Depression’s a very, very strange illness, riddled with oddities and eccentricities which often don’t seem to make sense.
For example, we know that depressed people often engage in “black-or-white thinking”: something’s either good, or it’s bad; there’s no in-between state (though most of us seem to spend an inordinate amount of time in the black!). During a depressive episode, a person might lose weight, or gain weight. They might suffer insomnia and not get enough sleep, or hypersomnia, and be sleepy most of the time. Depression might be caused by a single trauma, by an accumulation of life events, or be part of a person’s biological makeup. A medication regime which works for one person won’t necessarily work for another.
It really is a weird beast, isn’t it? As I type this, I’m reminded of the elephant in the room with the blind men – you know the story I mean, where one man is touching the elephant’s trunk, another its tail, another its leg … and when asked to describe the elephant, they each give contradictory descriptions, even though it’s the same animal they’re describing.
For me, the most difficult paradox is that depression makes me feel less like doing the things I know will help me get better. This annoys me no end. Depression is a very personal illness; it’s as though each of us is stuck in a personalized maze which we need to find our own way out of. For me, the way out consists of:
- taking the right dose of the right medications at the right times
- psychotherapy, to address those deep-seated issues which feed my depression
- sleeping an appropriate amount
- meditating, and other mindfulness activities
- being of service to others, even in very small ways, such as giving away home-grown vegetables
- challenging negative thoughts
- mood monitoring and regulation. (The top five on this list are probably the most important right now.)
See? I know what to do, but often do not feel like doing it. Well, apart from taking my medications – that’s easy! On the other hand, there are some days when exercising or socializing seem impossible.
I’d be interested to know what your personal ‘prescription’ for depression is. Are your ‘top five’ the same as mine, or not?