You’ll find, particularly right now, a lot of posts encouraging those struggling with depression to get help. And those are good posts. And it is true that you should get help. But anyone who has ever been depressed or been around someone who is depressed can tell you that getting help is this huge, broad, vague idea that floats desperately out of reach when you are in the pit.
Lots of times, depressed people know they need help. They may not even know they are depressed, but they know something isn’t right and they need help. But what help? Where? And does it cost money? Do I have to take off work for it? Get a sitter? Drive there? Wait in line? Fill out paperwork? Call someone on the phone? Take experimental doses of medication that may actually first make me worse? What if I do find a therapist and they are awful? What if I tell someone and they think I’m dramatic or seeking attention or that depression isn’t real or that maybe I should pray a little more?
I’d ask someone for help, but I’m afraid they’d fail.
I wrote that line in a poem when I was 16 and it still pops up in my mind today. When help is so desperately needed and wanted, it’s terrifying to think that someone might take all that is in them and seek the help, only to find it fall short. What if I can’t be helped? What if I am too far gone? What if no one actually cares?
You are not too far gone. But I understand thinking that you are. And someone does care. But I understanding fearing that they don’t.
There are options out there that specifically and professionally address depression – talk lines, therapy, support groups, medication, etc.
But the truth is that some of the help you have to get when you’re depressed is from yourself. Depression is a disaster that comes on you without your invitation, like a car crash that leaves you with two broken legs. And you will have to work towards healing like someone with broken legs. Except your broken is inside. So a lot of the work is inside. But some of it is outside. Just like the broken leg person has to do some inside work. Healing anything takes work. And sometimes something comes in and re-injures you. But that doesn’t mean you should give up. The mind is powerful, but it is also re-wireable, to at least a certain extent. And the good news (I know, magic pill or miraculous healing would be the really good news, but so far this is all I’ve got) is that some of the healing does lay in your own hands. I know, that’s really annoying since you didn’t cause your own depression, but it’s good because you have a lot of the tools you need within you already. No phone calls, no forms, no insurance, no waiting rooms.
And if you’re reading this article, you probably want some help. Or know someone who does. Or want to someday help someone who does. So here’s the deal:
If you are actively thinking of hurting yourself or someone else, immediately seek emergency help – call 911 or go to your ER.
Otherwise, this post will focus mainly on what you can do for yourself (or maybe what you can encourage someone to do for themselves).
Things you can do for yourself:
1. Take a shower
2. Take a walk outside
3. Drink a glass of water (and take any meds or supplements you are prescribed)
4. Eat a healthy meal (like, try to include all the food groups, or you know, at least more than one)
5. Play a song you like
6. Watch a movie or show you like
7. Get dressed. Do your hair and makeup (if that’s a thing you do when you’re well)
8. Engage in some kind of spiritual practice (prayer, meditation, devotional reading, song, etc) even if you are really upset with God right now, that’s okay. While lack of faith is not necessarily the cause of depression, a crisis of faith is probably digging it’s heels into you right now because depression in a monster and a liar and so is the devil.
9. Stop doing things that you know make you feel bad
10. Write down 10 things you’re grateful for. Or 5. Or 3. Or 1. At least 1.
11. Do something kind or generous for someone else. It can be really small. Remember that generosity is not just about money – it’s about time and energy as well.
12. Get a decent amount of sleep if you can (6-8 hrs). If you can’t sleep, at least rest.
This is called self-care. Everyone’s self care looks a little different, but there are some universal aspects of wellness – such as hygiene and health (healthy body, healthy mind, healthy spirit). The acts above contribute towards personal wellness.
There are things that accompany your depression – chemicals, genetics, situations, circumstances, experiences. You can not necessarily change or control those things. But you can practice self-care. You do not have to believe that you are worthy of self-care and you do not have to believe that self-care will help. You just have to practice it.
Act like the healthy version of yourself or the person you would like to be (to the best of your ability) and you may find yourself actually getting closer to that version of yourself.
Thoughts, actions, and feelings create a triangle of cause and effect with one another. If you can change one, you will find the others changing too. Actions are often the easiest things to change in this equation. You will find that your thoughts and feelings begin to catch up with your actions. It’s not always a smooth transition, but change does happen. Things can change. Things can get better.
As the fog starts to lift, pay attention to what is and isn’t working in your life and daily routine. If something isn’t working for you, think about doing what you can to change it. Pay attention to people, places, and things that bring you down (also known as triggers) and do what you can to avoid them. If you can’t avoid them, engage them as little as possible, prepare for them as best as you can, or decompress after them as best as you can. They don’t have to get the best of you or set you back in your healing process. Pay attention to what you enjoy, what brings you positive feelings. Check that it’s not a coping mechanism that will cause you problems later (addictive or destructive behaviors). If it’s truly a positive thing in your life, then make room for it regularly. Self care, getting to know yourself, and taking ownership over your day as much as you can will begin to create a buffer between yourself and the pit of depression.
For more on depression, faith, and tips for coping:
- Talk to someone you trust and deem safe. Or maybe write them an email. Ask for prayer from your church, pastor, parents, friends, or an online prayer group or site (most Christian radio stations and large churches have places where you can submit requests online). Suicide hotline: 1-800-273-TALK
- Consider therapy and/or medication. Only you know what your situation is and what may or may not work for you. Consider it. You can rule it out. Just think about it. If you pursue it, you will probably have to talk to people and research things and fill out papers and wait in line. You may want help. Tell someone that. That person you deem safe. If you go it alone, take a break if you get overwhelmed.
- Find an outlet that’s just for you – write, draw, paint, play music, workout, start a project, discover a hobby. You probably have a thing – what is it and how can you channel some energy into it? (Because you will get energy back from it)
Some additional thoughts:
If you have responsibilities to work, family, friends, churches, or organizations – that’s good. It probably feels really hard and/or overwhelming and/or pointless, but it’s good. It just may keep you from the pit of the pit.
If you don’t have anything or anyone holding you accountable, it’s harder. It’s harder to admit that the pit is the pit. It’s easy to hide. Join something. Connect to something. Online counts and can be very effective (this is where social media can be really positive), but offline connection is best for full accountability. Maybe try something like Meetup.com if you’re struggling to find something?
Hang in there. You are not alone.
*This isn’t professional advice, just hopefully helpful ideas*