Mental Wellness

Today marks the last day of May and my final post for Mental Health Awareness Month. Do not let this stop you from reading or discovering more about mental illnesses, though – or rather, mental wellness, as I heard someone say this month. Because that’s what we’re striving towards. And I think today’s link makes that point.

Too often, when someone asks us how we are, our conditioned response is, “I’m fine.” Even when we’re not. Especially when we’re not. But what if we were honest with ourselves? What if we were honest with others? What if we opened up to those we trusted and let others help us heal? It’s not easy, but worth it.

Don’t read over what follows: if you or someone you know is struggling with depression or mental stress, text ‘Start’ to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741. It’s free and confidential; and someone is available to talk to you 24/7. You can visit their website www.crisistextline.org for more information. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-8255) or National Alliance on Mental Illness (800-950-6264) for support and local referrals.

What I Would Say If I Was Honest About My Depression

By Fraser Speaks

I’m not OK.

I wish I could tell you this. I want to so many times. When you ask how I am.

I’m not OK.

Is what I want to say.

Instead I nod my head. Usually just one confident nod. Sometimes I’ll nod a few times. For security.

Tilt it slightly to the left.

Make sure my smile is big but not too big.

I am so good!

And then I immediately segue into talking about you. Asking how you are. What you have been up to. Steering as far away from the subject of me as I can get us. See how good I am at it? I amaze myself sometimes with how good of an actress I can be.

I feel myself dying a little bit more on the inside. Angry that I let another opportunity come and go. Another opportunity to open my mind up, just a little, and let some of the creatures out.

But I don’t. I can’t. I want to. I want to so badly. But I can’t.

Because here’s the thing: I was fine the day before. I was fine the week before. I’ve been fine for a whole month before!

Before it came back. Because it always does. It tricks me. But it tricks you more.

You see how good I have been. Maybe I was even great. Amazing. Fantastic. And I want you to know I really was. But you, like so many others, were tricked into thinking maybe it wouldn’t come back. That sense I had been doing so well. I’d been so happy. That I could do this.

You’re not the only one though. It got me too. Except, deep down, I always knew the truth. I knew it would eventually be back. It always comes back.

And so I can’t tell you. I like feeling as though someone is proud of me. I like seeing and hearing something other than concern when someone asks how I’m doing. As long as I don’t say it aloud.

I’m sick.

Then I can pretend for a little while longer that I am OK.

So I can’t tell you. I don’t want all of that to disappear yet.

Even though I need you. The longer I continue treading water, trying to keep a smile showing above the water, the more detached I become. Not just from you. From everything. Family. Friends. Strangers. The world.

The longer I keep news of this unwanted trespasser to myself, the harder it becomes for me to get away from it. The harder it becomes for me to kick it out of my house. Out of my mind. The harder it becomes for me to defend myself from his advances. Eventually I will become too tired. And I’ll let it take my innocence and spirit away. What’s left of it anyways.

My therapist says I need to open up to someone.

Who are your close friends? Maybe one of them?

My mind goes blank.

Who is your best friend?

I have turned into a mute. Unable to come up with an answer. Unable to say anything at all.

I tell him I don’t know anymore. I tell him I feel so removed from everyone I don’t think I have any. I tell him I don’t feel close to anyone.

He asks when the last time I felt like I had a best friend was. I tell him I don’t remember.

He tells me my mind is telling me all of these things. And I know this. I do. But I can’t shake the feelings and thoughts that have once again taken up residency in my already overcrowded mind. I don’t have the energy to evict them right now.

The loneliness. The sadness. The numbness. The fatigue. The overall melancholy that seems to hang over me at all times. So thick I sometimes I can actually see it. Hanging dense like fog. Hanging heavy on me like humidity in the summer when all you want is relief from the heat. It smothers you. Except this kind of humidity isn’t warm. It feels cold. It numbs me more instead of thawing me out.

I’m always cold. But I wake up at night sweating. My sheets damp from it. The side effects of my terrible, violent, excruciating dreams. So vivid I wake up screaming and crying more often than not. There are shapes lurking in the shadows, but the light is even more frightening. I can hear people whispering. And I know it’s about me.

I want to tell you this. I want to tell you that Saturday night I sat on the bathroom floor hugging my knees as tight as I could in an effort to keep myself from falling apart even more. I want to tell you about how badly my sobs scared me. How I found myself yelling in anguish. I want to tell you about the only way I was able to get any sort of relief from this. But I don’t want to scare you.

I want to tell you about the hand that roughly grabs my heart every time I decide to leave my house. I want to tell you about the dizziness that takes over. Sometimes just from walking across my room. The shortness and sharp intake of breath when this happens. I’m too tired for this.

I don’t want you to think of me as a burden. As another source of anxiety. Of worry. I don’t want you to pity me. I don’t want you to think of this as something to add to the list. The list of what’s wrong with me. I don’t want to pollute your happiness with my despair. I don’t want you to see me as something to be handled with care. Something fragile that could shatter if you talk too loudly.

Because I need you. I need you to remind me of how strong I am. I need you to be a place where I can rest. A bench to sit quietly on. To cry quietly on. Something to steady myself on so I don’t end up all the way on the ground.

I don’t need advice. I don’t need you to talk. I just need you to sit quietly with me. I just need you to sit next to me. To hold my hand. To help me up. I just need you there so that the loneliness and the sadness and the despair doesn’t drown me. I just need some help treading water for a little longer.

But I can’t tell you this. I can’t tell you because I am scared to admit it to myself yet. I need you to know my silence doesn’t mean I’m angry with you. I need you to know my awkward response doesn’t mean that I don’t want to talk. It means I don’t know how to talk. It means I don’t know how to connect my brain with my mouth and with my heart. I’ve forgotten how to.

And so I’ll whisper it onto this slate. Hoping it becomes lost among the rest of these thoughts.

I’m not OK.

* * *

To celebrate the release of my new book, Stay With Me, as well as commemorate Mental Health Awareness Month, I will be posting articles and links on the subject through the month of May. Please share this with your friends and family. And don’t forget to get a copy of my book. Go to https://ruthegriffin.com/home/bookshelf/stay-with-me/ for more information.

‪#‎mhm2016 ‪#‎MentalHealth ‪#‎MentalWellness ‪#‎StayWithMe

Dealing With Others Judging Your Treatment

If you have a cold, do you take medicine? How about an infection? Do you hesitate to go to the doctor to get a prescription for an antibiotic? Now what if you suffer from diabetes or hypertension? Any issues taking a regular cocktail of medicines or relying on pharmaceuticals to bring some semblance of order into your life?

Too often, it’s easy to judge someone and their situation based on our experience, our knowledge, our opinion. We don’t know what that other person is going through yet we decide we know better than them when it comes to their disease. Regardless of what anyone may think though, mental illnesses are valid diseases and no one should be shamed for seeking treatment or taking medicines to help them.

If you or someone you know is struggling with depression, text ‘Start’ to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741. It’s free and confidential; and someone is available to talk to you 24/7. Visit their website at www.crisistextline.org for more information. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-8255) or NAMI (800-950-6264) for support and local referrals.

When People See My Pills and Say, ‘You Know That Stuff Is Poison, Right?’

By Danielle Clapham

You stand there and laugh at my little plastic cup filled with pills.

You think it’s funny how my dorm shelves are stocked like a pharmacy.

“You know that stuff is poison, right?”

I know… I know what you don’t…

For while you laugh at my pharmaceutical cocktail,

You can’t see the cane sitting on top of my wardrobe,

The one I’ve named

Because somehow it makes the object harder to hate.

You can’t see the scared 16-year-old girl having vials and vials of blood drawn through needles she used to be afraid of,

having too personal pictures taken of her bones in three different hospitals,

and the 18 months of her body being attacked by an enemy that no expert could name.

 You haven’t seen the girl who cries in bed because even gravity is too heavy,

and yet is scared to take the pain pills for fear of addiction.

If pain gives you strength, then I could lift mountains.

I’m strong enough to stand in front of you while you laugh at my “poison.”

I can sit here with you and swallow these rainbow-colored pills that you think are my choice to take.

Because I know what you don’t…

What a luxury it would be to have the ignorance enough to laugh

* * *

To celebrate the release of my new book, Stay With Me, as well as commemorate Mental Health Awareness Month, I will be posting articles and links on the subject through the month of May. Please share this with your friends and family. And don’t forget to get a copy of my book. Go to https://ruthegriffin.com/home/bookshelf/stay-with-me/ for more information.

‪#‎mhm2016 ‪#‎MentalHealth ‪#‎MentalWellness ‪#‎StayWithMe

Laughter is the Best Medicine

Growing up, I was what could only be described as “prissy”. I loved wearing girly things – dresses, make-up (though I wasn’t allowed until I reached middle school), jewelry – and dressing up. Which is why today’s link appeals to me so much. My wardrobe changes with the season, but there is something timeless about a tutu.

If you haven’t come across The Tutu Project (http://thetutuproject.com/), consider this your introduction. When Bob Carey’s wife Linda was diagnosed with breast cancer, he donned a tutu, grabbed his camera and took silly pictures to make his wife smile and laugh through her treatment. And while his photos go to support a great cause, the therapy can be applied to other illnesses, like depression.

Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain. Laughter has many benefits and can help remind us that life is good and worth fighting for.

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If you or someone you know is struggling with depression, text ‘Start’ to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741. It’s free and confidential; and someone is available to talk to you 24/7. Visit their website at www.crisistextline.org for more information. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-8255) or NAMI (800-950-6264) for support and local referrals.

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To celebrate the release of my new book, Stay With Me, as well as commemorate Mental Health Awareness Month, I will be posting articles and links on the subject through the month of May. Please share this with your friends and family. And don’t forget to get a copy of my book. Go tohttps://ruthegriffin.com/home/bookshelf/stay-with-me/ for more information.

‪#‎mhm2016‬ ‪#‎MentalHealth‬ ‪#‎MentalWellness‬ ‪#‎StayWithMe‬

http://www.upworthy.com/when-his-wife-was-diagnosed-with-breast-cancer-bob-put-on-a-tutu-and-went-straight-for-the-laughs

New Research Links Diet and The Mind

Can what you eat affect your moods? New studies have found lower rates of depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder among those who consume a traditional diet of meat and vegetables than among people who followed a modern Western diet heavy with processed and fast foods or even a health-food diet of tofu and salads. It’s time to take a look at what we’re consuming…

Can what you eat affect your mental health? New research links diet and the mind

By Gisela Telis

Jodi Corbitt had been battling depression for decades and by 2010 had resigned herself to taking antidepressant medication for the rest of her life. Then she decided to start a dietary experiment.

To lose weight, the 47-year-old Catonsville, Md., mother stopped eating gluten, a protein found in wheat and related grains. Within a month she had shed several pounds — and her lifelong depression.

“It was like a veil lifted and I could see life more clearly,” she recalled. “It changed everything.”

Corbitt had stumbled into an area that scientists have recently begun to investigate: whether food can have as powerful an impact on the mind as it does on the body.

Research exploring the link between diet and mental health “is a very new field; the first papers only came out a few years ago,” said Michael Berk, a professor of psychiatry at the Deakin University School of Medicine in Australia. “But the results are unusually consistent, and they show a link between diet quality and mental health.

“Diet quality” refers to the kinds of foods that people eat, how often they eat them and how much of them they eat. In several studies, including a 2011 analysis of more than 5,000 Norwegians, Berk and his collaborators have found lower rates of depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder among those who consumed a traditional diet of meat and vegetables than among people who followed a modern Western diet heavy with processed and fast foods or even a health-food diet of tofu and salads.

“Traditional diets — the kinds of foods your grandmother would have recognized — have been associated with a lower risk of mental health issues,” Berk said. Interestingly, that traditional diet may vary widely across cultures, including wheat for some people but not for others; the common element seems to be whole, unprocessed, nutrient-dense foods.

“There’s lots of hype about the Mediterranean diet [fruits, vegetables, whole grains, olive oil, nuts, fish] but the traditional Norwegian diet [fish, shellfish, game, root vegetables, dairy products, whole-wheat bread] and the traditional Japanese diet [fish, tofu, rice] appear to be just as protective” of mental health, he said.

The association between diet and mental well-being may start even before birth. A 2013 study of more than 23,000 mothers and their children, led by Berk’s frequent collaborator and Deakin colleague Felice Jacka, suggests a link between a mother’s consumption of sweets and processed foods during pregnancy and behavioral and mental health issues in her child at age 5.

Not clear how it works

It’s unclear how diet relates to mental health, said Rif El-Mallakh, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Louisville School of Medicine. “There seems to be a clear link, but it’s an association — it doesn’t tell you cause and effect,” he said. “We don’t know which is the chicken and which is the egg.”

It could be, he said, that mood disorders change how and what people choose to eat.

But an alternate theory is that the relationship works the other way: Certain foods, or their absence, may contribute to poor mental health. For example, studies in people and rats have linked zinc deficiency to depression. Also, illnesses that cause deficiencies — including celiac disease, an autoimmune disease in which the body reacts to gluten — have shown associations with mood disorders.

“There’s a two-way street between what’s going on in the gut and what’s going on in the brain,” said Linda A. Lee, director of the Johns Hopkins Integrative Medicine and Digestive Center — and recent research points to bacteria as possible middlemen in this back-and-forth. Gut bacteria are known to make most of the body’s serotonin, one of several chemicals that regulate mood, and the bugs may even have a hand in shaping behavior.

2011 study in mice for example, showed that swapping the gut bacteria of two strains of mice — one known for its daring behavior, the other for its fearfulness and shyness — could make the timid mice more willing to explore and the bold mice more anxious and hesitant.

Gut bacteria

Of course, mice are not men, but changing diet has been shown to change human gut bacteria, and fairly quickly. That suggests it’s possible that dietary choices can alter well-being and behavior, Lee said, but researchers aren’t yet sure if this complex interplay means that swapping food in or out of one’s diet can ease or cure a mental illness.

“We’re not at the point where we can use diet as therapy, especially when we’re dealing with someone whose mental health issues render them very disabled, because we just don’t know enough,” Lee said. “I think we’re just on the new frontier, and five or 10 years from now we’ll know more.”

Jacka, president of the International Society for Nutritional Psychiatry Research, echoes these reservations. She notes that nearly all research on the connection between diet and mental health has been limited to animal studies and observational studies in humans.

“We can’t say [that] if we improve your diet, you’ll feel better,” she said. “We have circumstantial evidence that suggests this could be true, but we can’t say for sure.”

The lack of strong evidence and well-designed studies has led to some resistance to Berk’s and Jacka’s work. Until recently, “the idea that what you put in your mouth could affect your mental health was met with great skepticism,” said Jacka, who recalled colleagues’ dismissing the idea as “rubbish.” With more studies, though, the research community is beginning to come around, she said.

Even as scientists struggle to understand the link between food and mood, some patients, such as Corbitt, seem to tap into it without intending to.

She saw a link

“I changed my diet because I had gastrointestinal issues,” said a 32-year-old woman with bipolar disorder who lives in San Francisco and asked not to be named because she worries about being stigmatized. Three years ago, at her gastroenterologist’s urging, she tried the Atkins diet and found relief — not just from her digestive issues but also from her mental illness, which had at one point nearly derailed her life.

“I noticed within a day or two the marked difference in my head,” she recalled. “It felt clear for the first time in years and years.”

“That may seem like a surprisingly quick turnaround, but Jacka said it is not out of the question. “We know from animal studies and a human study that a poor diet can impair memory and attention within a week,” she said.

The woman no longer takes the medication prescribed to treat her bipolar disorder, and she said she has remained stable for the past three years. She said she has sought out psychiatric and neurological researchers across the country, hoping to share her experience and to learn what they know, but has found little interest and few studies.

“It surprised me how little information was out there, because for me it was life-changing,” she said. “I wanted to validate the experience I was having, and to make sure that everything I was doing was safe. That’s how I found Dr. El-Mallakh.”

El-Mallakh had hypothesized in 2001 that a ketogenic diet — a high-fat, moderate-protein and low-carbohydrate diet often used to control epileptic seizures and nearly identical to the diet adopted by the 32-year-old woman — could be helpful for bipolar disorder, because many of the medications that work for bipolar disorder have anti-seizure properties.

After being contacted by the woman, El-Mallakh found several other people with bipolar disorder who said they were benefiting from a ketogenic diet. Last year, he published two case studies of its apparent effectiveness. His report drew interest from people with the mental illness, but efforts at Stanford University to test the diet with a controlled trial failed to recruit enough participants.

Without such studies, El-Mallakh acknowledged that no one can say how the diet might quell the symptoms of bipolar disorder. With his own patients, he recommends it only alongside mood-stabilizing medications. Despite his own willingness to supplement mental health treatment with dietary changes, El-Mallakh remains skeptical that diet alone can heal the mind.

“There are a lot of people out there who call themselves depressed who aren’t actually depressed,” he said. “I think people confuse low energy with depression, or sugar crashes with mood swings, but they probably don’t have a mental illness. And those people may do better with dietary interventions alone.”

And even if diet can do the trick, providers don’t yet know how to use it effectively or safely. The problem, El-Mallakh said, is that mental illness is still poorly understood. Eventually, he hopes, the connection between food and mental health could benefit researchers who study mental illness as well as those who live with it.

Experimenting with change

Berk and Jacka are conducting the most comprehensive controlled study yet, involving 176 people, of whether dietary intervention can help ease depression, but they don’t yet have results. For now, Berk advocates an integrative approach to treating mental illness that includes experimenting with changes in diet and exercise along with more traditional treatments.

“For a mood disorder like depression, there are hundreds if not thousands of risk pathways that all contribute to the disorder,” Berk said. “Targeting one factor doesn’t target all the factors that cause someone to develop depression. That’s why you need to develop an integrated package of care as the norm.”

That time can’t come soon enough for Corbitt.

“This was such a simple solution,” she said. “I could have saved myself a lot of money and a lot of misery if someone had asked about my diet 15 years ago. My life could have been different.”

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To celebrate the release of my new book, Stay With Me, as well as commemorate Mental Health Awareness Month, I will be posting articles and links on the subject through the month of May. Please share this with your friends and family. And don’t forget to get a copy of my book. Go to https://ruthegriffin.com/home/bookshelf/stay-with-me/ for more information.

‪#‎mhm2016 ‪#‎MentalHealth ‪#‎StayWithMe

 

Suicide Attempts Are Rarely Rational

Because suicide attempts are rarely rational, your response, however sincere, should not be one of tired clichés or viral memes. Read the following article comes from bhHope, but I encourage you to go to the site to read the comments too. It’s always helpful to hear from those who have ‘been there and done that’, because they can help you help others.

If you or someone you know is struggling with depression, text ‘Start’ to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741. It’s free and confidential; and someone is available to talk to you 24/7. Visit their website at http://www.crisistextline.org for more information. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-8255) or NAMI (800-950-6264) for support and local referrals.

Bipolar Suicide Attempts Are Rarely Rational

It’s not helpful to tell someone in the grip of a bipolar episode not to make a permanent decision for a temporary problem.

“Don’t make a permanent decision for a temporary problem.” I get furious when I hear or read this anti-suicide catch-phrase of medical professionals. Partly because I am fairly certain the person uttering it doesn’t understand bipolar patients and their suicide threats or attempts. Partly because rational thinking is not a precursor to any suicide attempts that I know of among bipolar spectrum sufferers.

Maybe a bullied student might pause when hearing, “Don’t make a permanent decision for a temporary problem.” But as a person with bipolar II, when I have contemplated suicide it is when I am far beyond any rational thought. The roaring in my head has become a true tornado, yet my thoughts are not fast moving like during a manic episode. Everything I know swirls into an undecipherable mess. The only thing I know for sure is that I feel rage. Anger that is initially directed at the person who bullseyed one of my triggers, leads to heightened disgust with myself for being unable to prevent a bipolar II reaction. Next comes tsunami-sized frustration with the cycle that is my life. That is it. I am not envisioning loved ones. I don’t consciously want to hurt them. I just don’t even think of them — it is as though they do not exist.

The roar is the only existing thing.

David Foster Wallace has compared suicide attempts by some mentally ill patients to someone trapped in a burning high-rise: “It’s not desiring the fall; it’s terror of the flames.” To borrow from Kay Redfield Jamison in “Night Falls Fast: Understanding Suicide” — “The future cannot be separated from the present, and the present is painful beyond solace.” I know during my mad confusions, I haven’t been able to latch on to upcoming celebrations and future milestones to flush suicidal urges. It is just current pain pushing me toward a dangerous action.

To cite suicidal impulses as responses to temporary problems trivializes most bipolar suicide attempts. The elephant in the room is that while we can have good lives full of love, as with any chronic disease there are near-constant worries about:

* our conditions worsening,

* the loss of friends who don’t understand,

* medication side effects,

* career implications,

* family members who get fed up with us,

* money problems related to treatment,

* etc., etc., etc.

Thanks to emotionally extreme episodes we have already experienced, we often find ourselves without a soul willing, or available, to hear about our latest crisis.

Because of the past, we feel certain we will come back to this dark place. Yet my suicidal thoughts seem to wham me to the ground with little warning. (Not to say that extreme depression doesn’t lay many people who are bipolar bare for long periods while suicidal thoughts flit about the corners of their consciousness. I just personally am more familiar with the rage-driven road to the emergency room.)

So, can we please have a new catchphrase aimed at preventing suicide attempts by people who are bipolar? One that doesn’t pretend we sit around making spreadsheets about life and death? Better yet, since stock phrases are rarely appreciated in the best of times (much less when your brain resembles a storm cloud), let us hope for continued advancements in understanding, medications, and other forms of treatment. Then maybe we can experience lives less fraught with the desperation that drives bipolar suicidal urges.

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To celebrate the release of my new book, Stay With Me, as well as commemorate Mental Health Awareness Month, I will be posting articles and links on the subject through the month of May. Please share this with your friends and family. And don’t forget to get a copy of my book. Go to https://ruthegriffin.com/home/bookshelf/stay-with-me/ for more information.

‪#‎mhm2016‪#‎MentalHealth‪#‎StayWithMe‪#‎Autism

21 Tips to Help You Keep It Together When You’re Depressed

People often mean well when they offer you advice about how to deal with your depression, but things like, ‘You should exercise more’ or ‘You don’t have anything to be sad about, just think about other things’ just aren’t helpful. Unless you’ve been there, I have discovered that the best thing to do to empathize with someone suffering is to just be there for them, to let them know you’re there. That will go farther than any advice you can offer.

That said, if you have been there, your advice can be invaluable to someone who is in the throes of depression. I found this article years ago and held onto it, knowing it would eventually come in handy. I want to write more, but I really think this one speaks for itself. And not just that, it’s actually helpful (see #17). Enjoy.

21 Tips to Keep It Together When You’re Depressed.

by Rosalind Robertson

A while ago, I penned a fairly angry response to something circulating on the internet – the 21 Habits of Happy People. It pissed me off beyond belief, that there was an inference that if you weren’t Happy, you simply weren’t doing the right things.

I’ve had depression for as long as I can remember. It’s manifested in different ways. I did therapy. I did prozac. I did more therapy. My baseline is melancholic. I’d just made peace with it when I moved, unintentionally, to a place that had markedly less sunshine in the winter. I got seasonal depression. I got that under control. Then I got really, really sick. Turns out it’s a permanent, painful genetic disorder. My last pain-free day was four years ago.

So, this Cult of Happy article just set me off. Just… anger. Rage. Depression is serious – debilitating, often dangerous, and it’s got an enormous stigma. It leaves people to fend for themselves.

It’s bad enough without people ramming Happy Tips at you through facebook. There is no miracle behaviour change that will flip that switch for you. I know, I’ve tried.

A friend of mine suggested that I write something from my point of view because, surprisingly, I manage to give an outwards impression of having my shit together. I was shocked to hear this. And I find this comical, but I see her point. I’m functioning. I’ve adapted. I’m surprisingly okay. I think the medical term is “resilient”.

So, here it is.

My 21 Tips on Keeping It Together During Depression

  1. Know that you’re not alone. Know that we are a silent legion, who, every day face the solipsism and judgement of Happy People Who Think We Just Aren’t Trying. There are people who are depressed, people who have been depressed, and people who just haven’t been hit with it yet.
  2. Understand that the Happy People are usually acting out of some genuine (albeit misguided. concern for you, that it’s coming from a good place, even if the advice feels like you’re being blamed for your disease. Telling you these things makes them feel better, even if it makes you feel like shit. (If they insist on keeping it up, see #12.
  3. Enlist the help of a professional.  See your doctor. You need to talk about it, and there are people paid to listen and help you find your way to the light at the end of the tunnel. 
  4. Understand that antidepressants will only do so much. They’re useful, they’ll level you out and give you the time you need to figure out your own path to getting well. They can be helpful. There are lots to choose from. They may not be for you, and even if they are, they take some time to kick in. Conversely, they may not be for you. Work with your doctor.
  5. Pick up a paintbrush, a pencil, an activity you got joy from in the past and re-explore that.  Or, sign up for the thing you always wanted to try. There is a long history and link between depression and creativity. It’s a bright light of this condition, so utilize it to your best advantage.
  6. Eat nutritionally sound, regular small meals. If you’re having trouble eating, try to focus on what you’d like to eat. I went through a whole six week episode of tomatoes and cream cheese on a bagel twice a day. Not great, but it was something – helpful context, I’m a recovered anorexic. Conversely, if all you want to do is scarf down crap, try to off-ramp it by downing a V-8 and doing #9 for 15 minutes, and see how you feel.  Chucking your blood sugar all over hell’s half acre is going to make you feel worse.
  7. While you’re doing #3, get some bloodwork done. If you’re low on iron or vitamin D, or if your hormone levels are doing the Macarena… these can all contribute to zapping your energy or switching your mood to Bleak As Hell.
  8. If you’re in bed and the “insomnia hamsters”, as I like to call them, are on the wheel of your head, watch Nightly Business News on PBS. This has the effect of Nyquil. Swap out your coffee for herbal tea. If you just cannot sleep, try the next tip….
  9. Learn how to meditate. Start by focusing on your breathing. Not sleep, not thoughts. In through the nose, out through the mouth. Meditation is focusing on being present in your body, not careening around in your brain. It may not be as good as sleep but it will give you some rest and recharge you.
  10. Face a window as often as you can – at work, at home. Look out into the world. Watch. Observe. Try to find something you find pretty or interesting to focus on. And, handily remember that one in five of those people out there feel the way you do.
  11. Better out than in. Sometimes it’s not convenient or career-enhancing to cry, so find a private place as best you can and let the tears go. Carry Kleenex and face wipes and extra concealer if you wear makeup. You can always claim allergies.
  12. Any “friend” who resolutely believes that your depression is because you’re lazy, because you’re not trying hard enough, who blames you for not bootstrapping out of it- that friend needs to be cut off. Polite (#2. is one thing, but there is a limit. You don’t have to explain, you can just not respond. You feel badly enough, you don’t need their “assistance”.
  13. Limit your time with people who drain you. You know who they are. Often you don’t have a choice- but you can put the meter on. And, subsequently, be aware of what you’re asking of those close to you.
  14. Everyone has stuff they’ve got to deal with. What you have been saddled with is your stuff. Recognize, just as you’re not alone, you’re also not unique. The grass may look greener, you may be jealous or envious of others who don’t have to deal with depression, but you likely do not know everything that’s going on with them.  
  15. Let go or be dragged. This is an old Buddhist saying. It’s a very useful way to frame aspects of depression. Betrayal, anger, fear… letting go is a process – often a painful and difficult process – but it’s ultimately going to show you the path out of this terrible place. Repeating the mantra can help when you’re feeling gripped by these feelings.
  16. Wear clothes that make you feel confident. It takes as much time to put on nice clothes as it does to put on sweatpants. You will want to wear the sweatpants. Fight the urge. The whole “look good/feel better” campaign isn’t limited to cancer and chemotherapy. Or women.
  17. Avoid fictional drama and tragedy like the plague. No Grey’s Anatomy, no to The Notebook, or anything that won a Pulitzer prize. You’ve got enough going on In Real Life. Comedy only.  Or trashy stuff. Old episodes of WonderWoman? I’ve got the box set. Mindless drivel, like the latest CGI blockbuster. Or clever, funny books. David Sedaris. Jenny Lawson. Fiction exists to elicit emotion, and the emotion you need to express most right now is laughter.
  18. Simple exercise, if you can. It can be something as simple as taking the stairs up a flight, or walking around the block. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, it doesn’t have to involve climbing a mountain or running a marathon. Baby steps.
  19. Depression will lie to you. Depression will try to tell you what others are thinking.  That you are unloved and unworthy, that others think little of you or don’t care – or even wish you harm. You are not a psychic. Keep repeating that. “I am not a psychic”.  Repeat. The only way to know what another person is thinking is to up and ask them.
  20. If you are well and truly losing this battle, reach out to someone. I’ve been the random friendly-but-not-close person who has fielded the occasional outreach. I like to think I’m not judgemental and generally resourceful, and others have thought the same, so they called and asked. You know someone like me. And they will help you.
  21. Forgive yourself.  I’m writing out all these tips, and I can’t always muster the strength to even stick my nose outside, or walk up the stairs, or eat my vegetables. Today, I got outside for ten minutes. I will try again tomorrow. And I will try again the day after that.

This list will not cure you. This list will not flip on the happy switch. God, I wish it were that easy. The theme here is to not to unknowingly sabotage yourself. All these little things? Like your blood sugar, or watching nonstop episodes of House, or endless Try Harder lectures from your Perpetually Perky sister?

They all make dealing with depression just a tiny bit harder than it needs to be. And it’s hard enough, all on its own.

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To celebrate the release of my new book, Stay With Me, as well as commemorate Mental Health Awareness Month, I will be posting articles and links on the subject through the month of May. Please share this with your friends and family. And don’t forget to get a copy of my book. Go to https://ruthegriffin.com/home/bookshelf/stay-with-me/ for more information.

#mhm2016 #MentalHealth #StayWithMe