by Wendy Keller
It seems there are two kinds of depression and both should be treated differently. There’s the kind that is caused by a life event – something bad that happens to a person. And there’s the kind that comes out of nowhere, when a person’s coping mechanisms just shut down and walk off the job, and a Big Black Cloud moves into the void.
Determining which kind you have is an important distinction in how to go about treating it.
Many people try to handle either kind of depression on their own and “self-medicate” with drugs or alcohol, or injuring themselves, or just letting their lives go to ruin. A record number of people use anti-depressants to try to cope with life. If it’s a bad life event that’s triggered it, at least trying to resolve that problem is more likely to make you feel better than just letting the drama wash over you – although that’s not always possible and you may lack the energy to even try. But still, studies show that at least working on making things better makes you feel a little better.
If you are hurting yourself or others; if you have suffered for more than a few weeks; are considering suicide; or if your depression is caused by a life event, please, please, please, please seek help from a professional therapist or counselor.
The rest of this article is about the Big Black Cloud that comes from nowhere, seems to be triggered by nothing, and just takes over your mind for whatever period of time it chooses, and you feel pretty much helpless to stop it.
The first step is to notice when it is moving in on you. Saying to yourself, “OK, here it comes. I can take actions to attempt to divert it now, or I can let it settle in. I think I’ll choose the former and see what can be done” is a very helpful first step and will likely shorten the time it envelops you.
If it’s already settled into your spirit, you have to make the choice to try to kick it out. Some progress is better than no progress. Even if you don’t even have the energy to do it; even if you are so sad you think “Why bother?”; even if it is eating you up from the inside out; even if all you can muster is just lifting one measly finger to point it toward the door.
I am, unfortunately, a person who copes with Big Black Cloud kind of depression sometimes – and I’ve done so since I was 12. I felt it poking around my brain this morning and I’m reminding myself as much as you how I stave it off or throw it out. I’m sometimes successful, and sometimes, I just manage to reduce the symptoms enough to function. If you have tricks that have worked for you – PLEASE share them in the comment section below!
Seven Depression-Busting Strategies:
1. Review your nutrition in the last 24 hours. There is some research to indicate that certain preservatives can trigger depression in sensitive people. For your next three meals, eat only fresh, whole food – nothing that comes out of a box or is wrapped in plastic! Fruits, whole grain bread, plenty of water (no soda!), lean meats, stuff like that. You’ve got to give your poor body some tools to fight with.
2. Absolutely FORCE yourself to move your body. This is the one I hate the most, because when it gets me, I want to just sit there and screw around with distracting activities. (Like, ahem, writing blog posts about depression…) Get moving. Take out the trash. Walk to the end of the block and back. Force yourself to go grocery shopping. Take your kid to the park.
3. Act like a maniac. This one actually ALWAYS works for me to break the worst of it and make me realize I am somewhat in control. (“Control” is an illusion, I know, I know.) I smile, I whistle, I fake that I’m energetically dusting or doing the dishes, I dress extra nicely, I put on happy music, I fake that I’m a happy, normal, go-getter person. (I AM that person when I’m not depressed!) Somehow, faking it gets my brain confused. I feel it thinking, “Wait! Wait! We’re depressed. Stop looking like you’re happy! Wait…aren’t we depressed?”
4. Do 3 acts of anonymous service. “OK, Wendy,” you think, “this is stupid.” But it works! Consciously allow that car to cut in front of you and do so graciously and with a (fake) smile. Hand $5 to the homeless guy, even if it means skipping lunch. Put a flower on someone’s windshield in the parking lot. Pay the toll for the car behind you. Hold the door open for the people behind you longer than it is your turn. Just pick three good ones. Crazy how this works!
5. Dance and Sing. Who wants to dance when they are depressed? No one. Which is probably why it works. Put on your absolute favorite dance song ever (My recommendation: Girls Just Wanna Have Fun by Cyndi Lauper) and dance and sing at the top of your lungs. Who knows why this works? Who cares why?
6. Write a heartfelt, kind, supportive, loving card or email to someone else who is going through a bad time. For instance, if your mother just died, try writing a card to your sibling. If your colleague got laid off last month, drop him an email just to say hello, even if you still have your job. If your friend is grieving the loss of a pet or a relationship, send a card.
7. Pamper yourself. Women tend to think this means getting their hair or nails done, and for some, that may work. But what I mean is more personal, and applies to men or women. I mean this: put on something really super comfortable and do something (other than watching TV, which tends to perpetuate depression!) that you really love doing. A hobby, a craft, baking a cake, reading a novel, lighting candles, stepping into a pool or Jacuzzi, making your favorite meal, fluffing up the pillows on your bed, taking photos of things in nature, whatever. Do something that gets your mind off yourself, and that you love doing when you’re not depressed but don’t allow yourself time for. This will give your brain a little break from the depression, and which can make it harder to get back into it later.
These are all things that let you know you can push away the Big Black Cloud. If one doesn’t work for you right this hour, try a different one. We have to be like master craftsmen with our own lives, choosing just the right tool for the best possible outcome. You have more control than you think over the Big Black Clouds. Try it!
About me: I write this blog for people who are going through difficult, even tragic times in their lives. I’ve been through some tough stuff myself, and I share what I’ve picked up with the goal of maybe helping you, too. Please feel free to comment. And thanks for reading!