Depression - Always a Work in Progress
Mid 2017 was a turning point and forced me to make serious changes in my life. I have had downturns before, however this was a major episode where I ended up in hospital several times. It has taken over a year to get to a point of feeling more of an equilibrium.
My pattern is that I stop making time for myself and get extreme with things like work. I do everything to an extreme level. I’m not eating properly or sleeping. Even though I still make time to exercise, when I’m in downturn mode, working out can actually subtract from my energy tank. I’m more likely to train too hard, over-exerting myself when my body probably needs more restorative work.
A typical response, when everything else feels overwhelming, is to go hard on the tiles too. Alcohol can exacerbate the downturn. It is a known depressant. For me, red wine is especially bad. On top of everything else, alcohol also inhibits my ability to get good sleep.
All of these actions compound. At a certain point it gets too much.
I do take antidepressants, they help me stabilise and are an important part of my coping with depression, however, relying on them to “solve” it is not the right approach for me or for most people.
As with anything, antidepressants work best when you are looking after your physical health and speaking to a professional.
Therapy is not just about delving into yourself but also about helping you set up your personal toolkit to better cope with the rollercoaster of life and ensuring that you learn and gain strength from every episode.
The work I did on myself in response to the 2017 “downturn” meant that I had a name for the situation where previously I didn’t know what was happening to me. I was also able to bring my friends and family in to what I was going through and that meant that I have a stronger support system going forward. This is all huge for me.
Looking after my physical and mental health in my daily life is crucial. Overloading myself and not taking time out is a problem. In 2017, I completely re-jigged my schedule to ensure I was making time for things that were not work, sport or exercise related.
I’ve come a long way since then. I do notice, now, that when I don’t follow my own rules - have a super boozy weekend, eat crap and book too many back to back client sessions - I am far more anxious coming into the next week and I use that as a signal to do a reset.
This doesn’t mean that I will never have an episode like I did in 2017 again but this is the longest stint in 10 years without having a major downturn and I feel better equipped to get myself out of the next one.
My mental health, anyone’s mental health, is always going to be a work in progress.
“Looking after yourself”, and what that entails, is completely personal. For some people, it can be as simple as making time to just go outside for a walk or catching up with a friend but also things like getting a massage. It’s about creating space in your life where the stresses don’t have top priority.
Check out some of the other articles on Strong Words dealing with depression and mental health.
If you feel overwhelmed by it all, you don’t need to be there all by yourself. If you feel you can’t speak to friends or family (this is very common!), there are lots of resources out there for you. If you have suicidal thoughts, please do not wait. There is someone ready to help you right now.
If you know someone who you think needs a hand, those same resources are available for you too. If you are worried about someone being suicidal, do not wait.
Helplines and Resources
Mind - For Better Mental Health is a great resource that lists out various scenarios and who to contact for each.
Help! My Partner is Depressed great resource for those with a loved one in need.
Young Minds has a great explainer and steps you can take on depression for young people.
NHS Helplines for all mood disorders and issues
Call 116 123
Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) – for men
Call 0800 58 58 58 – 5pm to midnight every day
Call 0800 068 41 41 – Monday to Friday 10am to 10pm, weekends 2pm to 10pm, bank holidays 2pm to 5pm
Text 07786 209697
Call 0800 1111 – the number won't show up on your phone bill
Call 0800 4 70 80 90