How I cope with depression.

I have suffered from depression since I was a teenager.  I am now 61.  I did not know I “had” depression until I had a breakdown when I was 50 and was admitted to a psychiatric clinic.  Even then, I remonstrated with the consultant psychiatrist.  How could I, a man who had been orphaned at 16, and who had made his way in the world on his own since then, have a mental illness?

I had, without a family, become a solicitor, and a Judge.  I’d also married and had three lovely children and a 5 bedroomed house in Caversham, Reading.  I was the epitome of a self-made man.  Not bad for someone who’d spent his early years in a Barnardo’s orphanage.

I told all this to the psychiatrist in a very objective way.  He was clearly concerned, I could see it in his face.  He asked me if I knew of “cognitive alienation”.  I didn’t, but after he explained what it was to me, I knew I had it.  Then he encouraged me to examine my mind to see if I could accept that I had depression.  I suppose I was in denial.  Eventually I did accept his diagnosis.  I was admitted immediately and slept for 3 days.

Since then I’ve reflected that I had for years just got through things using sheer will power.  I had goals, and I achieved them using determination and blood sweat and tears.  But I did not enjoy life.  I did not enjoy anything apart from listening to classical music and reading English literature.  Everything else was a grind, and as I got older, the grind got harder and demanded more and more of my energy – until eventually my mind just shut down.

Anyway, so much has happened since then.  I take medication every day: paroxetine 30 mg, which I find wonderful.  I don’t like the way people call such things “happy pills”.  They do not make you happy.  Many depressives, I am told, have insufficient serotonin in their brains, in a similar way to diabetics having insufficient insulin.  SSRI‘s such as paroxetine, correct, or go some way to correcting the dearth of serotonin.  So what’s the problem?  I don’t feel even in the slightest ashamed that I might have to take medication for the rest of my life.  It enables me to be me, and to function more normally than I otherwise would.  I think it’s wonderful, and that I’m really fortunate to live in an age when chemical therapy for the mind is available.

But the medication is only a part of what I use to cope.  I had psychoanalysis, and CBT.  I’m a great believer in the latter. As a lawyer it appeals to my “left brain” thinking.  More importantly, it works for me.  I used to be a pessimist.  Now I accept situations for what they are.  I look at the facts of a situation.  Example:  I used to drive into a car park and think “I bet I can’t find any spaces, and even if I do they will be too awkward to get into”.  Now I think “I am sure that there will be a space there, even if it is one that challenges my driving ability!”  This works across so many situations.  E.g. “I have to go to this party/networking event, it will be boring and no-one will like me.”  This becomes:  “I choose to go to this social gathering and look forward to meeting people who are interesting and could perhaps become friends/acquaintances/business connections.”

Anyway, enough of the “background”!  Here is how I cope with my depression.  I hope that, if you are a sufferer, you might pick up a tip or two:

  1. Meditation – yoga or T’ai Chi?
  2. Cook for yourself, or at any rate, eat good home cooked food.  Cooking is such fun.  Eating what you’ve cooked even better!
  3. Exercise.  Do whatever you enjoy.  For me it is walking.  Really gets the endorphins going.
  4. Avoid getting tired.  That is a real killer.  I mean mentally tired more than physically.  Limit your time on the computer.  It sucks the vitality out of your mind.
  5. Rest if you are tired.  I often have a nap in the afternoon.
  6. Socialise.  My friends are my best “counsellors”.
  7. Avoid loneliness.  not always easy as I know from personal experience.  But there are so many clubs/societies who need people like us.  It might even be a “depressives anonymous” group.  Great!  You will meet people traveling the same path and support each other.
  8. Volunteer.  From first hand experience (I have no stats to back this up) depressives are usually above average intelligent and sensitive people.  You will make a huge difference to other people who are less fortunate and form wonderful relationships that will enrich your life.
  9. Figure out what you really enjoy doing and do it!  For me it is listening to beautiful music and keeping up with current affairs, and cooking.  For you it might be completely different.
  10. Love and nurture yourself e.g. by treating yourself to a lie in, a barbecue with friends, museum trips, shopping.  Whatever!  Just do it.
  11. Avoid alcohol.  Sure, it is an easy way to dull the pain, but it is a depressive and buggers up relationships.
  12. Never give up.  We all have down days, but they pass.  So do the good days!  But that is all part of the thing called “Life”.

Take it easy.  As a sufferer for most of my life I know that depression can be controlled, and that we can all enjoy this wonderful world and some truly inspiring people.  If you feel like giving up, go to bed.  Please don’t do anything silly.  Trust me, you are loved.

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24 thoughts on “How I cope with depression.

  1. I was diagnosed about 3 years ago, but my world fell apart. I lost my fortune, my family and my career as an attorney. I have however, found out that I was doing all of those things because I thought I had to. Now I am writing, doing breath work and only taking a bare minimum of medications. I am better off then I have ever been because I am working through those deep seated emotional conflicts that I believe caused my depression. Thanks for your blog. I appreciate it.

    • Hi! Thank for your comment. Yes, I too, didn’t want to be in the Law. I’ve left it now, but am enjoying doing what I want to even though I don’t earn as much. Thank you for appreciating my blog. Comments such as yours make the effort worthwhile.

      • Thanks for commenting Vicki. No, I didn’t find that people shunned me, although it’s been hard maintaining relationships with those who do not understand depression. Yes, upsetting to lose family. However, I just got on with things. Counselling was unheard of in those days and I think I spent decades in denial. The treatment I received after my breakdown was painful, but I emerged a better, more balanced person.

  2. Wow, thank you for those words. I’m 24, I had an episode of depression last october and I am just slowly getting over it. You’re words were a great reminder that being good to and patient with myself is the best thing I can do for now.

    • I’m glad you found my post helpful. Yes, we can gain strength from others, and try to listen to their advice, but ultimately it is all down to us. Love yourself and you will find that slowly but surely things improve. Take care!

    • Thank you for the wonderful feedback, it means a lot to me. Classical music is good for the mind – like feeling closer to, indeed part of, a kind and nurturing Universe. Well, that’s how it feels to me!
      All the very best.

      • I feel the same way about classical music. My favorite composer is Mozart, and especially his piano sonatas. Did you know his piano sonatas have the Golden means ratio in the construction of phrases? It is proven to help with heart disease and child development. I studied about it for my masters paper at conservatory. I always listen to his sonatas when I feel sad, it is therapeutic, like a mind, body, cleanse. 🙂 take care.

  3. Really inspiring! To be honest, that’s just what I needed to hear as I’m having a really bad day. However it has made me wonder: I was diagnosed with Depression at 13. I’m now 17 and things are still tough. Why at 13 did I become depressed?! I’m far too young to have such a pessimistic outlook on life. I guess I just find it strange that I was so young. And at 17, still am. It saddens me more that I cant be like others my age. I feel like my teenage years have been stolen from me because of Depression.

    • Thanks for your kind words Lily. Comments like yours make the effort of writing a post worthwhile. Moods fluctuate during the day so I hope that yours will improve soon. Depression doesn’t respect age so please don’t feel that just because you are young you are somehow “odd”. I have grown so much because of my depression. It has taught me how to be a better person and given me emotional intelligence.
      “Like others my age”? Well, we are all different. Perhaps you are just more sensitive than some of the people you mix with, perhaps you are more personally honest. It’s dangerous to compare – we never truly know if someone else is really happy. Often we just assume that they are. Joining a self-help group would give you the chance to meet fellow sufferers and you would then know that you are not alone.
      Teenage years stolen? I understand why you think like that, but when you look back on this episode in years to come you will see that you have had some good times, and you’ve been given the opportunity to start the wonderful journey of real self-discovery at a young age.
      I have read all your posts and you are clearly an intelligent, warm, and empathetic human being. The world needs more people like you.
      Take care!
      Ken.

      • That last sentence has made my day. Thank you very much for putting such an honest, detailed response to my comment. I read that you had CBT. I have just sent off a referral for it in the hopes that it will help me like it helped you.
        It seems clear to me from your posts that Depression has not defeated you and that you have grown in strength because of it. I can only hope that I grow as strong as you in the years to come through my battle with Depression.
        Your blog is admirable and inspirational.
        I look forward to reading all of your future posts.

  4. Thank you for your post. It sounds so much like me I think I could have written it! It’s reassuring to know that I’m not the only one out there who feels like this. Unfortunately for me, medication doesn’t work well, or if it does work at first it tends to not continue to work. So I struggle on.

    • My pleasure! You’re certainly not the only one. I’m sorry to hear that medication doesn’t work for you. But there are other methods of coping, as I hope I illustrated. As for me, I keep taking it because it made such a difference to me, and I don’t want to stop because I can’t see the point! Some might argue that the relatively low dosage I take doesn’t make much of an impact but I prefer to err on the side of caution. I bet the running helps! All the best,
      Ken.

  5. Thank you for this honest information about your experience. My experience with deep depression was much more short-lived than yours, but I have no trouble admitting that it took me to dark places I didn’t even know existed. (Treating my underproducing thyroid has had the biggest effect on my depression, though I can still experience situational episodes.) I so appreciate you spelling out specific things that can be helpful.

    My daughter began her struggle with the darkness of depression at the age of 15, and it took us on quite a journey. As a parent, watching your child in such an immense struggle can be terrifying. Thankfully she is stable now, but the effects will be with us for the rest of our lives, which isn’t a bad thing. As you surely know, walking through such difficulty can create deep compassion if we so allow.

    I look forward to following your writing.

    Monica
    http://helptohopeblog.net/2013/04/11/i-didnt-know-how/

    • Thank you so much Monica for your appreciation. It touches me. Yes, I can identify with all you say. I have read your posts and your honesty and analysis is enervating and enlightening. I have three grown up children and two grandchildren. Thankfully none of them have suffered from depression.

      I truly wish you well on your journey through Life and somehow I know you will find happiness. You seem to be extraordinarily resilient. Tread carefully my friend.

      Ken.

  6. Hi, Ken. Yours is a very powerful story — I am happy that you are finding some balance for your life. Thanks for joining the reader family on my blog — I look forward to your participation in our discussions. I read the comments, above, and I, too, feel my teen age was stolen by depression. But I am the one who let it be stolen, because I didn’t understand what I do so clearly now — no one can hurt me unless I let them; and the corollary — no one can love me unless I let them. Important lessons for me, and they changed my life. Thank you for your testimonial to the strength of the human mind.

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