asking for help

Can I Just Say? #8: Early Waking

Early WakingWhat is one supposed to DO at 4:30 in the morning? The roommates are asleep, the dog wants none of it, and nothing’s open. It’s too early to pass the time. It’s too late to take a Tylenol PM.

Early waking is a common and little talked about symptom of depression. My most prolific period with this blog was a pleasant side effect of a bout of it – but most of the time it’s a huge hassle.

You’re bored. You’re tired. You’re by yourself.

So I’m looking for suggestions. Ways to pass the time when you’re depressed and you’ve got five hours until work starts. Books? TV shows? YouTube Channels? All welcome here. How do you pass the time?

Leave your suggestions in the comments below or email me at depressionwhoneedsit@gmail.com. Thanks!

Photo by Connie Liegl on Flickr.

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We’re Not the Only Ones

hopeThe loneliness of depression often tricks us into believing that we’re facing something completely unique. That we’re out here alone and no one is trying to reach us, no one is trying to help.

It’s not true.

I once worked in the US Senate and my favorite part was getting the chance to sit down with patients and their advocates almost every day. Children with epilepsy, adults with debilitating psoriasis, families who’d lost a loved one to suicide. Cancer, chronic pain, paralysis, ALS. Almost all of them requested the same thing – more funding for medical research.

After a year or so I realized that almost all of them were asking for the same, most fundamental thing – hope. Many of them were asking not for themselves, but for their children. Many were asking not for their children, who were already gone, but for future generations of children – so that they might not suffer.

“You never know,” they often added, “what else we might discover while researching blindness.” You never know how close the next treatment might be. They came to Washington with the sense that they were not in this alone, that what was good for them would be good for others, would be good for the whole country. They came insisting that, if we cared, we could do something together, to help each other.

I think they were right.

Photo by US Army Africa on Flickr.

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.

A Celebration of Therapy, In List Form

No treatment method is for everyone, but I think talk therapy gets an especially bad rap, considering the profound upsides.

So today – a little celebration of therapy, in list form:

1. It turns out that there are a lot of treatments out there that work really well and really quickly. EMDR can take as little as one session and can considerably lessen the excruciating feelings left by a traumatic event. Treatment for anxiety and panic has come very far too. Therapists with the right certifications might be able to ease your pain a lot more quickly and easily than you think.

Young at Heart Portrait2. Therapy can reduce your blind spots. There’s nothing like talking to the same person every week about your wellbeing to make you realize things about your wellbeing. And if you’re not seeing clearly when it comes to how you feel (and so many of us aren’t), then you’re working with a huge handicap when it comes to feeling better.

3. Even if you have a fantastic support system, chances are you need more support. Depression attacks the very things we need to see ourselves through the recovery process – motivation, energy, hope. Sometimes I think of therapists as expert advocates – trained professionals who have been through it before, who know the ropes and can help us navigate this crushing disease.

4. Let’s face it, talking helps. Being listened to helps. Having someone who won’t recoil at your dark thoughts, who won’t shun you your jealousies or be scared by your fears – it’s priceless. It allows you some space to have perspective, to welcome in the META THOUGHTS and learn some ways to cope with all. those. overwhelming. feelings.

Here’s to your health.

 

Photo by Nevil Zaveri on Flickr

The Meta Thoughts

Bebop Sleeping

Bebop Sleeps

I was chilling on my back porch the other day with my adorable dog on my lap. Suddenly I was sure that the reason my doctor hadn’t called me back was that I have cancer and they don’t know how to break it to me. They know I’m depressed so they want me to come in in-person. I’m never going to have children and then for the rest of my life people will look at me and think, “How sad. She always wanted children.” A blow like this will sink me back into the worst of my depression. I’m never going to get better. That’s my future. I’m never getting better.

See that? Blink of an eye and I’m like four steps into my hypothetical, mourning my imagined losses, starting to panic.

This is the moment when therapy, or some other intentional recovery effort, does something. Before I started recovering, a turn like this would have landed me in bed, completely shut down and miserable. Now…

The Meta Thoughts

The Meta Thoughts

Enter: The META THOUGHTS

Instead of following the hypothetical, I realize that it’s just a hypothetical. I realize that I’m panicking, that I’m entering a tailspin. I realize that nothing bad has actually happened.

I got up, shook myself. Put a leash on my dog, went for a walk and called a friend.

After a bit of distraction and support from my friend, after I was able to calm down, I remembered that not every thought deserves its day in court (or its time in rumination-ville).

The appearance of the Meta Thoughts is new for me – the inkling that bad thoughts aren’t real events. If you don’t know what I’m talking about – I’m genuinely happy for you. If you do, try to remember, they’re there for you – those heroic Meta Thoughts.

 

Second photo by Lisa Cyr on Flickr.