How does a normal person handle depression when it strikes? I have been asked to answer this question at different times by different people. Apparently I come across as stoic and they’d like to know how it is done. The secret to having a stoic exterior is to have a stoic interior and the secret to having a stoic interior isn’t something I had pondered upon much. So I am not of much use when it comes to these topics. I am not hiding the secret pill. It just happens that there is no secret pill.
But hey, I naturally have had my bit of life experiences where I people ruffled my feathers and when life wasn’t the cool breeze I’d want it to be. But never in my life have I remained depressed for weeks or months on end with no hope in sight. I do want to help those who deal with this a lot. I don’t consider myself particularly well-equipped to give advice in this. But I let us ponder on a few relevant points.
So here I will give you a list of the thoughts I entertain when things are not going well enough for me, the precautions I take while I think I am not as stable as I’d like to be and what I notice about people who seem prone to depression.
Have a good relationship with yourself
Do you like yourself? If you were somebody else for a day, and you met yourself on the hallway, would your face light up in joy? Get the answer to this straight. It isn’t about your looks, your social position, your intelligence, your reputation or even your sense of humor. You meet other people 1 or 2 or 8 or 16 hours a day. You are the only one you spend 24 hours with. You don’t get to escape from yourself even during your sleep. So enjoy your presence and make your presence enjoyable.
This doesn’t come naturally to a lot of people and it seems to need effort. I don’t have the professional qualification to tell you why this is so. But one thing I know for sure. It is not good to wait until you are depressed to deal with your relationship with yourself. You need to nurture yourself even on a day when everything is going right.
You are not of significant importance in most people’s lives and this is actually a good thing. Be of significant importance in your own life. Get yourself a hobby that keeps you going. Make sure it is not just tuning to a TV show or an online game you login to every night. It should be something you actively look forward to every week, if not every day.
Build yourself up
Nobody can eat for you. Nobody can drink for you. Nobody can sleep for you. Nobody can deal with your depression for you.
The feeling that someone should step in and rescue you can be overwhelming. Think of a pot of water that you need to carry. Other people can lift it up and put it on your head. But if the pot needs to remain there, you need both the strength and the stability to handle the heavy load.
Sometimes you can feel let down that someone you trust and love isn’t offering to take up the load. You feel that you’d have surely helped if the situation is reversed. But this is an illusion. The load is inside your head and this is something only you can handle. This one can’t be put on someone else’s head.
The big questions like “Why am I here?” and “Is that all there is to my life?” strikes all humans. It is just that some people get involved in religion or charity and find peace through their own preferred channels and others seem to get sucked into a whirlwind of self-loathing and disappointment which they are not able to escape.
Like most people I do wonder about the impermanence of life when I attend funerals or when I hear of accidents. However, I never get sucked into those thoughts. Some suggest that I have not grown enough philosophically. That is very good. I am not interested in that growth anyway.
But one thing I do know. If the big questions bother you too much, you ought to talk to people and get it over with and take a clear direction in your life that makes good sense to you. Taking any direction is better than taking no direction.
Don’t underestimate the power of good sleep, a sensible diet and exercise
Most people think they are depressed and that the world is out to get them, when in truth they are merely slightly sleepy and a tad hungry and a bit stiff in the joints. However, instead of fixing the obvious root causes, they’d have to aggravate the situation by killing their own sleep time and by eating junk that would worsen their good hormones.
And exercise. As a society, we have convinced ourselves that working out is something you’d have to do if you are unhappy with the shape of your body. We have also convinced ourselves that exercise is an unpleasant activity that you’d have to endure to shape our body to a socially accepted standard shape. This makes people look down on these activities as something shallow people do for their own vanity.
However, physical activity helps you be in touch with yourself. Assess your strength, flexibility, balance and endurance and work on your body on a regular basis as the health of your body determines the state of your mind.
Seek Professional Advice when needed
Sometimes loved ones die. Other times loved ones disappoint. Life is not going to be smooth sailing and you can’t be happy and smiling and active and a ball of fire all the time. It is just that you should have the ability to pick yourself up and the stamina to keep going.
Clinical depression is not the same as these situation-based bouts of depression. Clinical depression is a more serious problem. Acknowledging that you have a problem is a very important part of solving it.
People who have headaches or tooth aches or arthritis have no problem seeking a doctor but just can’t imagine visiting a therapist to handle their depression. Psychologists and psychiatrists don’t get their college certificates to dish out mere conventional wisdom or to mindlessly write out a sleeping dose. A lot of research has happened in the fields of psychology and psychiatry. Professionals can and will help you a lot better than the agony aunts of magazines or sweet-voiced radio jockeys.