Depression — Weathering the Storm

I live in a hurricane zone and that got me thinking about the parallels between depressive episodes and storms. In the case of hurricanes you can see the storm forming sometimes thousands of miles away. It’s a gradual thing that inches closer to you. You can’t stop the hurricane from happening, you can’t get out of the way, you can only brace, prepare and weather the storm.

The one major thing I’ve gradually gained through therapy has been an awareness of my mental and emotional state so that I can feel the onset of an episode. In past blogs I’ve talked about sort of side-stepping, though really it’s more about fortifying and minimize how long the episode keeps you pinned under.

The tools vary by person but my own typical approach has been to blend these main behaviors and elements.

  • Optimize my diet
    • When an episode is brewing I try to cut way down on sugars and carbs and focus on vegetables and light, easy to process proteins
    • Yogurt, overnight oats and ready to go meals so that I don’t start skipping meals and binge eating later
  • Try to keep even a low-level exercise routine
    • I’m terrible at this to be honest but I try to keep a little under-desk peddle unit so I have some exercise
  • Switch off from the news and negative media
    • Unplugging has often been one of the hardest things to do given my job in IT but less information is sometimes better.
  • Brace my friends and support structure
    • This one is weird and hard. I often struggle with telling friends that I feel an episode coming on so my mood, mannerisms and conversation may become more difficult. Most people expect it when something tragic happens, but for clinical depression it doesn’t have to be one specific major event that triggers your episode, getting that across isn’t always easy.
  • Mind my medications and supplements
    • This will vary greatly by person, especially if you’re on prescriptions medications for depression or anxiety but falling out of sync with meds or supplements to keep your health up is always rough so better to try to remain consistent.

I wish there were an easy answer out there.  I wish that living with depression wasn’t simply about surviving and managing it like some terminal condition. The fact there’s no cookie cutter solution to depression is a constant reminder to me that people are unique and we each have to chart a course through the problems our life has. I don’t have answers for everyone I just know what’s been working for me and hope that in writing it down may help someone else who may have overlooked something or could add to their box of coping tools.



Depression and Helping Your Partner Cope

I happened upon this article and thought it was a good suggestion right around Valentine’s Day. A painful aspect of depression stems from the tendency towards doing the opposite of what reflex would tell you to do.

For me I realize when my depression continued to escalate I became harder and harder to live with. The best comparison is being a porcupine. The last thing you want to do is keep that close to you or cuddle it. To both those around the person experiencing depression as well as the person him/herself, instinct gravitates towards the opposite of what should be done. Tenderness is not the first reflex when someone is starting to withdraw or became more irritable than normal.

The most difficult thing about the experience (from the perspective of the depressed person) is that you can’t step out of your own mind and objectively assess what’s happening. You feel as though you want to withdraw from social situations and not seek help.

If you or your significant other are experiencing these types of things, try to take that big leap and objectively look at your circumstances. Reach out, communicate to someone of your pain. It’s the hardest first step, sometimes it can lead to empathy, sometimes confusion, potentially rejection but you have to take it.

Distractions and the Negative Loop

As much as I love technology it has been both a blessing and a curse for me. Previously I rarely used my iPad unless I was on the road or traveling.  These days I use it almost every day as sort of “background tech”.

Following my divorce I found myself having the hardest time getting my mind to unhook from negativity and loneliness. In a cruel twist of irony though my anxiety made social interaction difficult at times in crowds and in public.  So I was left with a quandary. How do you feel less alone when alone? For me it became always having background noise or dialogue be it shows or movies in the background. Not directly in line of sight, just off to the side on my iPad.

This slippery slope however is something I’ve had to try to balance. It doesn’t interrupt my job it sort of becomes the din behind me. Replacing the normal banter heard in any office setting or workplace without the rise in anxiety. Slowly I’ve tried to ween myself off it, but it’s a gradual thing. Silence you see is something I fear.  Those gaps, that idle time when it’s just me and my thoughts is a dangerous place. There’s the phrase of idle hands are the devils workshop. When you suffer from depression and anxiety that statement becomes more true to me and really silence is your personal hell. Those moments where there’s no clear objective that I can keep engaged to often result in negative thoughts and dwelling on the past. It’s a horrible back-slide in my recovery. So every day I try to keep my mind running, never giving it time to think about the past, my marriage, the divorce. Eventually though there’s nothing but silence and in those moments, little by little I try to meditate and come to terms w/the pain and the guilt. I work at it every day to break out of the loop and it slowly gets easier, but it never quite goes away. Maybe some day when my head is full of other things or more positive elements I can push the negative aside.  For now though, it is a daily task.