tips

Five Things to Tell a Depressed Person

Man is it easy to say the wrong thing. Worse, it’s even easier to stay quiet because we’re afraid to say the wrong thing. When trying to support someone who’s depressed, it’s important to be honest – to admit that you don’t have the answers and just be there for them.

Silence is shitty. When you’re silent there’s nothing to counter her inner mean voice. When you’re silent she’s on her own. Here are some tips to get you talking.

  1. I’m rooting for you. Fiercely. “I can’t solve this, but I’m rooting for you.” “I don’t know why you’re hurting, but I’m rooting for you.” “I wish I could do more, and I’m rooting for you.” People with depression are working hard. They need cheerleaders, they need support, they need to know that they’re not alone out there. They need to be acknowledged and cherished. They need to know you’re rooting for them.
  2. You’re pretty. Just because she can’t take complements doesn’t mean they don’t eventually sink in. Tell her you’ve always admired her brain, her spunk, the color of her eyes. Tell her you love the way she stands. Fuck it – tell her she’s got amazing boobs. Notice good things about her and tell her.
  3. You’re being very strong. It takes a lot of inner strength to battle depression. What can look like weakness to the rest of the world – and to the depressive herself – is actually a strong resolve to survive, to thrive. Instead of dwelling on the things that are holding her back, notice the strength she’s showing by even trying, by getting through yet another day. Remember that she’s being strong and tell her.
  4. I don’t understand. Admit that you don’t know what she’s going through. Admit that you’re not in control and neither is she. Just admit that, together, you’re out of your depths. Understanding is not a prerequisite to helping. Be truthful.
  5. I love you. Fiercely. Be upfront about your feelings. She feels unlovable, unreachable. Let her know that you’re still there, and that you’re not going anywhere. When she sees little or no worth in herself, knowing that others love her – that others find her worthwhile – can be lifesaving. Let her know.

fiercely

Photo by Namor Trebat on Flickr.

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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

 

 

The Benefits of Routine

Adolphe Borie: Girl Meditating

Adolphe Borie: Girl Meditating

I’m not a routine-y person. I’ve liked to think that I allow subtle differences in my mood or context to affect my actions instead of categorizing the situation and fitting a predetermined set of actions on top.

But.

During a recent visit to a friend with a one year old, I was struck by the benefits of routine, for parents, kids, and depressives. When it comes to recovering from depression, there seem to be two major upshots to routine. The first is that it reduces the amount of decision making energy you have to expend. (Check it out: New research implies that we tire of decision making and get worse at it throughout the day.)

Those of you who’ve been depressed have probably experienced this – even small decisions can be exhausting and completely deflating.

When I’m in my routine, I don’t have to worry about whether or not to eat or meditate. I make just one decision every morning – to do the thing I promised myself I’d do: stick to my routine.

The second cool thing about routines is that you get to perfect them over time. If you notice that you feel particularly tired on Tuesday afternoons, you can build in extra sleep on Monday nights. You get caught off guard less often because your routine includes all the really necessary activities like eating, sleeping, and resting.

The tricky thing, as with trying anything new while depressed, is the possibility of failure and the disproportionate disappointment that can come with. I recommend introducing just one activity at a time. Once you do that thing every day without struggle, introduce another. Try to be patient with yourself. You’re beautiful and complex, and this shit ain’t easy.

 

Photo by freeparking on Flickr

Farting is Good for You

A good friend of mine was recently doing some things that depressives like me do all the time: she was worrying about things she couldn’t control, making plans and contingency plans for situations that would never come to pass, and generally freaking herself out.

We settled on this little strategy, which I think could be helpful for a lot of us.

1. Pick a little mantra for yourself, something you want to remember several times a day. Maybe it’s to be kind to yourself, to rest, or to think of someone you love. Maybe it’s to remember that you can’t control everything, or that you will get through this. My friend decided on “Not everything is a big deal.”

2. Pick a bodily function that happens often, one that you always notice but can’t control, like a ringing in your ear, or feeling the urge to fart. Concentrate hard on associating that bodily function with the mantra.

Bam. Free, consistent, daily reminder of that good-for-you thing that’s just out of reach.

Bam. Farting just became good for you.

Fartist

 

 

Photo cropped from a photo by Ludovic Burton on Flickr.

Letter to a Loved One

Morning letter

Morning Letter by Boldini

I’ve heard a couple versions of this tip for depression. The premise is that depression makes us treat ourselves pretty awfully. We avoid bathing, we have a mean, critical voice in our heads, we isolate and blame ourselves for things we can’t control.

Treating yourself poorly hurts, and it gets in the way of feeling better – but it’s really really hard to change. So here we’re aiming for just a glimpse of what it would be like to be kinder to yourself.

It’s a simple tip – think of someone that you’ve always felt tenderness for, someone with whom you have a relatively simple, loving relationship. Younger relatives are good candidates. Imagine that it’s them who feels the way you feel, and write them a letter.

What would you tell your younger sibling, your childhood friend, your favorite aunt if she were mired in depression?

When it works, this exercise helps my mind to rest. It lets me spend time in a loving place and helps me glimpse a kinder, gentler interpretation of my suffering – even if I can’t always stick to it.

Here’s to your health.

 

Photo by ErgSap on Flickr