This Issue is Written by: Lewis For anonymity, we never disclose the author's full name, but assure you that all stories are genuine.
I wake up, get dressed put on my best face and head out the door, outwardly I look like I'm ready to take on the world, inside, however, tells a different story; I'm feeling as far from great as possible, in fact, I'm quite depressed and down. If this sounds familiar you are already partly managing your depression.
Just by doing this every morning I'm actually tackling and controlling my emotions and showing that I am able to manage my depression in some way. However, this is no easy feat; take it from me it is actually very hard and most days I don't feel like doing this at all.
So why do I continue to push myself even though I don't feel like doing so?
Maybe the alternative is worse for me and by doing nothing I am in fact impacting my own life for the worse or maybe I simply just don't want others to notice or to worry so I crack on so as not to make anyone suspicious of how I'm feeling.
There are a few things I found that worked for me; in my own opinion.
Maintaining my daily life
Maintaining my daily life is important, most days I can't allow myself to get bogged down with my depression as it could inhibit me from going to work, exercising, seeing friends and family or even going to the shops, all of these are important to my life and without these things I would have no money, no contact or connection with others and could start to fall into the slippery downward spiral of depression rather easily and just wallow instead.
Giving myself some control back
I found that depression at one point was controlling my life, it stopped me from going out, going to work, seeing family and even made me lose all interest in things I actually enjoy doing. Instead of doing these things I would lay there and watch the days pass me by which in turn made me feel worse and worse as I then used my procrastination as a means to "attack" myself which also gave me justification for my self-loathing. This lack of control made me realise that something needed to be done. My life was bad and I was making it worse for myself, I knew I needed to make efforts to change this but I still had the attitude of "what's the point?" Only after making little steps and small efforts did I begin to see that having control over my depression actually gives me some life back which in turn made my life feel more substantial.
Moments I can enjoy
I am aware that my depression is never going anywhere and have faced the fact that I must live with it forever, but that doesn't mean there are not moments I can't or don't enjoy. on the contrary, we can all experience things that we enjoyed or made us feel happy no matter how fleeting the moment was or how depressed we may be feeling.
It could be something as simple as spending time with a parent, friend or sibling, going for a walk, kicking a ball around or switching on my favourite game. Making efforts to maintain myself made me do things, which often made me speak to people, which sometimes lead to other opportunities.
It can help me to achieve
A sense of achievement is integral to feeling good about myself, after all what's better than achieving something you set out to do no matter how big or small that achievement may be? By making efforts to maintain my depression I am then putting myself into a position where tasks can get done. This does not have to be anything huge, putting it simply just going to the park for a
walk can be an achievement which was something I could not face to do beforehand. So I then in turn have now taken control and done something I would not have done before. Eventually, I just kept telling myself, "No matter what it is; set out to do it, it could be the best thing you have done all day for yourself". Even though I rarely ever felt like it.
So those were some points I tell myself about how maintaining my depression can be good for me, so next are some tactics I applied so I could keep maintaining it.
Be emotionally aware
This is easier said than done, I found it hard to be aware when I was wrapped up in how I was feeling or if the negative feelings crept up on me without my notice and quite often I did not realise why I was feeling, thinking or acting a certain way until much later on.
However, sometimes I was able to stop for a second and think why am I feeling, thinking and acting like this? I started to run a checklist, i.e. is this bothering me, is that thing that happened the other day/month/year bothering me or is it just simply my depression and nothing has gone wrong as such? I found that when I was able to do this it helped me to take a step back and process my emotions a bit better. I could then see why I was this way that day and from there I could decide if I should leave this task for today or if I need rest or what I need to do to change my current mindset.
I would try to stop, breathe, think and then decide what to do next.
Having this awareness helped me to manage myself and what I could complete on the day.
Speak to someone, professional or loved ones -
Speaking to someone IS important, by getting stuff off my chest I am dealing with something that's on my mind and can then have an outside perspective. The outside perspective may not be right or the thing I wanted to hear but it's another point of view that I may not have thought about. Once it is spoken about I could then discuss it, which then starts the process of resolving the issue and maybe even fixing it.
I found speaking to a loved one was very healthy for me and helped me see issues
I couldn't see for myself. I found this was best for me but you may not have a loved one or you may just not want to speak about your feelings to a loved one but maybe a professional who is a stranger with no ties or emotional investment is a better option for you.
Either way by speaking to someone I am facing my feelings and actively tackling these negative emotions; possibly even putting the wheels in place for resolving them.
Ah, the dreaded E word, we all knew it was coming and we all know we need to do it but you know I just really can't be bothered today. The problem here is that most days I'm not bothered to do the small things in my routine never mind slogging my guts out running or lifting weights. The truth is though; is that exercise is 100% good for me it releases endorphins otherwise known as the runner's high which elevate ones mood, makes me stronger and fitter in the long run and even plays into my own vanity because I may start to look good to myself.
The main thing to take away from this section is that regular exercise can make people feel good and shouldn't be avoided. I don't have to do a huge set of weights or run for miles and miles, I may just feel like not doing it at all if so then I just do a set, walk away have 5 and then see if I want to do another. I often found that this was the case and ended up doing a full workout. I try to start small and build myself up but I never overdo it because I won't want to do it again.
Live a proactive lifestyle
Living a proactive lifestyle doesn't mean going 2000% at everything, exercising everyday, crushing work and being at peak performance. It's more like achieving the tasks I've set for myself for the day at a pace I know I can do it at.
I started this by giving myself the task of learning a new musical instrument I agreed with myself to set aside 40 mins each day to learn it. This soon evolved into adding new tasks to my "to do" list, as the months went on things such as exercise, studying, work, seeing family, and going for walks all got included in my lifestyle. I made a list and set out to achieve each task at a pace I knew I could complete with no added stress.
This plays into the sense of achievement I mentioned earlier and will also help to keep the mind busy so you I some form of rest/escape from my negative thoughts.
Know when not to push myself -
It's all well and good to keep being proactive but I must remember not to burn myself out, I don't push it to the point I hate it or am tired every day. I remember to relax and that everything I do should be for my own enjoyment not because I have to (work aside). Don't feel like going for that run today? Fine stay in grab a coffee put on some music and sit down. Don't feel like studying? I'm sure a day or two is fine as long as you are on top of it but yeah go ahead and give that brain a rest. The point is to take it easy and not to put unnecessary pressure on myself.
Cry - Something I hate doing and must remember is also good for me, if I cry it can make me feel like something/someone has won or that I am too soft, less of a man... you get the picture. In truth crying like exercise is good for us as stated on the Harvard medical school website Researchers have established that crying releases oxytocin and endogenous opioids, also known as endorphins.
These feel-good chemicals help ease both physical and emotional pain.
So remember to have a little cry now and again and release some of that stress.
Make a to do list -
This again plays into the sense of achievement and living a proactive lifestyle, making a to-do list can be a good way to manage how much I do in a day and what's possible and not possible and as time goes on that list will get more defined and polished to what I can and want to do each day.
Seek help -
I can stress this enough, don't carry the burden all on your own! I did this for years because I did not want people to worry. So I sucked it up and carried the weight of it on my own which only dragged me down more and more. Only when I opened up did things start to change, my loved ones felt better in a way because they now knew what was wrong with me and the doctors instead of carting me off gave a long list of support, resources contact numbers, things I can do etc etc. This opened up a support system for myself through my family and friends and through professional advice and help.
Do it -
At the end of the day, you may find all or parts of this unhelpful as I said this is just a point from my perspective and not a "how to" kind of blog. Maybe something else works out for you more, but again you have to do it. I know this may be a struggle for you as I at one point could not bare to do anything; but it does get easier as you get more resilient and I really had to push myself.
Be kind to yourself -
Do you look back and think I could've done this better or differently or why did I do that instead?
Maybe you are hard on your present self and need to not put so much pressure and expectation on yourself.
Instead of thinking like this, I try to think how I personally would've helped that person (i.e. my past self) and how that implies to helping myself now in the present version of me, maybe who I am at present does not need to complete all those tasks I've set myself maybe I can just slow it down a bit at a more digestible pace.
I try to remember life is hard enough without me making it harder for myself. Sometimes I just treat myself like I'm the only person that matters.
Take it easy and show yourself the love you truly deserve.
Lewis is now working as a Front End Developer for a sector-leading health and wellbeing business.
"I am excited to work for a company that has a real impact on mental health and well-being"