By Kim Lew
Dealing With Major Depression
You’re not sad. You’re so down in the dumps that you cannot get out of bed. Everything is a struggle and you’d rather not exist. You are utterly miserable. I get it. I’ve been there 9/10th of my life. Severe Major Depression, recurrent. It has been so bad sometimes that I have been hospitalized. There, I said it. The “H” word. So, now what? Here are some suggestions that may help.
Get out of bed
First, GET OUT OF BED! I know it’s hard. I know you don’t want to. But trust me if you don’t, it may make things worse. “So what?” you say. “I don’t care,” you say. Well, when your body has become stiff, your muscles have tightened up so that you are less flexible, and your joints hurt, then you just may care. That has happened to me, including resulting in a painful rotator cuff impingement in my shoulder. Now, I care. So, get out of bed. And, once you are up, MAKE that bed! Why? Because it is so pleasant to get into a bed that has been made and not only will it look nice, it will give you something to do that is easy and won’t cause you to have to think a lot.
Go for a walk
Now that you’re up, put on some comfy clothes and go for a walk. Again, I know it’s the last thing you want to do, but it will help you from gaining weight that the inactivity you may have been languishing in can cause. I’m sure you have already heard that exercise releases endorphins and those create positive feelings. Walking out in fresh air in the sunshine does help. You may hear some birds singing and if you’re lucky, you’ll see a bunny. I did yesterday. I heard birds and saw a little brown bunny with a white tail. It made me think, “She is cute.” Little things are important.
Next, find some distractions. Maybe you liked to read before. Then find your favorite book and reread it. While I love to read, I find it impossible when I’m depressed because I can’t concentrate enough to get to the end of a page, let alone a chapter. As a result, I watch movies. I get DVDs from the library and spend a day watching them. I like Disney and Pixar animations and Marvel movies. So, I watch those. We have an amusement park nearby and in the past when I had a season pass, I would go ride the roller coasters. I found the rush of air from the speed of the coasters and the physical sensations I got from the zooming down and around the curves a wonderful distraction. Although these things did not stop the misery from returning when they ended, they helped in the moment and that is critical. Anything you can do to get through the day is good.
Eat yummy food
Do you have a favorite food? Is it easy to obtain or prepare? If so, indulge yourself. I am a chocolate fan. Dark chocolate, to be specific. So, I go get a couple bars of delicious dark chocolate and slowly eat it over a couple of days. In the summer, I’ll make dark chocolate fudgesicles. They are wonderful and refreshing.
See a psychiatrist
Perhaps the most obvious, yet scariest thing to do is to get a psychiatrist. If you have never been to one before, it can be quite intimidating and frightening. If you can, get a referral from someone you trust. But you may not have that option. I used the county system and was assigned my doctors. When you go to your first appointment, it helps to have a list of your symptoms written down so that you don’t forget anything when talking to the doctor. The doctor will ask you many questions and you will have the opportunity to discuss your symptoms. Pay attention to how you feel during the visit. Do you feel comfortable? Is the doctor patient and are you treated respectfully? Does the doctor seem kind? Do you have the impression that the doctor is competent? Do you like the doctor? These are all important things to pay attention to. If you answer, “No,” to anything of these questions, then keep trying other doctors until you find a good match for you. Always remember that you can switch doctors, even if you are in the county system. I have done it. In the county system, doctors come and go. Consequently, you can be assigned a new doctor every so often. When I have gotten a doctor I didn’t like, I insisted that I be given a different one. You may have to be firm, although polite. But you can get a different doctor.
Get a therapist
In my opinion, the MOST important thing that you can do is to get a therapist. Again, this can be scary the first time. I know for me, I was terrified. I had no idea what would happen the first time I went. I didn’t even know I was going to a therapist. I thought I’d see a doctor and be prescribed some pill and then all would be well. I got there and was told it was psychotherapy. “What the heck is that?” I asked. Basically, it is talk therapy. You go in and you talk about things that are happening in your life. There are all sorts of therapies that the therapist can use. There is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy (EMDR), interpersonal therapy, psychodynamic therapy, emotion-focused therapy (EFT), and others. You may find one type of therapy more helpful to you than another. It is okay to ask a therapist what type of therapy they like to use. Some therapists will tend to use one type of therapy more than others, while other therapists are flexible and will use what every type the client is comfortable with. You won’t know what type of therapy you prefer until you try them. There are types that do not work for me, so I definitely have my preference.
Besides the type of therapy, there are different kinds of therapists and the titles vary from state to state. In California there are marriage and family therapists (MFT), social workers, psychologists, and sometimes psychiatrists. I have tried MFTs, social workers, and very briefly a psychologist. Like I have my preference for the type of therapy that works best for me, I also have my preference for the type of therapist that works best for me. You will need to try out different therapists to see what you like. It is most important to find someone that you feel comfortable discussing your secrets with. You MUST be able to trust your therapist. If you don’t trust the person, then find someone else. It may take some time for your relationship with the therapist to develop. Be patient, but at the same time know that you can always switch. If it’s not working for you, go elsewhere.
Try the tips
There you have it. I have given you a few tips to try to get you through your miserableness. Remember to get out of bed, go for a walk, find distractions, eat your favorite food, see a psychiatrist, and find a therapist. Living with depression is challenging, there is no doubt about it. It’s painful and exhausting. Give my tips a try and keep trying new things until you find what works for you.
Kim Lew is an adult autism and mental health self-advocate. She grew up in Silicon Valley when it was still the Valley of Heart’s Delight. She graduated from Smith College with a degree in Mathematics. Kim was diagnosed in her 40s with Aspergers. Although she has struggled with Major Depression since her early teens, she wasn’t diagnosed until she was in her 30s. She is an active Special Olympic athlete and as a Global Messenger she often MCs events for them. Kim currently teaches second-graders in an after school program.