Month: July 2014

Asking for Help #5: A Menu of Asks

Group HugPlanning out what to ask for can be even harder than the asking itself. Big questions like, “What do I need?” can become immediately overwhelming – but it’s easier for people to act when you tell them what to do. Here are some options to pick from. Substitutions allowed.

Ask for pictures – do you have a loved one far away? Ask for picture messages from them. This is especially great for children. A picture of a kid just doing her thing in the middle of the day can help lighten your mood.

Schedule one-on-one time – pick a group of people and ask them each to cover one day a week or every other week. Expect about half of the people you ask flake on you. They’re not ready. That’s ok. Be ready to ask again, or call in a second line of friends and family if necessary. Use the hour or two for whatever *you* would like to do – whether it’s watching TV or having a serious talk about what you’re going through. One-on-one time provides you the space to reach out, relax, or both. And it provides your friends the chance to help.

Ask for things people know about – have a friend who’s in a band? Ask for their music recommendations. Know someone who’s into comedy? Ask for some podcasts.

Ask for daily emails – pick one or two friends who are supportive and empathetic and ask them if you can email them daily, or even several times a day. These friends don’t have to understand what you’re going through, but they have to be able to provide explicit support. Use the emails as a substitute for “charting” your moods, or just a place to vent, or whatever. Be as clear as you can about what you want from the interaction, is it commiseration? problem solving? a sympathetic ear?

Crowdsource your questions – Ask your whole Facebook community for recommendations of books that aren’t downers. Ask the Subreddit on depression about that aspect of recovery that’s really been bothering you. Let the wisdom of the crowd help you out.

Asking is hard. And it’s something to be really proud of. Start wherever you’re most comfortable – an anonymous group of internet depressives, your closest family and friends. Know that you’re worth their time and effort, and know that you’re worth your own.

Photo by Robbert van der Steeg on Flickr.

The Depressive’s Guide to Adopting a Dog

I absolutely admire people who adopt difficult dogs. As a person who suffers from depression, I knew I couldn’t be one of those people. I knew I needed a dog that would be a calming, happy presence in my home, a dog that would lessen my frustration with the world, not add to it. There are plenty of sweet, happy dogs that need homes. Here are some tips for finding the right one for you:

  1. DestructionAdopt a grown dog. Puppies are a LOT of work, for at least a year, usually two. They pee and poop on your stuff and feel an irrepressible need to interact with the world by chewing on things – it can be more than just annoying. It can be really expensive. In hindsight, many dog owners would skip the undeniable cuteness if they could skip the frustration of the puppy years.
  2. Try to adopt a dog who’s being fostered in a home, not one that’s been held at the kennel for weeks or months. The way a dog acts in a kennel gives you almost no indication of their demeanor. Many have kennel cough, which sedates them, and others are overly hyper because they need exercise. When you meet a foster dog, you meet a dog that’s in its element, and the foster family can tell you more about the dog than the kennel staff ever could.
  3. Beware of pushy kennel staff. While their application process may make it seem like they’re picky about who can adopt, many staff are really on a mission to find homes for as many dogs as possible – they’re in the business of saving lives. Be patient. Be insistent. I even recommend finding the most experienced staff member you can (many are staffed by young volunteers), and try to sit them down and tell them about your condition. Tell them you need a truly special dog, and that you’re willing to wait.
  4. You choose them, but they also choose you. Wait. Wait for that dog with which you really do feel a special connection.

You deserve a dog that really enhances your life. Finding that dog can take weeks or months of browsing online and searching local rescue facilities, but it’s worth it. You’ll have the dog for a decade or more, and for that whole time, the right dog will lower your blood pressure, lift your mood, and bring you that thing that can seem so implausible: Joy. Daily Joy.

Adoption Day



One Thing at a Time

Good JobWhether you’re in the midst of a depressive episode, recovering from one, or trying to avoid one, chances are that there’s an area of your life that needs some work.

We’re eating or sleeping too much or too little, isolating ourselves, smoking or drinking too much, not exercising, our internal monologues are mean to us. For depressives, it can easily be all of the above, and it can feel like a freaking powerful posse ganging up on you.

So, as part of my ongoing battle against all-or-nothing thinking, I’m here to say that it’s ok to tackle only one thing at a time. They’re all interrelated and they all reinforce each other and you know what? It’s ok. It’s ok to just choose one.

Each of the above are big hurdles. They’re often biologically reinforced, and can be entrenched by years or decades of habit.

So I’m here to say something else too. I’m here to say that you don’t have to pick the most important one to do first. In fact, it might be best to pick the least important one, the easiest one, the one you already have half a handle on.

Start on the one that doesn’t fill you with dread, and measure small. If it’s your internal monologue you’re working on, don’t aim for an absence of critical thoughts, aim for a single positive one. A single positive thought about yourself every hour, or even every day. Get in the habit of it. And don’t expect to fix it entirely. Make some progress on it, work on maintaining that progress for a little while, then pick another one.

The second one will be easier because you tackled the first.

This stuff isn’t easy. And even thinking about starting is an accomplishment. Good job. 

Photo by Brendan Riley on Flickr.