You don’t have to be mentally ill to experience mental illness.

I have been dealing with depression for most of my life. Lately I have been having some low days and it has been hard to get out of bed, let alone get any work done. But, even just lying inbred my mind has broken down things that help me get out of a funk, and I decided it was worth sharing.

If you have depression or feel like you do remember these things:

You are not alone. Many people suffer from this or things like it, and it can range from mild to serious. Yes, many people out there will not understand – they may say that you just need to smile, stop being negative, and you are being over dramatic – but just because you can’t see or “quantify” the disease does not mean that you are not sick. You know you, and that is what matters and you are more than your mental illness anyway.

Yes, it is a disease. The brain is an organ, it is more complex than many of your other organs, but it still makes and uses chemicals and is an integral part of your working system. AND like any organ, it can get sick. Like a lot of diseases, keeping a healthy lifestyle, I.e. good food, regular exercise, and plenty of fresh air and sunshine, can help turn it around…. However –

Don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor about meds. Now, to preempt this thing you need to know that I am against medication in general – I prefer ginger to tums or pepto, I’ll drink peppermint tea for headaches instead of taking ibuprofen or aspirin – etc, so when I say this, I mean it in the sense that in some cases, including myself, medication can be what you need to get through the harder times. My GP used the pancreas as an example/analogy where when it can’t create enough insulin, you wouldn’t say, no I think I won’t take my insulin shots because I don’t like medication, so if your brain doesn’t produce enough, or breaks down your serotonin too quickly, you need something to prevent that. It is not for everyone, and do not use it as a complete fix or a crutch. I am hoping to be weened off in a year or so myself. Getting some kind of help is always a good idea… I see a counsellor once a week and he is helping me break the path of negative thoughts and out me on a better path so that I won’t need the medication in the end.

Besides the specific and scientific aspects- there are these great thoughts as well:

Frustration will be your biggest enemy. Things you USED to be able to do easily may come as a struggle – you may find yourself more tired after tasks, you may find your motivation lacking. These are all things that are part of the illness, so take a deep breath and allow yourself to take it easy. Getting frustrated will not make things better. Tell yourself that WHEN you are better, this will be easier. My counsellor always tells me that it is not my fault and I am ill. He uses the analogy of a person with pneumonia… Anything you get frustrated over and think that you should do or you have to do – running yourself ragged and such – would you expect the person with pneumonia to do and be good at? No. So, maybe you aren’t putting out your best work, maybe you feel like you aren’t keeping up with others, but if you had pneumonia you would just say, I’m sick – I can’t but I will do better when I am better.

Listen to yourself! If you need a day in bed, DO IT! Like a food craving – if your body is telling you that it wants to do that… It usually means that you are lacking something (in the case of food, it would be vitamins – in the case of bed, maybe you just need to rest). It is okay… Don’t over do it, but it is okay. Everyone needs a day like that – or a video game day, or a book reading day… Etc.

There is always a new day. Remind yourself that each time the sun sets, there is a time the sun will rise. Each day IS a blank slate. Whatever happened the day before is over and does not matter now. And try to wake up with enthusiasm… Try a mantra, say something positive when you first get up, like ‘today will be a great day’. Even this is good:

20130118-000549.jpg It might seem stupid, but think of it this way… If you start the day low, there is more of a chance that it will stay that way. It is much harder to climb out of a hole when you have tossed yourself to the bottom, if you start above it you might actually avoid the hole altogether.

I know, I know, all of this is easier said than done, but they are things to keep in mind – and the thing I will reiterate is: Do not blame yourself for this, it is not your fault, you are ill.

For more – especially if you are looking into a self help type of path – check out these books/research

As my counsellor says each time I leave his office - take care of yourself.
I hope you do.

  • photo taken from http://www.loadingartist.com/2013/01/07/happy-new-enthusiasm – a web comic by Gregor Czaykowski
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