Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Dealing with a Depression Flare-Up

This winter has been tough for me as far as my depression goes. It's been so cloudy and dreary, and I do think the lack of sun has affected me. I've had to keep fighting to keep myself from sinking too low. I know I've shared my battle with depression in the past, so I want to continue to do that. 

I suppose I'm one of the unlucky ones who has several chronic illnesses along with mental health problems. I have both depression and anxiety. My anxiety is under control with medication; however, my depression, while being treated, is not. Since I've been on medication, my depression is much better than it was when it was untreated. In fact, I can go a very long time and not feel depressed at all. But, I have flare ups of depression, and that is hard to handle. I'm learning what it is I need to help myself on those bad days. Here are a few things that have helped me:

1. Communicating with others- A tendency to isolate oneself is part of depression, so it's a struggle to reach out to others when I'm feeling down. There are certain people I do not call when I'm feeling low. I think we all have or have had friends or family members who are draining. A phone call with a request for help can sometimes turn into an hour-long monolog by said friend. For obvious reasons, this is not helpful. I try to call or text others when I'm doing well as to not "be that person." You know, the one who only calls when they're in crises. Find your person.The one who understands you and will be there for you when you need them. Of course, it goes without saying that you need to be there for them, too.

Spending Time Outdoors

2. Getting out of the house- Being out in the fresh air, and sunshine if you're lucky enough to have some, is healing. Sometimes, just going out to walk the dog will help me feel a little bit better. I might see a neighbor and chat for a bit, or see a few squirrels, which are my very favorite wild animals. It's fun to watch them chase each other around the yard and up the tree. While going shopping isn't always my favorite thing to do, I have found that I sometimes feel better being out and around others. 

3. Reading a good book- I've always loved to read. When I'm depressed, I find it hard to focus, though, so I try to keep my reading rather light at those times. There's something to be said about escaping into a light-hearted fiction book. Along with my book, I might enjoy having a bit of candy or a cookie. I try to eat dark chocolate most of the time. Obviously, the sweets aren't an everyday occurrence, but something that I allow myself to have more often than I should occasionally.

Doing a Little Bit of Baking
4.Having something to work on- I'm not talking about a huge project like painting a room, but something small and more manageable to help me to "get out of my head." If I'm too sick to get out of bed, I might pass the time planning our next family get-together, my future remodeling projects or next years' vacation. If I'm able to be up and about, I may work on organizing family photos or paperwork or spend some time baking. 

5. Surrounding myself with water- A long shower or a soak in the tub are always relaxing to me. In the summer, I'll spend time in our pool. The sound of water has always soothed me, so listening to my sound app that has a variety of water sounds is healing. We are fortunate enough to live in a city on the river, walking along the walkway by the river is an enjoyable way to get exercise while viewing and hearing the water. 

6. Listening to music-There's something so therapeutic about music. I've always been a music lover; as a child, I remember spending most of my allowance on 45's (I'm giving my age away, aren't I?) I enjoy a variety of music, jazz, oldies, country, rock, contemporary Christian, etc. I'm really not too picky. All I know is that immersing myself in the sound of music does more to lift my mood than almost anything else.  

Reading Encouraging Scripture

7. Connecting with God- Prayer, reading scripture, listening to church service, all help me. I'm not the most religious person, but I am a believer, and I do feel there's a place for religion or some kind of spiritual connection when dealing with a chronic illness. For me, having faith and hope, help make the bad days not so bad. 

8.Keeping things in perspective- It's so easy to let yourself ruminate about things, but that isn't very conducive to good mental health. I find that if I'm able to tell myself that I've felt this way before and I made it through to the other side, those "what if" and "why me" thoughts are lessened. Looking through the foggy lenses of a depressed person is difficult, that's why having the ability to remember the ups and downs of life is so helpful. 

These coping strategies may or may not be helpful to you, but it certainly won't hurt to try some of them. It goes without saying that if you are clinically depressed or suicidal, you need to see a professional. Here's to having better days ahead for all of us!


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  2. I really appreciate your voice which shines through in your writing. Thank you for spreading knowledge of your story.

    I am a counselor who likes listening to stories and I blog about stress & emotional well-being at nowreducestress.com. I used to have much stronger depression, loneliness and anxiety before before becoming a monk. This decision sparked a journey to becoming certified as coach, counselor, and yoga teacher.

    While I don\'t have chronic pain myself, I am branching out of yoga/wellness coaching to chronic pain & stress because of my passion for mindfulness. Mindfulness is hepful for many things, but the strongest empirical evidence is for stress & pain management. However, I don\'t know much about chronic illness and my intention here is to reach out to connect, learn, and share useful information.

    Overall, what is your position in regards to being interviewed by a counselor on a podcast?

    For an interview example, you can listen to me interviewing my 86 year old Grandma on chronic pain at:

    Jared Levenson

    P.S. levensonjared@gmail.com is good way to reach me. Thank you