Monday, October 1, 2012
I'm Back (Maybe)! Also Some Stuff About Depression
So, as I mentioned in my previous blog post, I'm in the midst of a depressive... episode? Flare-up? Whatever you want to call it. After about a month off of blogging, I'm feeling the creative urge again and am hoping to resume regular posting. However, I wanted to start off this next batch of posts with a little piece about what depression looks like for me and how I attempt to deal with it.
My depression usually takes the form of anxiety and anhedonia. It's generalized anxiety, so there's nothing specific I can focus on - I just feel a general sense of doom and unpleasantness and like everything is wrong. If I'm dealing with non-depression-based anxiety (which is fairly common for me), it's easy for me to distract myself with a movie or a chat with a friend, and then I feel much better about the whole thing. But if I'm dealing with depression anxiety, nothing I do can fix it. If I try to watch a movie or a TV show, I can't focus on it, and I find my mind drifting off to panic about nothing in particular. Then I get frustrated, try again, and once again can't focus. I feel no better and now have a rising panicky feeling that I won't be able to turn off the anxiety, EVER.
So what do I do about it?
These are a couple of the tricks and coping mechanisms that have worked for me, to keep me functioning.
-I work to allow "mental health days" into my schedule. I figure out how many days are available for me to take off if necessary. Then, if a day comes up in which I am so anxious about my daily responsibilities that it is making me physically sick, I have that time to take off. I allow myself a very limited amount - in school I usually granted myself 2 or 3 a semester (fewer if I was in demanding classes where missing a day would have major repercussions). Sometimes I didn't even use them, but knowing they were there made a difference.
-I cut out most unnecessary social interaction, unless I really feel up to it. Sometimes I feel bad for doing that, as on my days off and in my mornings I hide in my room and may not speak to my housemates all day. However, if I am stressed and only interacting out of obligation, that is not a fun social time for me OR my friends. It's better to hold off until I'm in a better place emotionally.
-I count time in smaller increments. Instead of thinking, "I have to work eight hours today," which may feel overwhelming, I think, "I have to work for two hours, and then I have a break," and I focus on that, pretending that I don't have to return after that. Mentally, I always feel certain that I can power through two hours of something. Two hours is easy, I tell myself over and over again. Usually this at least allows me to get through daily chores on a functional level.
-I become very impulsive. If I have a sudden urge that I want to do something, I tend to go along with it and refuse to allow myself guilt, because I don't know when the next opportunity will arise for me to do something that brings me pleasure. (What with the anhedonia and all.) Do I want to sit in bed all day watching movies and not get up at any point? Then I do that. Do I suddenly really, really, really want Wendy's even though the closest one is an hour away? Then I go. Do I suddenly have an incredible urge to own a certain movie? Then I buy a used copy on Amazon. The small rush I get from doing an occasional "happy making" activity will sometimes carry me through the day, so I act on those impulses whenever possible.
Obviously depression hits people differently, and everyone who has dealt with it has their own bag of mental tricks to fight it, along with medication or therapy, if that is a good option for them. I just wanted to share a little bit of what this looks like in my life, and especially how it has looked for me over the past couple weeks.