Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Dealing with depression

I posted a very short version of this on Saturday and then took it down. I've added some helpful tips, now, so here it is...

For the first two weeks of January I felt as though I was walking around with a lump of dark grey dread hovering just behind my head. It got worse. It turned to fuzzy-headedness and tears that came out of nowhere. I wasn't clinically depressed. I was on the dark side of 'fed up.' 

I gave up reading the news and I told one or two people how I felt. They were sweet and supportive and said just the right things:
 'I love you,' 'be gentle with yourself,' 'treat yourself,' 'take it easy.'

I took their advice and have felt a bit lighter, more able to cope. I've been out for exercise in the fresh air, even when it's been cold and grey and I've had to force myself to do it. The sunny Wednesday we had was wonderful, but it didn't last. I got the SAD light down from the attic. I'd been trying to manage without it this winter because it's old and huge and ugly.

The thing that helped the most was being told I was loved. I'm not yet back to my normal bouncy self 

but I'm getting there.

In 1820, Sidney Smith, an essayist and clergyman, wrote a letter to a friend who was suffering from depression, and it's very helpful:

Dear Lady Georgiana,
Nobody has suffered more from low spirits than I have done—so I feel for you.
1st. Live as well as you dare.
2nd. Go into the shower-bath with a small quantity of water at a temperature low enough to give you a slight sensation of cold, 75° or 80°.
3rd. Amusing books.
4th. Short views of human life—not further than dinner or tea.
5th. Be as busy as you can.
6th. See as much as you can of those friends who respect and like you.
7th. And of those acquaintances who amuse you.
8th. Make no secret of low spirits to your friends, but talk of them freely—they are always worse for dignified concealment.
9th. Attend to the effects tea and coffee produce upon you.
10th. Compare your lot with that of other people.
11th. Don't expect too much from human life—a sorry business at the best.
12th. Avoid poetry, dramatic representations (except comedy), music, serious novels, melancholy sentimental people, and every thing likely to excite feeling or emotion not ending in active benevolence.
13th. Do good, and endeavour to please everybody of every degree.
14th. Be as much as you can in the open air without fatigue.
15th. Make the room where you commonly sit, gay and pleasant.
16th. Struggle by little and little against idleness.
17th. Don't be too severe upon yourself, or underrate yourself, but do yourself justice.
18th. Keep good blazing fires.
19th. Be firm and constant in the exercise of rational religion.
20th. Believe me, dear Georgiana, your devoted servant, Sydney Smith

I've also come across a letter that Stephen Fry wrote to one of his fans who was suffering from depression, and had asked him for help. Here is some of what he said:

I’ve found that it’s of some help to think of one's moods and feelings about the world as being similar to the weather.

Here are some obvious things about the weather:

It’s real.
You can’t change it by wishing it away.
If it’s dark and rainy it really is dark and rainy and you can’t alter it.
It might be dark and rainy for two weeks in a row.


It will be sunny one day.
It isn’t under one's control as to when the sun sun comes out but come out it will. One day. 
It really is the same with one's moods I think.The wrong approach is to think that they are illusions. They are real. Depression, anxiety, listlessness – these are as real as the weather – and equally NOT UNDER ONE'S CONTROL. Not one’s fault.


They will pass: they really well.

In the same way that one has to accept the weather, so one has to accept how one feels about life sometimes. 'Today is a crap day' is a perfectly realistic approach. It’s all about finding a kind of mental umbrella. 'Hey Ho it’s raining inside: it isn’t my fault and there’s nothing I can do about it, but sit it out. But the sun may well come out tomorrow and when it does, I shall take full advantage.'

A long time ago I wrote a piece when someone I loved was depressed, and at the end I offered a to-do list. I'm posting it now in case someone somewhere needs it.

How to help someone with depression
·         Encourage them to consult their GP.
·         Don’t forget that depression is an illness, and they cannot help suffering from it.
·         If they will talk to you, listen to what they say.
·         Don’t tell them about all the things they have to be glad about: it doesn’t help.
·         Don’t tell them to pull up their socks and make the best of things.
·         Tell them, on a daily basis, that you care about them.
·         Help to build up their self esteem, by praising minor successes as well as big ones.
·         Encourage them to take exercise, and to eat a balanced diet.
·         Find out about available support services, both local and online.

How to help yourself
·         Remember that even though your support doesn’t seem to help them, it is helping.
·         Accept that no matter how much you care for the person, you are not 100% responsible for them, and you can’t cure them.
·         Make time for yourself and the things that you enjoy. Going out and having your own life is not just OK, it's vital for your well-being.
·         Look after yourself.
·         Don’t live through the depression with them. You would wear yourself out if you were continually moved by their misery, and then you would be no good to them anyway. Depression is very infectious, but don’t succumb to it.
·         Remember that the person isn't seeing things from a normal perspective, so you can't engage with them in the way you normally would.
·         Think twice before getting upset at anything they say: they may be oblivious to the fact  that they can hurt you because they themselves feel so powerless.
·         Confide in a good friend: you need support, too.


marmee said...

Excellent to the point post Sue! I like the Sidney Smith advice the best, chimes with what works for me.

Anonymous said...

I admire your honesty as always - we are a WIP ( work in progress )
Would it be a good idea to get a new, more pleasing, SAD light perhaps?
Is it OK to share this please?


(Sorry I forgot to sign my quilting terms comment on earlier post)

Sue Hepworth said...

Yes, please share, Jenetta.
It’s always fine to share my posts.

ana said...

Marmee and I both approve of Sidney Smith. Some gems there particularly on amusing books! And rational religion I could go on! Not to foorget the dignified reticence (can’t access the exact hares just now) That rings true for me at times, I’m afraid

ana said...

Not hares! But phrase! Autocorrect begone

Sue Hepworth said...

I'm sure you all know I don't go in for dignified concealment...

Sally said...

Great post Sue. So many ideas you can try to help yourself & others when feeling low. Glad you point out that you're not referring to clinical depression.
Laughed at Sidney Smith's advice of a cool bath. Personally I find the opposite to be true!

Anonymous said...

Winter is a tough time for so many reasons, by its very nature it’s limiting and threatening. Even though I understand it’s temporary, that spring will come and life will return to my sort of normal, I get lost in gloom. One of my tricks is to spend time on Pinterest - a source of colour, amusement, inspiration, laughter, information and so much more. It might only be digital scrapbooking but it helps.

Sue Hepworth said...

Another great suggestion - thank you, Anonymous.