Clinical depression can a very debilitating disease. I know. I was diagnosed with it six years ago. Its symptoms include sleep disorders (both insomnia and sleeping too much), lethargy, feelings of being worthless, helplessness, guilt, and self-hate. (DivineCaroline has a great article posted by Fishergirl detailing the symptoms and diagnosis of clinical depression, Depression and Major Depression.) At times it becomes very hard to live normally through the day or even function. Sometimes it feels impossible to function at all. I have had bouts where putting a load of laundry into the washer was too overwhelming, let alone trying to write and find places to publish my work. Dragging yourself into the shower can be too much work, let alone putting the amount of thought and energy into what to cook for dinner that night. Normal life just seems to be way beyond what you can do when clinical depression rears its ugly head. But there are things you can do to help you live with clinical depression and not just survive it.
The first thing is keep to your regular routines and schedules. For me these are the hardest things to do, especially getting up at the same time everyday. But getting up at the same time everyday, showering, going to work, cooking, exercising, and other daily activities help your brain perceive things as ‘normal’ and can help you maintain order in you life. One of the biggest lies clinically depressed people believe is that we have no control over our lives. Maintaining control over some of the little things in life can help us combat that lie.
The second way we can manage depression is to exercise. Exercise releases chemicals in the brain that give you a more optimistic outlook on life and make you feel good. Walking, running, swimming, and other forms of exercise can help your brain see the world in a different way. Many people suffering from depression (me included) have also been helped by yoga with its combination of movement, breathing and meditation.
The third thing is eating a healthy diet. For me this is where I really fall off the train: Southern comfort food is a big thing for me, and that’s what I like to cook when I’m depressed. My eating is the first thing to go down hill when the depression worsens: fried food, sugars, and fat all skyrocket, and nary a vegetable is to be found on my plate. All of these foods will help the depression instead of you. When you are in a deep depression try to stay away from the fats and sugars and eat whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Like exercise these foods help your brain make chemicals that help you feel better.
Fourth, do not isolate yourself. This is another tendency of people who suffer from clinical depression, and this is another thing I’m really bad about when I’m depressed. You need to tell your trusted friends what is going on. They can help you see where depression is clouding your judgment. They can also counter the lies that your depressed mind is telling you. They can reassure you that you are not worthless, that you are important, and that things will get better and change. If you have a spiritual or faith tradition, it is also important to stay active in that tradition and not cut yourself off from the people you worship, meditate, or pray with.
Last, do not be afraid to find a psychiatrist and go on anti-depressants. Clinical depression can skew how you see the world and other people. I discovered that how I was interpreting the world and friends (and their motives) was completely wrong once I went on an anti-depressant. People with clinical depression can have a warped view of what is happening around them. Anti-depressants can clear the fog and help you see your life and the people in it as they are, and not as the depression interprets them.
Clinical depression can be managed, and you can live your life. You can even live a fairly content and happy life. It does take work and time, but if you take care of yourself, stay in contact with your friends, and seek professional help if needed, you can manage the depression and be free to choose how you want to live your life.