You probably know by now that I’ve struggled with depression, anxiety and panic attacks my whole life. After all these years, the most crucial thing that I’ve learnt when it comes to depression is that only you can make yourself better. I’ve worked incredibly hard for a very long time to be able to say that my life is really rather wonderful right now. I’ve also learnt the importance of staying vigilant and to not let your guard down under any circumstances.
At the end of November last year I was at the bottom of a dark well (metaphorically of course) when all of a sudden, everything fell apart. I found myself with no job, no money, no partner, not as many friends as I thought I had, and also eventually with no home. Yet, despite being completely broken and absolutely terrified, I managed to put my life back together again. With the support of my wonderful family and fantastic friends, who I can’t thank enough, I got through it. And that’s what’s been going on behind the scenes.
Once again, depression is in the news. We can never educate people enough about mental health and my hope is that reading this will help someone find the strength to carry on. Depression isn’t something that you can just ”snap out of”. It’s a very serious, very frightening illness. It becomes a part of you. Beating it requires extremely hard work but it’s so worth it in the end. Here are the things that I did that got me back on track.
Focus on looking after yourself
Don’t beat yourself up about not doing what you ”should” be doing. It can wait. You need to focus on caring for yourself right now. Let’s cover the basics first because you need to stay alive. Eat healthy food. Make sure you eat even if you can only stomach a little or certain types of food. Drink plenty of fluids. Drink green tea as it’s full of antioxidants. Take multivitamins. Go for long walks. Practise mindfulness. Do yoga. Make sure you go outside every day. Get as much sleep as possible. Your body and mind need it to be able to recover. Only take sleeping tablets if you really have to and only for a very short period of time as they are highly addictive.
Get it out of your system
Talk to your friends and family, your GP, a counsellor, online friends, strangers, Samaritans, cats, anyone. Talk until you’re tired of talking about it. Cry as much as you need to. Write down your thoughts and feelings. Expressing yourself will help you heal.
Start a new notebook. This will be your ‘sorting out notebook’. Start by writing a list of what you want out of life, however outrageous. Then write a list of the steps you need to take to get there. Break them down into smaller steps and do one little thing each day until you feel well enough to do two, then three, then four and so on. Stop making excuses; do all those things that you’ve always wanted to do but never get round to. Write a list of all the good things in your life and highlight the good things about the situation you’re in. This is also where you write your emergency lists such as a list of all the people you can contact if you’re having a particularly bad day.
Do loads of fun things, laugh and celebrate
Watch and listen to loads of comedy. Go to stand-up gigs. Listen to music every day. Dance the Charleston and the Twist. Sing loudly. Read P.G. Wodehouse. Say yes. Try new things. Keep a ‘good things’ jar. Throw a dinner party. Go see some art. Eat out. Go to the pictures. Celebrate every little achievement. Celebrate being alive. For more ideas read 50 things to do when you need cheering up.
Get some perspective
If you’re able to, go away for a while. It will do you the world of good. You can’t get away from your inner struggles and worries, but you can get some perspective and figure out where to go from here. Distance can be a marvellous thing.
Surround yourself with supportive, loving people
Reach out to people and ask for help when you’re struggling. It can be extremely difficult but remember that asking for help does not mean that you’re a weak person. Some people will not be there for you when you need help but that’s okay. When you’re in pain, you will find out who your real friends are and that’s a very good thing. Keep in touch with people. Get out and see people as much as possible. Make new friends. Join a book club or a craft group. Make plans and look forward to things. Also, be kind to everyone. You never know who might end up becoming a vital part of your life.
“They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.” I’m with Andy Warhol on this one. Sitting around doing nothing doesn’t change a thing. Time passing is only time passing. Sometimes bad things happen to make room for better things but if you don’t like something, you need to change it. If you can’t, accept that you can’t change it and instead change your attitude towards it. It’s difficult but it can be done.
Treat yourself lots
You need to be super kind to yourself right now. Do relaxing things and treat yourself as much as possible. Buy yourself a box of expensive chocolates. Make pancakes for breakfast. Take a bubble bath in candlelight. Share a drink or a cuppa and a laugh with a friend. Buy yourself a bouquet of flowers. Wear your prettiest clothes. Change your hair. Buy some new art and crafts supplies. Use the nice china every day. Watch feel-good films. Have a large piece of chocolate cake in a pâtisserie. Soak up the sunshine. Fall in love with your city/town all over again. Go see a play or a musical in the theatre. Read books that make you smile. Cook your favourite dishes.
Literature, blogs, music, films, art, nature, people, animals. Inspiration is everywhere. Be open to everything that comes your way and actively seek out things that will stimulate your mind and get your imagination going. Variation is key to creativity and exposing yourself to new things will get your creative juices flowing.
Art is therapeutic. It makes you grow as a human being and it can even help you understand yourself better. Try a new medium and learn a new skill. Channelling your feelings and what is happening to you into making stuff will have a purifying effect and help you move forward.