My apologies for writing so much, it is particularly presumptuous as I have only just signed up to this board. I'm equally sorry if my tips aren't very helpful or pertinent to any body reading them; from talking to fellow-sufferers I've found that depression is a very individual and complex illness, so a "one size fits all" approach to it doesn't tend to work.
Even for myself, specifically, some tips are only useful at certain stages in my particular form of depression. Broadly speaking there are three main categories of depression that I seem to experience, and I have labeled them: the "mild stage", the "moderate stage" and the "severe stage", each with associated symptoms that I have learnt to recognise.
1. Sleep, and a lot of it, is the only natural remedy for my deep depression stage. Prescription drugs also appear to help, and speed up the recovery process.
2. Struggling to fight through the severe stage impedes my recovery, as do guilt and the associated frustration. The situation appears to be analogous to a car with a flat battery; switching on the engine too early or revving it prevents the battery from recharging. When I'm really bad it not even possible to resist, as my mind and body seem to shut down.
MODERATE TO MILD DEPRESSION:
3. I now monitor my illness and keep records. It helps me to identify symptoms, and learn to understand my particular form of depression. When I'm trying different types of approach or treatment, it allows me to assess whether I have found something particularly effective, or not.
4. I make an effort to keep informed about depression by reading the latest books or checking out web sites, etc. Most UK libraries now have a special section devoted to mental health and well-being. At the same time I've become wary of so-called experts who offer quick-fix remedies for depression, and I do try to be patient with well-meaning, but ignorant , friends or family who have given me unhelpful advice.
5. Professional help, such as counseling, can also be useful, if it is available to you when you need it, however, unless you can afford to pay, I have found it that generally it isn't. For myself, I only find it really helpful when I'm in my moderate stage.
6. Think about those close to you, and the effect your illness can have on them. Just feeling guilty is a waste of time and energy, but it is important to provide them with information to help them understand and cope. I found a book in the library for my husband, written specifically for someone in his situation (sorry I can't recall the title or author), but most good books have a chapter dedicated to helping loved ones. Make a point of regularly showing that you love them, that you recognise THEIR needs, and that you appreciate all their support. In the past, I'm afraid, that I have been guilty of taking my husband for granted, and using him as an emotional "punch-bag".
7. Fellow-sufferers are generally very supportive, and a great source of information and advice. Boards like this or self-help groups have helped me overcome feelings of shame and isolation, and to start dealing with my illness in a practical way.
8. Unfortunately, I have found that a sensible lifestyle goes a long way towards keeping me well
. This means making sure that I get enough sleep, eat properly, exercise, go out in the fresh air, etc. I also have to be really strict about my alcohol intake because my natural inclination is to drink far too much, far too often.
9. I can modify or change my own behaviour directly, and alter the direction of my thoughts, but must accept my feelings of the moment. In other words, I have found cognitive behavioral therapy extremely useful in changing the way I think and behave, and so indirectly influencing my feelings. However, some negative feelings come unbidden, and I have found it less than useful to try and suppress or deny them.
10. Therefore I have found it necessary to develop my own set of (effective and non-destructive) coping strategies for dealing with negative feelings, or external events and situations. Reassuringly, I have found that I can now experience negative thoughts or go through unpleasant experiences without panicking over plunging into a severe depression - a constant threat that has hung over me ever since I can remember.