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.