Depression is a lonely experience; it makes you feel unworthy of people’s time, increases feelings of guilt and isolates you from human connection. It’s like not being able to report a robbery to the police because some mafia goon threatens to put your mother in the cement mixer. You get stuck and have no yardstick to analyse your actions against. It’s difficult. The thing to do is talk. If you have to ask a trusted friend if you are being a dick then do it (they may also be able to reassure you that it’s the other person making the dick moves). If you are wracked with guilt for forgetting to do something while your head was in the sand, then say it, openly and then it can be addressed. (PS – it probably wasn’t that important anyway).
Finding people with whom you are comfortable expressing yourself in this way is crucial, but not easy. It may be that a family member could step up to guide you through the self-doubt, dog days. On the other hand, choosing someone less directly involved in your life could be more helpful – counselling sessions are an excellent option that gives you concentrated personal time, but are also neutral and not connected with the emotions you are dealing with. Maybe your confidante is not a person, but an animal who you can talk at whilst unpicking your stuck brain.
Something which I have found particularly helpful previously is to write an email to Samaritans detailing the things that are difficult for me at that time. It helps to get to the crux of the matter, without feeling too overwhelming. It is often a cathartic process and encourages better self-awareness. The response will not give you advice but offers support and acceptance. It makes you more able to cope with the difficulties and to feel more in control.
Be honest at the first sign of danger and avoid a build-up of stress. Acknowledge your stress-triggers – keep a list, if it helps – that way you can add in different tactics to address each one. Snog, marry and avoid! Schmooze your triggers that could lead you somewhere outside your comfort zone, resign yourself to the fact that you can sometimes be a high-anxiety person (and don’t judge yourself on that basis) and avoid triggers which are consistently having a negative and lasting effect on your mental well-being.
It might look something like this:
Snog: A new gym session that pushes your limits or going to a night-class that makes you nervous. Go for that drink after work.
Marry: Put in provisions for tasks that you find difficult or upcoming days which might be stressful. Plan ahead, acknowledging where you might need support. Who could make that phone-call on your behalf? Which location suits you best for meeting someone?
Avoid: Don’t put yourself in situations which might compromise your emotional stability. Block people who drain you on social media, avoid places that you know will be crowded or overwhelming, say no to social events where you will feel pressured to act in ways that don’t suit you.
It is difficult to act in these assertive ways when you are in the vice grip of a depressive period. Keep the faith that taking small actions, having open conversations will keep you safe and healthy. Get it off your chest!