Join Date: Feb 2010
Location: Plymouth, MI 7sa
Some tips from a 47 y/o, female veteran
First of all, I want to say as a survivor < edited > that the treatment of choice at this time is still psychotherapy AND a psychiatric evaluation to investigate whether medications are a good idea.
That being said, I've had several bouts of depression since age twelve, and these are the things that helped me
Bolster support. This doesn't necessarily mean that you need to talk about every little detail of your troubles with your friends or family, it just means that when we have people in our lives that just know we're going through a hard time and care enough to keep in touch with us, things seem to go better. (It also helps to have people around you who encourage you do things that are good for you, even when you don't want to!)
Keep trying to find the right therapist! I've had good ones, I've had not-so-good ones, and I've had ones that helped a lot of other people, but not me. If you have been going to therapy for some time and your mood is not improving, it's time to look elsewhere.
Consider cognitive therapy. Therapists come in two flavors: talkers and listeners. For some people, being listened to by a non-judgmental person who lets them talk about whatever they want really, truly helps. For the rest of us, it doesn't. Those who practice cognitive behavioral therapy will provide a structure for you, help you determine exactly what your goals are, and keep you accountable towards reaching that goal. They also give feedback more often and "homework": written exercises you can do on your own that have been proven to lift the moods of those experiencing debilitating depression.
Consider Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. DBT is a group approach originally designed for something called Borderline Personality disorder, but it has been found helpful for those experiencing mood and anxiety disorders, too. This is another structured approach, focused primarily on building up a number of skills you can use on your own when you are feeling particularly depressed. If you are in therapy, ask your therapist if he or she thinks it would be helpful, and if there is a group you can go to.
Exercise! This has already been mentioned here, and I don't have the research to cite (although there is some), but exercise is a godsend for me. Exercise produces the same neurotransmitters that depressed people have too little of. Caveat: if you're having a bad day, jumping on an exercise bike for an hour won't fix it if you haven't been exercising regularly. But when I am exercising regularly, moderately to vigorously, I do a lot better.
Remember that depression makes us dumb. This has actually been proven in research, too. Even if you have an IQ of 120 or above, you might not be the best judge of yourself, others, or the world when you are depressed. Victims of depression tend to have global ("the whole world is like this", "this has always been the way it is and will never change"), negative thoughts, which usually don't stand up to the test of logic. When we are not depressed, for example, none of us thinks we are 100% a "worthless" person, but give us a bout of depression and we can be utterly convinced of it. Likewise, we tend to think, if one person has rejected us, that "everyone" will, or that it is "impossible" for someone to help us. Learn how to use logic, and test these theories; or, better still, get a good book on fighting depression such as "Feeling Good" by David Burns, MD, and learn some of the tricks depression tends to play on our thinking, so you can fight back.
Make the most of your "up" time. Depression usually always remits....even without treatment, although it might take a long time. But if depression goes away, especially if it's without treatment, it's easy to forget the good times before another episode hits us right between the eyes. And unfortunately, many of us have more than one episode. Rather than journaling my feelings when depressed (something that may help others, but didn't me), I try to journal a LOT during periods like this, when I'm feeling pretty good. It helps me to remember that things do get better, and it also helps me to remember how I got to the better spot in the first place.
Build up your spiritual life. My own spiritual beliefs have not prevented depression, but they certainly have helped when I've been down in the crater. For me, these include a sense that I have a purpose in life, that "life" doesn't end with mortal death, and that I have a connection to all others on the planet. I believe I share those thoughts not only with those in my particular religion, but people of many faiths...and even many atheists have a similar idea about purpose and common humanity. So whatever your beliefs are, make sure you find ways to integrate them during your day, with prayer, meditiation, and/or fellowship with others. Reading uplifting scriptures from your own tradition may help, too.
Keep a schedule. Unstructured time is the worst when I'm depressed!!!! Even after a hard week at work, I used to dread my weekend. So I started habits that I could repeat every week. This may happen naturally if you are living with family or friends....I live by myself....but if you have to, it might be worth it to develop these habits. For example, I have a meeting I always go to one night a week; I do my shopping and other chores on particular days on the weekend, and I have pets that have regular needs to take care of. Your favorite weekly TV shows or podcasts, a specific time to relax, or time to read might be part of the schedule too. Keeping a schedule gives you more motivation to get up and do things (the more you do, the more you can do), and it helps avoid those nights when we say to ourselves, "See? I accomplished NOTHING today, what a worthless person I am (see "Remember depression makes us dumb", above)."
Pets! As an adult, I've sometimes had a roommate's pet hanging around, but living on my own, I didn't until a friend convinced me to adopt three cockatiels two years ago. What a difference! I knew that I loved birds, but having them around just helps, I'm not sure exactly why. One reason might be just that I have creatures who need and depend on me....without being very judgmental.
Stay healthy. I packed on a lot of pounds over my last episode. I started making a thorough attempt to get moving more and eating more healthy, when I was still feeling pretty lousy. Now, it is easier to feel better about myself because I am doing very healthy things; and the good things I'm eating are helping to boost my body's ability to fight depression.
Avoid negative people. This means people who always complain, AND people who tend to be a drain on you for whatever reason (maybe they have emotional needs that they're trying to get you to inappropriately involved in, for example). These may not be people you can actually get away from (a gossipy coworker at a job you need, a family member who you love despite their faults), but try to spend more time with others so you need to spend less time with them.
These are just a few. Each of them may not be helpful for everyone, but they have helped me, and i can honestly say I know others that have been helped by each one. Give them a try and see if they don't help you!
Last edited by hb-mod; 05-24-2010 at 12:31 AM.