Depression: a Mini Survival Guide

Do you think that Depression is a minor illness? That it really only proves fatal in the weakest minds?

I challenge you to re-think that stance.

Do you have depression? Do you tend to ignore it, hoping that if you just get on with things, it will go away? Did someone tell you it would most likely be a short-term thing?

I challenge you to be more active in wrestling with it.

A man died, alone. His death was an accident. Was it? He had been ignoring depression.

Another man had a panic attack. He has a great life. He should be happy. Shouldn’t he? His depression is affecting him more than it used to.

A woman hides her despair from most people. She wants her marriage to survive. Will it?

Another woman feels the burden of duplicity: she is two different people. Nice in public, a terror at home. Will it affect her kids?

These people didn’t ask for their brain chemistry to mess up. It happened. They struggle in different ways with depression and clinical anxiety. The people around them can support them, certainly. There are resources they can access. But in the end, they are largely responsible for their own mental health.

Get in early. That’s my advice. If you manage your mental state early on in its unravelling, you have a much easier recovery task.

What does this mean in practical terms? Here are some general guidelines based on my own experience:

  • Visit your GP (General Practitioner). If you don’t have a good one, find another one. Keep trying until you find a GP who can treat you well. Your GP is your starting point for all sorts of referrals. In Australia, your GP can put together a Mental Health Care Plan. That will give you access to some subsidised counselling through Medicare. Your GP can also refer you to a Psychologist, or other registered practitioner in mental health, who can give you counselling. In complex cases (I was one), your GP can refer you to a Psychiatrist. The main difference being that a Psychiatrist is a doctor and can therefore manage your medications in addition to giving counselling and other help.
  • Definitely follow up referrals for counselling. I’ve blogged about this issue before.
  • Consider anti-depressant medication. Again, I’ve blogged about this previously.
  • Exercise. See this post, which will probably annoy rather than motivate you! But honestly, endorphins are a huge weapon in your arsenal.
  • Eat well. I know it’s hard. But it will help. Drink plenty of water, blah, blah, blah…avoid too much alcohol and caffeine…blah, blah. Ok?
  • Have some fun in any way you can. Be intentional about that if need be.
  • Get some Vitamin D from (sensible levels of) sitting or walking in the sunshine.
  • Don’t worry about depression itself. There are good bits.
  • Keep up with it as well as you can. If you find that you are going downhill again, look at whether your treatment is slipping. I know that this happens to me if I leave it too long between counselling sessions, if I haven’t exercised for ages, if my medication level isn’t appropriate, if I’m going through a stressful time. And with practice, you get really good at managing depression. How exciting!

I hope that helps. Please remember that everyone is different. Go easy and do what you can. Even though I said above that we are each primarily responsible for our own mental health, I do not in any sense mean that we should go it alone. What I mean is that we each have the best overall awareness of where we are, mentally. So we are well-placed to be managers of our own health. Remember to access as much support and information as you can.

Depression can be deadly, but it can also be a gift. What can you make of it?

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