This article was created and for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice and should not be relied on as health or personal advice. Even though I have a lifetime of experience dealing with my own mental health, I do not have any fancy titles or the training of a doctor. Any advice should be treated as just that, advice!
I don’t know who said it, but a quote occurred to me today, and it couldn’t be more accurate. It said, “You can’t distract yourself from depression. It’s like trying to cover up dirt on the wall with white paint.”
So many of us go through life suffering from depression. Some people hide in the dark and never get out of bed. Some people try to kill mental pain with physical pain. Some try to medicate it away with both worthless prescriptions and harmful drugs, like alcohol. And some seek to distract themselves completely, so they don’t feel the depression.
I’ve even given this advice to people trying to get out of bed with a bad case of the sads. “Get up! Take a shower. Walk around the block. Brush your teeth. Have breakfast!” Yes, these are good and healthy coping ideas to have when you are depressed and need to go on with your day, but the depression always comes back after a while. All the work you did was just a distraction.
What you need are long-term mechanisms for coping that help even when you aren’t explicitly practicing them. You need things to do that work because the last thing you need is more smoke blown up your ass.
Here is a list of things that work for me every day, and they work for a lot of other people I come across in my efforts as a mental health advocate.
Getting to the Root of the Problem with Therapy
Sure, the problem you are having may have a chemical component, but don’t let anyone tell you that drugs are the answer to your prayers. Nine times out of 10, the depression you feel is due to an issue you either haven’t resolved or never have even addressed.
Talk to a professional.
Even if you can’t afford an expensive counselor or therapist, find a way to talk to someone. Be careful of falling into the “Pastor trap” thinking that a “man of God” would have the answers, because sadly, most don’t have any more experience or expertise than you or I. Just because they think they have the answers from an outdated book of lies does not mean they can help you. The best thing is to find a licensed professional.
If you don’t have insurance, there are plenty of public programs that would allow you to speak with a professional. Seek out lists on the internet in your area.
In addition, stay open and honest with family and friends about how you are feeling, keeping an available line of communication.
See Your Doctor
I don’t say, “see your doctor,” so they can immediately drug you up. If that is the first thing they suggest, then you may need a new doctor. They should ask you about your diet, and exercise, sleep, and if you are under much stress. They should offer medical advice before trying drugs because antidepressants are problematic.
David Healy, a professor of psychiatry at Bangor University in Wales and author of Let Them Eat Prozac, published an opinion piece in the journal The BMJ. It said:
“Drug companies marketed SSRIs for depression even though they were weaker than older tricyclic antidepressants and sold the idea that depression was the deeper illness behind the superficial manifestations of anxiety,” he writes. “The approach was an astonishing success, central to which was the notion that SSRIs restored serotonin levels to normal, a notion that later transmuted into the idea that they remedied a chemical imbalance.”
The facts are that antidepressants will most likely make you gain weight. So, in addition to worrying about how you feel, many people struggle with ballooning weight. Also, antidepressants tend to deaden all emotion, and many times I will come out the other end feeling like a robot.
Be careful if antidepressants are the only way you have of dealing with your illness.
One of the most challenging things to do when depressed, but one of the most helpful, is exercise. I struggle because, in addition to my depression, I have a stressful work schedule, so it’s hard to find the time for a good workout. But, I try to get out at least and walk a few miles when the neuropathy in my legs is not so bad, and that seems to help overall.
I am still struggling with my weight after so many years of antidepressant abuse, but exercise helps with taking a few extra pounds a month off. Being healthy with exercise is one of the best things you can do for yourself, even if it is so hard to get motivated to do it.
Eating for Depression
The other element not to miss is a good diet. A depressed body and brain need nutrients missing from a regular diet of sugars, bad fats, and carbs.
Not only do you need vitamins and minerals, but your body needs good fats that come from avocados, nuts, fish, and meat. You also need carbs, but not the kind that comes from potato chips and French fries. You need fruits and vegetables. You should also avoid processed sugars, instead of relying on fruits for that.
The first thing most people do is grab a bag of chips and a Coke and sit on the couch to watch Netflix, but what you should do is eat an apple and walk a few miles.
I put this second-to-last because even though positive thinking has been essential for me, it is much too easy to weaponize it and let it become toxic for you. Being positive alone will not cure everything wrong with you.
It is a band-aid.
Too many people will tell you that all you must do is turn your frown upside down, but that is bullshit. Being positive is healthy, but sometimes, you cannot wash away a problem with quotes and affirmations.
You must put in the work.
Coming out of depression takes a lot of hard work. You can’t just sit around feeling sorry for yourself. Every day you must be stubborn or motivated enough to do the things that will finally pull you out of the funk.
Nobody said that recovery from depression is easy. You have to be willing to work and work hard.
Take it from all the people I’ve talked to over the years and me. Don’t rely on positive thinking and prescriptions to get you through your day. Most likely, you will end up overweight and still miserable because you aren’t using all the tools in your toolbox.
It is possible to come back from depression, but you have to be willing to do whatever it takes to rid yourself of the darkness.
You can do it, but don’t rely on distraction alone. A shower or a movie may take your mind off the issues, but eventually, you will have to confront the things that got you here in the first place.
You can do it; I believe in you.
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