I saw my psychiatrist a few weeks ago, and she remarked that “I had some of my old spark back”. I had spent the last half an hour with her crying about how ‘stuck’ I feel and how little progress I have made, so I was somewhat surprised to hear this, and queried it. She went on to explain that the deep depression I have been in this year seems to have lifted. And… she’s right, you know.
I’m still highly anxious, and I’ve lost my confidence, but I’m not down a dark hole anymore. So, to celebrate I thought I would make a little list of some of the things that have helped me over the past year. That way I have something to look at the next time I have a bad day – and I hope it can also help anyone else out there who is struggling today. I’ve also used a selfie of me doing a silly face with this blog. My type of anxiety involves body dysmorphia, and until recently I wouldn’t have felt able to put a picture of me out there looking a bit ridiculous. But today it feels fine. So… you’re welcome.
Things that have helped me
* Reading – this is a huge one for me. I am an avid reader and have been since I was a little girl, when I used to get up early so I could read before school! One of the first symptoms of depression I experience is a loss of concentration, so I use reading to help me escape my negative thoughts. To counteract the difficulty in concentrating, I stick to easy reading. Any sort of glossy magazine will do, but I especially like Hello for the photos and the sheer escapism of reading about minor European royalty. Any sort of “interiors” magazine is good for this too – planning my fantasy house is a good way to escape the darker recesses of my brain. But my top tip is to reread books. It’s much easier to concentrate if you have read a book before. I have been through much of my local library at this stage, and rereading fiction has gotten me through long nights of insomnia.
* Reaching out – the natural instinct of a depressive is to isolate oneself and hide away. The world is a terrifying place when you are depressed, and interaction with others just seems too hard. I come to hate my phone when I’m depressed and it’s a trial to answer calls or texts. Of course, this is in fact the worst thing to do, as it leaves you all alone and at the mercy of your thoughts. So, reaching out to others is a way out of the prison that depression has placed you in. Texting a friend is a simple way of reminding yourself that you are loved and that you do matter. Texts are often all I can manage, and that’s ok – contact with the outside world is the important thing here. Lately, I have been making plans to see friends, but crucially not making too many plans, to avoid feeling overwhelmed. I would also recommend only seeing people who make you feel good, and who won’t make you feel guilty for your absence. Being ill is nothing to be ashamed of.
* Counselling – I have been going to counselling every week since April and it has helped me hugely. I never want to go, and somedays I would rather do anything than talk about my feelings, but I make myself go every week and it really does help. Talking about what has been going on in my head is difficult, and I know that therapy isn’t for everyone, but it has been a lifeline for me. Speaking to someone impartial enables me to process my feelings and to work through them. I always leave my counselling sessions feeling better.
* Medication – this is another lifeline for me. Anti-depressants have adjusted the chemicals in my brain and brought me back to a point where I can function again. My serotonin levels have risen and helped me to fight off the negativity which I was drowning in. I have also been taking sleeping tablets for the past few months and again, I wouldn’t have managed without them. I can’t sleep when I am depressed and I lie awake worrying. Lack of sleep makes daily life impossible and thus, it’s a vicious circle. Sleeping tablets are obviously not a long-term solution, but I am happy to be taking them for now. Sleeping for a few hours a night instead of no hours goes a long way in helping me to function again.
Climbing out of the hole is only the first step of course. I’m still at home with my family and not working, but my energy is coming back, and that’s crucial to give me the strength to get back into the world.
And that’s what I want – more than anything. I retreated from the world at the start of the year, but now I want to be free to start living again. I know there is happiness out there for me somewhere.