support, more than I can ever put down in words. For people living with someone who has depression, it can be extremely hard. Sometimes you may feel helpless, and wish you could do more to ease your loved ones pain. Often just being there and letting them know they’re not on their own, is helping more than you realise. You’re not going to understand the illness entirely and I wouldn’t expect you to, unless you’ve experienced it’s symptoms yourself. What I do expect is for you to remain open minded and none judgemental. You can still be sympathetic even though you don’t fully get it. You need to be someone your loved one can lean upon, you need to offer plenty of reassurance and at times a shoulder to cry on. But you also need to appreciate there’ll be times when they need leaving on their own. Every day can be totally different and the person suffering will experience fluctuating emotions (massive ups and downs). This can be frustrating and again hard to understand. This is when family need to stay patient and remain consistent with their support. Of course as important as compassion is, encouragement is also needed and a gentle push forward is sometimes beneficial, as long as the goals set are realistic ones. Small steps, as apposed to giant leaps!
For people with depression, you need to be compassionate to yourself and recognise that this is a horrible illness to live with. In other words cut yourself some slack, stop beating yourself up all the time and viewing every unsuccessful act as a fail. This can be a massive challenge at times, believe me I know! But at least try to give it a go.
HAVING PERSPECTIVE- Depression is not a quick fix. When people talk about helping you towards your recovery, I believe this can put unnecessary pressure on, which can be hugely detrimental to you. You end up feeling worse about yourself. This is why I don’t like using the word recovery. You’d think that It would offer you some hope, but in my experience it can have the opposite effect. When it was used in my care, it made me feel hopeless, because I didn’t believe it was possible to get to the stage they wanted me to get too. Truthfully, I still don’t. I found myself asking myself the question what if I never recover? what if I have depression for the rest of my life? Is that even an option? The more the so called experts banged on about recovery, the more I believed living with depression was not an option, and if I couldn’t fix myself, I’d have no further options left to me-other than suicide. I now know this to be far from the truth and continue to discover ways to live with my depression and enjoy aspects of life, despite of my illness. One of the main reasons I set up this blog was to share some of these methods with fellow sufferers. Too many people see things in black and white, you have depression- you get the help you need- then you recover! This is when having a bit of perspective and realising it’s not as simple as that, really helps. Sure, It’s important to keep optimistic about the future but you also need to be realistic and allow for what is a serious illness. You also need to realise that no one can predict the future, and the only thing you can be remotely in control of is the here and now.
It’s not important how many set backs we have or how many times we get knocked down. What’s important is that we continue to get up. Finding the inner strength to battle your depression and persevere with things, despite how crap you’re feeling! That is a quality which can’t be underestimated. It’s also a quality which can be very hard to find (I appreciate this), but it’s in there somewhere, if you delve deep enough. I try to think of my depression as a separate entity or a monster, if you like! The monster feeds itself on my negativity and low self-esteem, but the more I pick myself up and continue with my life, the weaker it gets, and this is hugely satisfying. I know it’s not always possible, and some days it still wins the battle, but I find myself more and more determined to bounce back and refuse to let it win the war. I realise that some people reading this will be at different stages of their journey and I appreciate that some days you’ll struggle to find any fight what so ever. The advice I give, is that where ever possible, try not to fuel your monster.
When you’re unsure and not very confident in what you’re doing, you’re kind of learning as you go. For someone with anxiety, the self-doubt in us massively increases, often making the task seem insurmountable as we put far to much emphasis on what could go wrong. Even simple tasks that we’ve previously accomplished stress free, suddenly become very daunting. For those of you who don’t suffer with excess anxiety, I would best describe it as learning to walk again. I’m talking about things like going to the shops, having a meal out, visiting a friend or even talking to the neighbours! Of course all these things become less challenging the more we do them. By repeating an activity regularly enough, difficult soon turns into manageable, manageable turns into easy and before you know it you’re wondering why you were worrying so much in the first place!