Isn’t it funny how, whenever I find myself struggling with depression, I immediately search for a reason? Right now, I’m wondering if it could be the fact that the clocks went forward; maybe it’s the tides; perhaps it’s the fact that the weather has gone from warm and sunny to almost sub-zero in a week.
I think a lot of that search stems from the fact that it’s no fun suffering from depression alone. There is, in this as in all things, strength in numbers – and knowing that others are feeling the strain helps ease the kind of self-obsessed loneliness that (for me, at least) this low mood brings.
Right now, I’m really struggling with my depression. Not much has changed in terms of how I deal with it. I’m still on medication and I’m still going to therapy once a week. Ever since I went to bootcamp (blast that dreaded bootcamp!), I’ve definitely found it harder to keep up a regular, healthy diet – compounded by the last few weeks of being vegetarian which, I’ll admit, I’ve found tough.
I’ve been wondering if it’s the lack of meat that’s making me feel low, lethargic and lacking in motivation. Then I figure: I’m taking iron and B complex vitamins; I’m eating a lot of leafy, green vegetables; I’m still exercising (albeit at a slightly lower frequency than I did for a glorious few months there).
So I start wondering about work – maybe I’m not feeling super inspired. I’m definitely finding it hard to come up with ideas, and being self-employed can be difficult. It’s lonely and it can feel pretty tedious and you end up spending a lot of money on lunches, because at least then you’re getting out of the house!
Then I start sniffing around for holes in my relationships. I wonder if myself and my boyfriend are compatible, or whether my parents and I are close enough. Perhaps I miss my sister; maybe it’s the distance between us that makes me feel low. Then I remember that no one’s personal or professional life is perfect, and life contains variables – steep hills and sharp turns that you didn’t see coming.
Maybe – and here’s the novel thing – maybe I’m just feeling a bit low. Perhaps this is what depression does; it comes and it goes, ebbs and flows, and we learn to cope with its tides and rhythms as best we can.
For me, a lot of dealing with my depression starts with accepting it. I stop trying to fight the fact that I’m feeling low. It’s important – for me, anyway – not to try to “suck it up and get on with things”. My Mum would be a big fan of getting on with things, but if I try to gloss over things, I get lower and lower – and, without being able to talk about or even accept how I’m feeling, I get dragged under.
So right now, I’m taking the days as they come. I’m staying in when I feel like staying in (even when I can hear my Mum telling me “it’s a glorious day and you’re wasting it in here on the couch”). I’m going out when I feel like going out. If I feel like eating a mixed berry scone from Avoca, with raspberry jam and whipped cream, I eat it.
There are, of course, certain things I’m doing because I’ve committed to doing them, or because I know they’ll make me feel better (into that latter category, we can slot the gym and, y’know, eating my greens). In my own way, I’m getting on with things.
So my advice, for what it’s worth: accept it. Accept that some people have low days and those days might turn into weeks – and it’s okay to feel meh and to watch too much reality TV and to eat food that makes you feel better, either emotionally or physically. There is no right way to live and, by that same token, there’s no wrong way.
What I would say is, if you are someone who’s experiencing incredibly low mood for prolonged periods and you’ve never spoken to a professional about it, do. Speaking to my GP about my depression, finding a therapist and connecting with a trainer who understands mental health difficulties and what they mean for my motivation (or lack thereof) are all things that have changed my life.
Oh – and lest we forget – talk to your loved ones. Explain to them how you feel. When I first started talking to my friends and family about my depression, I was really afraid they would worry excessively, or treat me differently. For a while, my fears came true – they were slightly freaked and there was some tiptoeing (which I enjoyed because I like being mollycoddled). But then they realised that depression is not a death sentence; it’s an illness.
For some, it’s chronic and for others it’s temporary – but it doesn’t have to be terminal.
If you find yourself affected by depression, experiencing anxiety or have concerns regarding your mental health, please speak to your GP. Failing that? Give Aware a call. They’re deadly and they always know what to say.