Here we are at another holiday.
Holidays often bring up two things: loneliness and depression.
We look at the images on tv, or outside, see people smiling and doing things with others. When we look at those images, and we’re feeling lonely or depressed, we compare ourselves to what we’re seeing and it’s easy to think there must be something wrong with us. Everyone we look at seems to be enjoying themselves. Why is this event or holiday so hard for me?
Some of us are born with the genetic predisposition to feel depressed. We come from a lineage of other family members who have also struggled. Others become depressed when sad and diffiucult things occur in our lives. Since one in 10 people will experience all the major depression symptoms in their lifetimes, we see depression a lot, but somehow mental illness whether genetic or due to life’s circumstances, always seems to be something we feel we need to hide from others. People are initially understanding for a short time when a major life loss occurs, but even then, it seems like people become judgmental very quickly if you actually give an honest answer to “how are you”. We have to choose who we can really share our true feelings with.
People become impatient with depressed people because they don’t know what to do to help. Even for someone taking medication to treat it, there are still days and moments when it seems like nothing will ever get better or feel better. To some extent, the pain of depression creates an almost delusional state of mind that makes the person forget every happiness. The darkness and mental state created in a state of depression feels limitless and incredibly painful. It feels like you have always felt this sad and hopeless, and always will, and it will never get better.
Medication information for people for bipolar disorder has been studied and suggests that the typical person with a bipolar type disorder can take 8 years and 10 providers on average to figure out. That’s a long time. Part of the reason is that those people only seek help when they’re depressed, so the provider doesn’t see the whole picture. Even when you know it’s just depression, finding the right medication to help you and that you can tolerate can seem to take a very long time, and 6-12 months is not unusual. There are other types of depression that come and go, or get worse at certain periods. Sometimes those can take years to stabilize too, and that is certainly frustrating.
So whether you are in treatment or not, like any other chronic illness, this illness requires you to take special care of yourself. You have to choose who and how you spend your time. You have to avoid newscasts with horrible information in them. You have to find someone who you can be honest with, at the very least it should be your treatment provider and therapist. When you’re feeling most vulnerable, avoid whatever situations or people are likely to make you feel worse. Practice mindfulness activities to keep you focusing on the present, as today is often something you can deal with, so just get through today. Call those you know who you can be honest with, and share your feelings. Ask those around you to be more sensitive and gentle with you. Wear some favorite things that have some softness or tactile sensation that you enjoy. Write a list of things you can be grateful for today. Write a list of your good qualities. Go to a park with a pocket of dog treats. Smear your neck with peanut butter and let your dog or a friend’s dog have fun while you just lap up the love. Go to an ice cream store and buy an ice cream for a stranger. Say hello to someone else who looks sad. Be kind to yourself, and be kind to others. You never know when the kind word you said to someone makes all the difference. Hold a door open for someone; I’ve had depressed patients feel unworthy and spiral down because someone didn’t do that. Kindness goes a long way. Extending kindness to others can help you feel more connected and useful, and that can help you feel less isolated and depressed.