Dumping Depression: Part 4 - Intervention + Prevention = Cure
The word "depressed" is spoken phonetically as "deep rest". We can view depression not as mental illness but on a deeper level, as a profound (and very misunderstood) state of deep rest, entered into when we are completely exhausted by the weight of our own identity.
- Jeff Foster
First Things First
We can't stress this enough. If you are struggling with depression, addiction, or any other mental health symptoms, please get help! See a counselor and do it right now. Read the How To Get Help section below for some resources.
What Therapy Can Do
Therapy can do a lot, actually. A therapist can help you to identify negative thought patterns that drive depressed moods. From there, therapy sessions can teach you and allow you to rehearse ways of challenging those thoughts in hopes of experiencing an improved mood. A therapist can also provide feedback on relationships to help you to take a look at where depression may be taking a toll on your interpersonal interactions, and how to improve them.
What Therapy Can't Do
Therapy cannot create the habits for you. A crucial part of therapies like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) that target depression is weekly tasks between sessions that help to instill healthy habits and new ways of thinking. Knowledge gained in therapy sessions still needs to be applied, thought admittedly it is not expected that you do so perfectly. Most likely, a therapist may not be available to guide you if you are experiencing an active suicidal urge. If this occurs, you should call a suicide hotline, or your local emergency number such as 911 or 112 in many other countries.
As a licensed therapist, in many cases, I believe it is up to you and your belief system as to whether or not you would like to treat depression with medication, but here are some considerations. Treating depression, or any mental illness, without medication, means it is extremely important to take time and put in work to develop and strengthen helpful habits. It will be necessary to be strongly intentional about exercising regularly, eating healthy, and getting a balanced amount of sleep. This doesn't have to be an either-or; you can also do both. Some find it helpful to use medication as a jump-start to develop the motivation to establish these habits.
If you or your loved one is suffering from moderate or severe depression, medication will likely be more strongly recommended.
What Medication Can Do
Medication can improve your mood and help with feelings of numbness and lack of motivation. If the medication is a proper fit, it may also help to reduce or eliminate thoughts of suicide. For many, medication is a great jump-start to find the motivation to engage in helpful habits such as exercise and positive social interaction.
What Medication Can't Do
Medication cannot change your thoughts, or your thought patterns. This is why it is almost universally recommended that antidepressants be used in combination with therapy. As stated earlier, it is in therapy where you can learn to identify and change negative thought patterns.
Obviously, medication doesn't work if you don't take it. Please take your medication! I understand that many patients feel adverse side effects, and in serious cases, experienced increased thoughts of suicide. Obviously, try to use your best judgment. There is a difference between discomfort and serious issues. If you are not feeling well on your medication, call your doctor. If you feel bad enough to stop your medication, call your doctor. It is better to communicate with your doctor about what is going on, so they can offer you helpful advice and/or next steps.
Go to your physician and explain to them what you have discussed with your therapist and seek advice on what some of your options are. Your doctor may recommend medication and/or some lifestyle changes that may help you through depression symptoms, especially if you may be experiencing a single episode surrounding a certain event or circumstance.
Self Care: Depositing in your bank account
Think of yourself as a bank account. Much like many of our bank accounts, deposits are made as you get a paycheck, get payments for your business, etc. As we pay the bills and buy groceries, the balance sinks.
We are much the same way. The obligations of life take from us and can drain us: work, family, kids, friends, all require things from us. This can put us in a position where we are overdrawn, putting out more than we take in through self care. The results of overextension can be many things, one of which includes depression.
What are things that refresh and rejuvenate you? What might physically tire you out but emotionally recharge you? These are some examples of things that deposit into your account.
- Time with others
- Time alone
- Going for a walk
- Watching a favorite show
- Playing a game
- Taking a bath
- Taking a day trip or vacation
- Journaling or writing
- Drawing or visual art
- Listening to or making music
Finding your Identity outside of Distorted Self Worth
One of the things that drives us to run ourselves into the ground is a distorted sense of self-worth. Especially in America, we have this idea that the harder we work, and the bigger name we make for ourselves, the more worthwhile the sacrifice. It is not uncommon for many of us to work 60-80 hour weeks. Some do it to make ends meet, but many do it to validate themselves.
We sometimes put career advancement over family, time with friends, and even our own health. We destroy out bodies in our youth, only to spend our elder years trying to repair the damage we did to ourselves over the last 20 years. We need to know who we are without our job or career. That is not who we are! For those of us who have worked through recessions, such as the one in 2008, many of us quickly learned that we were disposable. Many were laid off, or made to do the work of 2 or 3 positions to stay employed.
When you put your body and mind on the line for your job and career, you are telling your employer about how little you value yourself, at least physically and mentally. In most cases, supervisors read this and go along with it. No one's going to go along and say "man, you're really running yourself into the ground. You need to value yourself, here's a raise, or less hours." You need to advocate for yourself. It's the old adage, no one on their death bed says they wish they had worked more.
Related: Self-Worth Series
Boundaries: Guarding Your Space From Negativity
Your car has a number of filters to keep it running well. The air filter keeps dirt out of the engine. The cabin air filter keeps dust from entering the car through the vents. The fuel filter keeps impurities in your gas out of the engine. In the same way, we need to have filters against the world around us.
Our brains become what we put into them. If we have negative people around us, our minds will take on those voices and the external voices will become internal ones. If we watch or listen to stressful things constantly, or at crucial junctures, like the beginning or end of the day (news, anyone?), this takes hold in our minds and can cause the release of stress hormones, which wears us down physically and mentally, and can cause insomnia.
To put it simply, if we want to feel better inside, we need to surround ourselves with better on the outside.
Related: Boundaries Series
There is immense power in fighting depression among a community. There is much power in knowing that you are not alone in struggling against any given problem. This is why associations like ADAA and NAMI have online and local depression support groups. They exist to provide emotional support to people struggling to cope with the difficulties in life. Support groups have helped people for decades to become more equipped to face life head on. A hallmark of mood disorders is that it deceives you into thinking you can handle it yourself. You do not have to. Find a group that will support you through your recovery.
A healthy group of positive people in your inner circle can do wonders for you. A healthy community such as a great family, strong group of friends, warm church group, positive study group, fitness classmates, co-volunteers, etc. Can be really uplifting. When you feel alone, try to get involved. Try some yoga or meditation classes, a Meetup group, or if you don't feel quite ready for that, find a positive social media group to engage in. Start small, and as you begin to feel better take another step towards become engaged in life again. Remember that depression makes you want to isolate yourself, but this worsens the problem. Ask a friend to help you or hold you accountable. Take just one step; it'll pay off in the long run. And if you don't like it, try again a few times. Something will eventually work.
Related: I Love Me: Self Worth (Part 5: Healthy Community)
One Day At A Time
This is also a mantra shared widely in the recovery community. Focusing on today and staying in the present moment can be extremely helpful. Cutting out worries from the past or from the future can really cut down on stressful and worrisome thoughts. Remaining in the present moment through activities such as mindfulness, meditation, breathing, or body scans can make it much easier to manage urges to use, as well as self-harm urges. Try out calm.com for guided meditations that are tailored for various circumstances you may be facing.
Stay busy doing positive activities, such as work, fun activities like sports, crafts, clubs, or classes. Any time that you spend engrossed in something that fills you up is time that you are not thinking about those painful and depressing thoughts.
Get Help Today
As stated in the previous blog, it can be difficult to get help because you are not motivated and the route to getting help is hard to figure out even when you want to. Here are some ways to get help:
- Psychology Today - Psychology Today has the largest list of therapists in the United States and many other countries. Feel free to filter by your insurance, specific areas of treatment, and even what gender of clinician you would like to work with.
- Talkspace - Talkspace is the leading site which offers counseling services over the internet. This may be helpful if you are uninsured, or have a high copay for mental health. A counselor can work with you via messages, and also through video chat.
- Betterhelp - Betterhelp is another large online counseling site that offers you unlimited access to a counselor for a weekly fee. Sessions take place via messaging and also via video chat.
- GoodTherapy - Good Therapy is a large therapy directory with therapists available worldwide.
If you know any others that may be helpful, or services in other countries, please contact us and let us know!
Help for Suicidal Thoughts
Depression can be a debilitating illness, and we implore anyone dealing with it to take it seriously. If you are having thoughts of suicide, please call 1-800-273-8255 in the United States. It is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Here are some international hotlines as well:
Thanks to the International Bipolar Foundation for this list!
Call your suicide hotline if necessary. See a therapist. You can beat this, and you will. Focus on taking care of yourself, and getting help. Now is the right time, and the best time. We wish you hope and victory in the fight for your best and fullest life.
We've created resources designed to help you assess and begin to deal with this specific issue. We have a free community area that gives you access to guide sheets relating to the topics discussed in this blog. Check out our free community resource area to access downloadable PDF guide sheets for this blog and much more:
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