This article is for people suffering from depression and for people who are trying to help people suffering from depression.
My aim is to give you an understanding of what depression is and give you the tools and ways to cope with and deal with it. First of all I would like to give you my understanding of what depression is and the dynamics it creates in people.
Depression is a process and a way that human beings cope with trauma and not being able to adjust to the outside world. It stems from some aspect of feeling or perceiving that we are out of control and being depressed is a way that we can take control. This may be a strange way to look at it, but when we are depressed we want only to be responsible for ourselves, we move away from others, sometimes people close to us that really care for us.
We cannot be responsible for other people’s feelings or life expectancies so we isolate ourselves and start to detach from the world as we know it and build our own little bubble, pit or safe place. We call this place, depression, lots of different names, but in essence it is a safe place which we and only we are able to be in.
We feel safe and protected being in our own little space as it gets smaller and smaller, tighter and tighter, pushing others away. We will withdraw from society, work and responsibilities. In fact anything which we feel wants something from us. We are not able to give anymore and this can lead to us hiding in our homes and sometimes even in our own rooms, not even being able to get out of bed, is a common thing. When I work with people with depression the first thing is to get them to understand that this a normal aspect of being a human being, removing the stigma that society places on the depressed state of mind.
Medicine can help people to cope with this state but it will, in my opinion, only ever allow them to function not to move back from the depressed state and will normally never find the route back from being depressed without other outside help from people like myself a Counsellor. People who have people they love always ask me how can I help them to pull themselves together, they never can because they are part of the problem, in a round a bout way. People who are depressed will only see friend’s family’s interventions as more pressure so will withdraw even more, if others who are part of their world try to help.
Counsellors can help because they are not part of the client’s world they are not involved or have any part to play in there every day life. There is no responsibility on the client’s part with the Counsellor. The first rule of any help is we can only help if the person suffering believes A) they need help and B) they take responsibility for their position and want to come back from this place they are in. If they have no understanding of this place they are in then they will not see it as a problem and thus not need to be or do anything else. Sometimes people can live with being depressed for a long period of time before they breakdown, they will never see themselves as depressed, but the drip, drip, effect will slowly build up and then it will be just one more thing that puts them over the edge, which is usually a shock for the people around them, as they will normally see that person as always coping, taking huge responsibility for others, being the one that always want everything just so or has high standards that can’t be achieved, is usually a common trait of people more prone to depression.
In order to understand the process of coming back from this place I will use an example of a person who cannot get out of the house, they have had a long period of depression and that has made them unable to interact with the outside world, because the outside world is so scary, as anything can happen if they step outside the door, they would be out of control in that environment.
The first rule as I said is to help them understand that this is a natural thing to happen, which it is. The next step is to understand why they are here in the first place, what brought them down this path, it will usually stem from an out of control or a perceived out of control situation, loss or rejection, whether perceived or real it doesn’t matter, can be an influencing factor.
When this has been explored then we have to find something they would like to change in their life, something they would want to take control of, this should initially be a small thing, as if you try to change big things straight away they will always fail, and failure supports there view they are not worthy or can change anything. It might be for example, someone who is confined to the house just opening the post, anything that comes through the door will normally be scary, it’s interacting or coming into their safe world, disrupting there routine etc. If this was the case then I would set up a plan, a structure to achieve this task. I would break it down into even smaller steps, say watching the post come through the door maybe first, touching one letter the second, holding it for a small amount of time the third, keeping hold of it fourth, taking it into their room could be fifth, opening it could be sixth, dealing with it could be seventh etc. etc., you get the idea. I would then break those steps down into even smaller ones.
Watching the post is broken down into thinking about it first, not even seeing it just thinking about seeing it, when we think about it we would then record in a book what our stress or anxiety level is on a scale of 1 to 10, we do this in order to see our reactions external to our minds, as the mind or thought cannot be trusted initially, most people who are depressed find it very hard to contain or hold a thought, as even thoughts have responsibility. When we have thought about it and the anxious level has reduced to under 5, this may take a few days in itself and be a very tiring process, but we reward the effort as a step forward, which it is, then when this step has been scored under 5 we would move on to the next step touching the letter recording our anxiety level until it reduces to under 5 and so on.
If we reach a state of over anxious feelings once we have achieved a step, if say we have been ok touching the post and we are at a level of four and then for some reason our anxiety level just increases dramatically we can retreat one step only, no more, as we have already achieved that step and not been anxious about it. If you retreat more than 1 step you increase the failure feeling and this will take you back to the start, it’s a bit like climbing a hill and losing your footing then starting to slide down the hill, if you don’t dig your heels in then the momentum will carry you down the hill faster and faster, ending up in a heap at the bottom.
Moving from one step to another and recording it as you go, so you can look back on your achievements, shows you can change, you can move forward, taking responsibility of your world and bringing you back down that route from the path of depression. You may then look at taking control of getting dressed, again breaking it down into smaller steps thinking about it first recording it then doing it and recording it. Then to moving forward constructing a programme of being able to go out of the door, and so on, till you take full control of your life again. Becoming depressed is a process so it make’s sense that coming back is a process also.
Another tool is to record a Mood Diary, this helps us to look back again on what has happened in reality not in our head. A Mood Diary is a book which records our mood during the day. You enter your mood first thing in a morning again on a scale of one to ten and at then also at the end of the day before you go to bed. During the day if you mood significantly changes you also record that and what is going on for your mood to change, this can give you an awareness of the triggers to your individual depression factors, what changes your mood and why.
Again this process records your progress, bearing in mind Rome was not built in a day so it will take some time to change your mood significantly.
Also, the three things we need to help change our mood are;
- Exercise first thing in a morning a short walk will be suffice of maybe 10 minutes or 5 to start with, if 10 is too much, again increasing and recording it day to day.
- Have a healthy diet, don’t snack or eat processed foods and eat regularly.
- Try to socialise even if you don’t talk to people nod to them, but mix with people.
If you plan your strategy and do all these things then you will change your mood and your depressive state and live a healthier life and a more interactive life also.
Take control and have the life you want not the one you think you deserve.