books

Sick AND Depressed? ‘Ooof

Head coldHello from your local depression blogger. This week I got sick. Because I was told my employer isn’t renewing my contract again? Because I’m nervous as hell about an upcoming opportunity? Because my extremely helpful meditation class came to an end?

Who knows?

But the head cold persists.

I know what to do about the cold itself – drown it in hot liquids, sleep, and vitamin C. What I’m not so sure about is how to manage the attendant weepiness, the mood swings, the body aches that remind me of my worst depressions.

How do we pass the time when we’re holed up inside and feeling ill, wanting desperately to avoid an emotional fall into that shitty dark pit of despair?

ReadingA lot of my friends swear by video games. Others say TV. Neither really work for me. Instead I’m immersing myself in a few good books. I’ve discovered David Mitchell, author of Cloud Atlas, and am reading The Bone Clocks by him. I’ve also combed through a list of books on meditation and mindfulness and purchased Turning the Mind into an Ally by Sakyong Mipham.

I’m making myself eat so that the vitamin C doesn’t tear my stomach to shreds, and I’m making myself read so that my lethargy doesn’t tear my mind to shreds.

Got some book recommendations? Leave them in the comments below or email me at depressionwhoneedsit@gmail.com.

First photo by bandita on Flickr.

Second photo by Richard Masoner on Flickr.

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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.

Cool Little Depression Videos

You gotta love a video about depression that makes you laugh. Recently a friend of mine (the same friend who learned to love the mean voice) sent me two of those very things.

The first video includes a great depression metaphor for our collection: depression as an online stalker. He is interrupted throughout the video by messages that he is a failure, that even the act of making the video is a sign of weakness. It also has valuable information and recommends a book called The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression that I’m going to get now.

The second video is a little more playful. The backstory is hard to explain, check it out here if you’re interested. On the video, listen to the fantastic John Green of VlogBrothers talk about his experience with depression and give advice to other sufferers, while playing the shit out of some FIFA.

I found the latter inspirational, because John Green has a life I wouldn’t mind having, creating fantastic content for money. Who knew he’d suffered from depression? If he can do it, maybe so can we.

Photo by Pabak Sarkar on Flickr.

Thank God for Google Wormholes

Your brainThrough a sort of depression google search wormhole, I came across a book called Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Depression. (It’s the book that made me realize that depressives should skip the first few chapters of every book on depression because they’re almost always focused on validating depression as a disease. The goal seems to be convincing the reader that depression is SUPER bad, which, for those of us in the thick of it, is super depressing. Nowadays I start at the chapter where they start to talk about getting better.)

That book led me to the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn, who, in addition to being an extremely well respected author and practitioner of mindfulness-based therapies for the chronically ill, seems to have taken his wife’s name when he married. My kind of guy.

It turns out that Kabat-Zinn is co-author of a book called The Mindful Way through Depression: Freeing Yourself From Chronic Unhappiness, which I highly recommend. He’s also the creator of a course called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, which uses meditation, yoga, and mindfulness to treat everything from high blood pressure and chronic pain to depression and panic disorders.

So I signed up for the course and during my introductory meeting with our instructor, after explaining my situation, I asked him why he thought I should take his course. “You need to rewire your brain.” he answered.

Huh.

So I’m currently in my third week of the eight week course and am struck by how simple and straightforward it is on one level, and how complex and contradictory I also find it. Focus on the breath but don’t strive to focus on the breath. Relax but stay awake. Clear your mind but be aware of your thoughts. Do this every day for an hour but be easy on yourself and take life as it comes.

More on that later. In the meantime, I am both thoroughly enjoying the course and struggling with its teachings – which I’m pretty sure is exactly what I’m supposed to be doing (though, of course, there is no “supposed to”).

A final book recommendation – Kabat-Zinn’s bible of mindfulness: Full Catastrophe Living.

Photo by Hey Paul Studios 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.