Since Robin Williams suicide I have seen many articles,fb posts and blogs about suicide and depression. The truth is unless one had been there so hard to understand why anyone would commit suicide. But you don’t just wake up one day and go, Hey I think I’ll off myself today.
Before suicide is depression and swimming in the dark abyss. Are we doomed,those of us who struggle with depression? I hope not. I don’ t think there is any one way to deal with depression. I think those of us who suffer from it must have an arsenal of tools available to us.
My wordpress friend, the pink agendist wrote this great blog on depression. I found it to be very helpful and with his permission I have duplicated it here since his blog is currently set to private.
His advice is practical and logical. Enjoy.
How do you fight depression?
My experience with treatment was a bumpy ride. Four different doctors, a number of different diagnoses and an equal amount of medications to treat them.
The first few years were very much a waste of time. Just talking and answering poignant questions didn’t do much for me. Some medications did ease the accompanying tension and anxiety, but not enough to account for any significant change.
The thing that did it for me was CBT (offered by the NHS in case you’re interested. Otherwise a session costs anything from $50 to $500). The backbone of CBT is how to confront and alter your life to minimize the effects of whatever destructive thought patterns you might have- from depression to OCD to phobias.
In a practical sense it works by identifying your stressors and triggers. You learn to recognize the factors that set off your depressive process/cycle. For some people that could be the weather, for another it could be the holidays. It’s not necessarily significant. I know someone whose process is related to parties, even parties she enjoys. In the week following a party she’s invariably overtaken by thoughts on existentialism, whether life is worth living. So we can say that although parties aren’t the deep causal factor in her depression (existentialism is)- the parties are the factor that set off the switch.
If you don’t know what your triggers are off-hand, keeping a diary is very helpful. I’ve met people with all sorts of triggers. A certain tone of voice, seeing the sunrise, being in the presence of a fight. Think of it in the way adrenaline or dopamine work. Action triggers chemical, chemical triggers sensation. Cycle ensues. In the case of anxiety or depression the pattern always involves a very specific index (and style) of thoughts. The depressed individual’s mind goes round and round, lingering on the same topics and re-interpreting life from what is many times an entirely irrational (and negative) perspective. Here’s a simplified example of a depressive cycle, note how they interact and bolster each other:
(In case you’re thinking that if the person in question is overweight, then the depressive thoughts are simply a rational reaction, you’re wrong. The issue being the “style” of the reaction. Someone accustomed to these thought patterns will apply them to all aspects of their life.)
You’re suddenly not a guy doing your best, you’re a bad guy. Your work isn’t respectable, it’s pathetic. You look in the mirror and you only see what’s “wrong”. CBT says: STOP. Turn away from the thoughts. Move in another direction. It sounds simple enough, but requires an inordinate amount of discipline, especially because most of us have been repeating the same patterns since adolescence. At first I wore a rubber-band on my wrist and snapped it every time I had an irrational negative thought. For it to be effective, you do have to regard it as a daily job. You also have to be prepared to make significant changes and confront things that could have a major impact on your life. Your trigger could be your partner or sibling. It could be the weather in the part of the world you live in. It could be your boss or your job itself. Obviously, it can also be in the realm of the nots. Not doing exercise, not writing, not looking for a different line of work.
I’ve spent years re-structuring my entire existence. It’s a work in progress and always susceptible to change. My biggest realization is how my state of mind is mostlydependent on my own decisions. I can’t control the world around me, but there’s a whole lot I can do to give myself the best possible experience. We may not be able to control the world around us but we are fully able to control our own reactions.
Take the example of the kettle and nespresso machine breaking within days of each other. Many years ago something as insignificant as that would have made me extremely angry and would most probably have set me off on a depressive cycle. the thoughts would be: Nothing works, nothing lasts, people just rob you. How much will I have spent replacing appliances until the end of my life? I probably don’t make enough. Bad things seem to happen more often to me than to other people. My behaviour would have been: They’ll just break anyway, so there’s no point buying new machines. I’ll just boil water in a pot and have instant coffee from now on. The result would be a persistent dissatisfaction every time I wanted coffee or tea.
Even after all these years of practice, my first reaction to the breakages was intense negative emotion. Which would have been followed by the negative associative process- but I can stop it in its tracks (most of the time). I stop whatever it is I’m doing. I go sit in another room, and then I decide what can be done for me to move forward. Don’t overreact, how much is a new machine, I can order it without leaving the house. Life goes on.