Charm School: Advice for the Thoroughly Modern Girl – Depression
Self care when you have depression is HARD. If you haven’t had depression you probably can’t imagine not being able to brush your teeth or shower or do anything that will make you feel better. Even if you know absolutely they will make you feel better, sometimes you just CAN’T. It sucks.
BUT – I do find if you catch yourself early enough in the downward spiral you can help yourself to get out of it. Focusing on self care is one of the ways that works for me. Have a bath, wash your hair, paint your nails, have a cup of tea – in your good china. It doesn’t have to be something BIG, just something that takes very little effort, but makes you feel good. I particularly like washing my hair and setting it. As my sets last me a week (and only take me 5-10 minutes to do) it’s a small effort for maximum impact. Waking up with Lauren Bacall hair is fabulous. I also love putting on a fantastic hat – even if I am just going to sit in bed.
For me it really helps to talk about things too. BUT I really struggle talking about my depression. It probably seems odd, someone who blogs so “openly” and discusses mental illness all the time, but when I am in the middle of it I often don’t know what to say. Which is why I have an awesome therapist. I really recommend everyone try therapy. It is fantastic to know I can go somewhere, talk about myself for an hour, bitch and complain about anyone I know and how sucky my life is without any judgement or recrimination. Of course therapy is great for working through depression – but also any other life difficulty you might be having. Considering a career change? A baby? Moving overseas? Why not go talk it through with someone. It can really help get your head clearer. If you can’t afford therapy/don’t want it – talk to a friend or family member you feel safe (emotionally and physically) talking with.
Alternatively write it down in a journal. I personally keep two journals. One for “Morning Pages” (from the book “The Artists Way” by Julia Cameron) which are three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing. Don’t think, just write. Best done first thing in the morning and is not to be shared and probably best not to even look at it again. I complain A LOT in my morning pages. But I have found it has such a positive impact on my day. If I do morning pages (get all my crankiness out on the page) I am so much more mellow through the day. If I don’t get it out it festers and I become nasty all day. They advise morning as if you do it at night you will be complaining about things you can’t change, by doing it in the morning you have an opportunity to do something about it. I often find mine help me see what I actually want to do. If I complain about how crappy I feel, I do something that makes me feel good. If I complain about how messy my room is, I clean it (well in theory I would).
Another idea I heard of was to set aside time each day to think about all the things that upset/irritate/scare you. Write them down or do all your worrying then. Then you can tell yourself when you think about it “nope, I have already worried about that today”. This is something I try to do to manage my anxiety. It doesn’t always work, but it does help a little.
Again – self care! If you think there may be a physical cause to your depression, see a doctor. Have a full blood panel done and have a general check up. Your doctor might also want to prescribe you some medication to help with your depression/anxiety or like my case – sleeping medication. There is no shame in taking meditation for an illness. Depression is an illness, it’s not being lazy, it rarely magically disappears. It needs treating. In Australia, as well as medication (most of which are covered by the PBS) your doctor can give you a referral to a psychologist (and/or a psychiatrist if you have more complex mental health issues or have issues with the most common mental illness medications and need a specialists advice) and they can also write you up a mental health plan. Mental health plans will give you 6 sessions with a psychologist with a high medicare rebate (I think it’s about $80 back on regular psych sessions and I get $122 back for seeing a clinical psychologist). This is a huge help if you are struggling financially. For me, it means my psych sessions are only $20 and that’s with a very reputable, highly qualified and sought after psychologist….something I would never be able to afford otherwise. Your Doctor can also refer you to your local “free with mental health plan” psychologists. Most areas have a few that bulk bill for mental health plans. Your doctor can be an invaluable resource!
If you can exercise and your depression is magically gone, I would say it probably isn’t depression…but the cartoon does make a good point. Exercising releases endorphins and all sorts of magic happy drugs in your brain. When I started sleeping better last year I started running. I couldn’t believe how amazing I felt with regular exercise. For me the sweet spot (after trial and error) was 45 minutes of movement that raised my heart rate a day. I use a heart rate monitor to keep help keep me in “the zone” that works for me. It was all going great, until I hurt myself running and needed to take a few days off to recover. All of a sudden my body wasn’t getting those regular endorphins and I spiralled straight down into a deep depression. It was a good 3 months before I was able to get myself back out there, but look at me now! Exercising means I am able to blog again. Miracle medicine!
It doesn’t have to be hard exercise (that’s just what makes me feel good). Going for a relaxing walk in the park, a casual ride on your bike or even a swim. Sometimes what you need more than the actual physical movement is getting outside and away from the things that are worrying you.
This is the hardest one for me to remember. So often I feel so alone. So isolated. Surely no one has ever felt as bad as I do right now? But it’s true. There has always been someone who has been there before you. People you can reach out and who will say “oh I have been there, it sucks” and then support you through it. There are all sorts of support groups both in real life and online. My personal saviour the last month or so has been twitter. Honestly the ladies on there who respond to me in the middle of the night when it all feels too hard, to offer to lend an ear – or just tell me that I am actually awesome, and I can get through this, have been so amazing. Until this month I have never really felt like I belonged or had people who cared about me (one of the many reasons I am in therapy). Even though I have always had lovely people in my life it seems I just needed multiple strangers to tell me I am awesome to make me feel loved! (had I known that I could have saved a few years in therapy and paid people $5 to tell me they love me and I am awesome!)
If you have no idea what it is like to live with depression and want to be able to understand those around you who might be going through it please read THIS POST on the Hyperbole and a Half blog. To better understand what it is like to live with anxiety I highly recommend THIS POST. Both are catoon-y stories, but really, really accurately (to me at least) explain it.
Some great links (Crisis links are for Australia only) to help are below:
Free Thought Blog – A great list of non therapy self help links.
000 – If you are really in crisis, call 000. They will help. I have had to call them quite a few times over the years and they have always been fantastic. They usually send an ambulance out to check up on you and help assess whether or not you need to go to hospital to get emergency treatment. (Yes being in extreme distress is dangerous and sometimes requires hospitalisation, just as if you broke your leg). It is NOT a waste of their time. It is NOT a waste of resources. You are important.
CAT Team– Call 1300 363 746. The Crisis and Assessment Treatment Team is a phone (and home visit) 24 hour psychiatric triage in Victoria. If you don’t need an ambulance ASAP I would call these guys. They work 24 hours and will assess you over the phone and send someone out to talk to assess you. They also have doctors who can come out with them and can prescribe medication. If you can’t get to a doctor but need psychiatric medical treatment quickly these are your guys. I imagine other states have something similar.
YAT– Call 1800 888 320 . This is the Youth Access Team in Victoria. They are just like the CAT team but specialise in under 24’s. They were a huge help for my brothers girlfriend. They were able to give her emergency phone counselling send people out to check up on her and link her in with all sorts of youth services. If you need to be hospitalised they can get you in to the youth inpatient ward in Footscray, rather than admitting you to an adult ward.
Lifeline – Call 13 11 14 for free, 24 hour, confidential phone crisis & suicide prevention. These guys are the “best in the biz” a friend recently used them in a crisis and was really amazed with how great they were. If, like me, you have phone anxiety (or can’t talk on the phone discreetly, don’t have access to a phone or just prefer the internet) they also have internet crisis chat available as well. Click HERE to find out more about it. It is only available 8pm-12am Sydney time (7 days a week) but what a fantastic use of technology to help people like me who can’t use the phone on a good day, let alone in crisis!
Kids Helpline – Call 1800 55 1800 for free 24 hour phone helpline for under 25’s in crisis. These guys have been around for years and when I was young they were such a huge help to me and I would recommend them in a heart beat to other young people in crisis. Web counselling is also available through their website HERE.
The Australian Psychology Society – This is where I found my psychologist. There is a look up available HERE where you can select the issues you have an find someone who specialises in that. As I can’t use the phone I emailed a number of people looking for understanding and the right “vibe”. I highly recommend trying to find someone you are really comfortable with. If you are happy to use the phone try and talk to them before you see them.
Your Local Council – Your local council will have all sorts of services available. Mine has youth drop in centres, support groups & counselling as well as free counselling for adults and various support groups for all ages.
If you have any other tips or links please leave them in the comments.
Remember – you too are AWESOME!
Miss Fairchild xoxo