Let’s talk about a monster that’s always lurking in the shadows shall we?
It’s a beast called Depression.
This monster makes many victims every year, has the ability to show up out of nowhere and is a tough one to battle.
First of all, let’s see what the specialists can tell us about this monster:
Depression is a state of low mood and aversion to activity that can affect a person’s thoughts, behavior, feelings and sense of well-being. Depressed people feel sad, anxious, empty, hopeless, worried, helpless, worthless, guilty, irritable, hurt, or restless. They may lose interest in activities that once were pleasurable, experience loss of appetite or overeating, have problems concentrating, remembering details, or making decisions, and may contemplate, attempt, or commit suicide. Insomnia, excessive sleeping, fatigue, loss of energy, or aches, pains, or digestive problems that are resistant to treatment may also be present. Depressed mood is not always a psychiatric disorder. It may also be a normal reaction to certain life events, a symptom of some medical conditions, or a side effect of some drugs or medical treatments. Depressed mood is also a primary or associated feature of certain psychiatric syndromes such as clinical depression.”
Like I said, one hell of a monster!
This monster comes in different sizes and shapes. Everyone knows the days that you just don’t want to come out of bed. The days you feel like crap and dark thoughts are swirling through your head. Those days are perfectly normal and your mood will brighten up after a couple of days.
But what if it not brightens? What if you are stuck inside a dark, cold shadow place and the monster that’s called Depression is sneaking up on you? What happens when that monster slowly approaches and suddenly grabs you by the throat?
The darkness, the loneliness, the emptiness and sadness become a part of your daily life. Despair, hopelessness and sometimes anger become your only reality. No light. No happiness. No hope for the future.
Of course you try to battle this monster. You fight with all that you have. But battle makes you weary and the sleepless nights make you weak. You don’t want to give up but….What was the point of going on again?
This particular size of monster is called: Clinical Depression and is the most fearsome of all.
How to identify this monster.
Symptoms of clinical depression:
This monster called Depression doesn’t care if you are young or old. It sees no difference in race or religion. It just grabs everyone it can get its dirty claws on.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, symptoms of depression may include the following:
* Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
* Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness
* Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
* Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
* Irritability, restlessness
* Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
* Overeating or appetite loss
* Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment
* Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings
* Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
What to do if you are battling a monster like this:
Recovering from depression requires action, but taking action when you’re depressed is hard. In fact, just thinking about the things you should do to feel better, like going for a walk or spending time with friends, can be exhausting.
Start small and stay focused.
The key to depression recovery is to start with a few small goals and slowly build from there. Draw upon whatever resources you have. You may not have much energy, but you probably have enough to take a short walk around the block or pick up the phone to call a loved one.
Take things one day at a time and reward yourself for each accomplishment. The steps may seem small, but they’ll quickly add up. Make a small list of things you want to do for the day and stick to that list.
In order to overcome depression, you have to take care of yourself. This includes following a healthy lifestyle, learning to manage stress, setting limits on what you’re able to do, adopting healthy habits, and scheduling fun activities into your day.
Aim for eight hours of sleep.
* Expose yourself to a little sunlight every day. Aim for at least 15 minutes outside every day.
* Keep stress in check. Figure out all the things in your life that stress you out. Once you’ve identified your stressors, you can make a plan to avoid them or minimize their impact.
* Practice relaxation techniques. A daily relaxation practice can help relieve symptoms of depression, reduce stress, and boost feelings of joy and well-being. Try yoga, deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or meditation.
* Care for a pet. While nothing can replace the human connection, pets can bring joy and companionship into your life and help you feel less isolated.
While you can’t force yourself to have fun or experience pleasure, you can choose to do things that you used to enjoy. Pick up a former hobby or a sport you used to like. Express yourself creatively through music, art, or writing. Talk to friends and family.
Push yourself to do things, even when you don’t feel like it. You might be surprised at how much better you feel once you’re out in the world. Even if your depression doesn’t lift immediately, you’ll gradually feel more upbeat and energetic as you make time for fun activities.
When you’re depressed, exercising may be the last thing you feel like doing. But exercise is a powerful tool for dealing with depression. In fact, studies show that regular exercise can be as effective as antidepressant medication at increasing energy levels and decreasing feelings of fatigue.
Here are a few easy ways to get moving:
* Take the stairs rather than the elevator
* Park your car in the farthest spot in the lot
* Pair up with an exercise partner
* Walk while you’re talking on the phone
If you find your depression getting worse and worse, seek professional help. Needing additional help doesn’t mean you’re weak! Sometimes the negative thinking in depression can make you feel like you’re a lost cause, but depression can be treated and you can feel better.
What to do when someone you care about is attacked by this monster:
When you know someone who’s a victim of this monster, don’t walk away! Don’t think that this person is faking these feelings and do not judge him or her!
Instead, try to care. Let this person know you care. Show your support and offer them a shoulder to lean on.
Because Depression may be one hell of a monster to battle, it’s almost impossible to fight it on your own.
Tips to support a loved one:
- Be there.
The best thing you can do for someone with depression is to be there. Let them know you care.
- Try a small gesture.
Sending a card or a text to cooking a meal to leaving a voicemail. Again, let the person who’s fighting this monster know that you care.
- Don’t judge or criticize.
What you say can have a powerful impact on your loved one. Saying statements such as: “You just need to see things as half full, not half empty” or “I think this is really all just in your head. If you got up out of bed and moved around, you’d see things better.” won’t help your loved one at all. Do not judge!
- Avoid the tough-love approach.
Many individuals think that being tough on their loved one will undo their depression or inspire positive behavioral changes, Serani said. For instance, some people might intentionally be impatient with their loved one, push their boundaries, use silence, be callous or even give an ultimatum. But consider that this is as useless, hurtful and harmful as ignoring, pushing away or not helping someone who has cancer.
- Don’t minimize their pain.
Statements such as“You’re just too thin-skinned” or “Why do you let every little thing bother you?” shame a person with depression. It invalidates what they’re experiencing and completely glosses over the fact that they’re struggling with a difficult disorder – not some weakness or personality flaw.
- Avoid offering advice.
It probably seems natural to share advice with your loved one. Whenever someone we care about is having a tough time, we yearn to fix their heartache.
What helps instead is to ask, “What can we do to help you feel better?” This gives your love one the opportunity to ask for help.
- Avoid making comparisons.
Unless you’ve experienced a depressive episode yourself, saying that you know how a person with depression feels is not helpful.
- Learn as much as you can about depression.
You can avoid the above missteps and misunderstandings simply by educating yourself about depression. Once you can understand depression’s symptoms, course and consequences, you can better support your loved one.
For instance, some people assume that if a person with depression has a good day, they’re cured. Remember that Depression is not a static illness. Days will shift a lot before a person who is battling depression is victorious.
- Be patient.
When you have depression, hope can be hard to come by. Patience offers hope.
Sometimes supporting someone with depression may feel like you’re walking a tight rope. What do I say? What do I not say? What do I do? What do I not do?
But remember that just by being there and asking how you can help can be an incredible gift.
Most important thing to remember about this monster: It can attack anyone, so don’t judge, just care.