It will pass: keep positive - coping when you feel severely depressed. Image courtesy of David Costillo Dominici at freedigitalphotos.net
We all experience sadness from time to time. However, during times of severe depression, whether precipitated from a chemical imbalance or something environmental, we may almost feel paralysed with sadness and despair.
It can be so hard to internalise the knowledge that it will pass, and a feeling of despair can ensue. We may lack confidence and feel pessimistic that things will improve. However, when we examine what has happened during past episodes of depression in our lives, you will realise upon reflection that it eventually did pass.
Firstly, remember you are not alone - there are countless numbers of people who are suffering similarly. It may seem as if there are not – however the fact that depression is not often talked about may make it seem as if you are the only one who feels so down.
For those who suffer repeated episodes of depression, we may feel additionally discouraged that the sadness will just keep recurring. It may help when you have more positive days to tell yourself “you are in an episode of happiness, or at least peace and contentment.” This can boost your morale and remind you that you do not always feel this way. We may even experience a very existential angst, questioning the meaning of our lives in a world where nothing is in our control, and the daily making of small decisions is even difficult. .
When one is feeling this depressed, the first thing to remember is to take it easy; be gentle on yourself. This can be difficult for those with a tendency toward perfectionism which often accompanies depression when unrealistic expectations set for one’s self are not reached. You need to nurse your depression like you would look after yourself if you were physically unwell. No-one would expect a person with severe flu to perform to the best of their ability when they are sick; the same goes for depression. Depression may not only be more common in those with this personality trait, but recovery can seem more painful and difficult because you may feel you should be things as you should when you are well.
By embracing a self-nurturing attitude during periods of depression, you are increasing the chances of a faster recovery, and a greater chance of maintaining a better state of mental health. If you had the flu but continued to push yourself beyond what is reasonable at that time, it would slow your recovery and may lead to worsening of the conditions.
You may not feel like socialising or going out when extremely depressed. However, it is important to have some sort of support. Some people are fortunate enough to have friends they can talk to, or family members. However if not, it is important to talk to someone else, perhaps someone in a professional capacity such as a counsellor. Isolating oneself can lead to self-rumination and because thoughts are more likely to be unrealistically negative when depressed staying alone all the time make recovery longer and more difficult. For people with spiritual beliefs turning to a higher power can bring comfort and a feeling that they are not alone.
Confidence may be the hardest thing to maintain during severe depression. The inertia, difficulty making decisions and poor concentration often associated with this condition may lead us to feel like we are somehow ‘failing’. Realise it is just part of the symptoms of being depressed, just as a stomach virus can cause a stomach ache. This is why it is important to keep your goals small and achievable. Keep reminding yourself that you are not failing: you are just unwell.
And just as a cold will eventually improve as we look after ourselves and realise we need to look after ourselves, so too your depression will improve, if you keep remembering the analogy of having a ‘mental cold’.
If your depression does not improve or you have thoughts of suicide, you need professional help who can help you with perhaps medication and counselling.
There may be a lot of trial and error in becoming well, But you will get there!