This is not a ‘think positively and you’ll be fine’ post. And yes, I know, I KNOW what I said about hacks and tips here, but I hope these are a little different and a little more realistic.
So I’ve been struggling with clinical depression, on and off, for my entire adult life. (I have whined about erm written about it A LOT here, and here, and here. And a fair few more, but I’ve spared you from reading them all by only linking a few). The following tips are borne from ways of coping I developed during my worst days.
They won’t make you better. They won’t make you happier. However, I list them here in the hope that they will, in some small way, help you cope. I feel there is a sea of positive thinkers in which the severely mentally ill are drowning – that isn’t to say they don’t have good advice, but that it is erroneous to believe that those ideas will get through the fog to those of us who are experiencing our darkest spots in the void. The ability to follow through with positive thinking, positive action and all such things is often only accessible once you have already begun to improve (at least in my experience).
These tips instead are hopefully to provide a little light to help you see the walls of the tunnel a bit. They are to make your life a little easier during those days in which opening your eyes seems momentous. Some may seem a little unorthodox, but they are things I have found which definitely work for me. I hope they will for you, too.
1. Assemble a ‘depression kit’ and keep it by your bed.
Get a box, a bag, a basket, clear a drawer in your nightstand, whatever. Just ensure you can reach your kit from your bed.
In the kit, include:-
- Minty, sugar-free chewing gum. This is for when you want your teeth to feel fresher but don’t want to get out of bed to brush them. It really can help (just make sure it is sugar-free, or you’ll be adding to your problems).
- A bottle of water. It always helps to sip some water. Even if you feel like it’s doing nothing, at least your mouth won’t be as dry and you can fuel the next crying fit. It’s also there to take your meds with. Speaking of which…
- Medication. If you’re on any form of anti-depressant, supplements, whatever, get one of those pill boxes which are divided by day and decant your meds into them. Then add this to your kit. (Although, if you’re not in the midst of a good day whilst reading this, just grab the bottles and chuck them in – that’s better than nothing). Having them nearby means even if you are at your worst, you can still take the meds you need to keep going. The pill boxes are very useful if you struggle to remember whether you have taken your meds or not (something I have real trouble with). N.B. Obviously do NOT place meds in your kit if there is no way to keep them safe from any children in your household– although you could always get a little lockable cash box or mini safe to keep them in if that is the case).
- Baby Wipes. These are INVALUABLE. You know how, when things are really shit, washing and dressing just kind of go out of the window? Yet you start feeling sweaty and smelly and that just makes you feel worse, but the motivation to get up and clean yourself just won’t manifest. This is when you reach for your kit and grab a baby wipe or three. Wipe your face, underarms, genitalia, and feet (i.e. all the worst offenders). You don’t have to get out of bed to do this if you don’t feel you can. But you’ll feel just that crucial little bit fresher, and that makes a difference. Trust me.
- Clean underwear (and socks and pjs, if you feel like it). For changing into after your baby wipe bath. You don’t have to, but if you want to to enhance the fresh feeling, the stuff is right there by your bed so you don’t have to get up and rummage around – something which can cause overwhelm.
- Your phone and charger. You probably do this anyway, but I’m including it as a necessity just in case you don’t. If you feel you are really going downhill and need to speak to someone FAST, it just makes sense that your phone is right next to you rather than in the other room. Additionally…
- Emergency numbers. In a notebook by the bed, there if needed. Very important. Obviously, in your phone contacts too, but it often helps to have things physically written down as a reminder. When you’re in that place where you need help, the actions required to access it are often too much. Keep it all by your bed.
- A notebook and pen. For keeping the emergency numbers, and also for venting your thoughts if they are whirling. Sometimes, writing it out can help you calm down enough to sleep.
- A red Sharpie. Okay, this is quite specific, but is legit advice I’ve had from psychiatrists in the past. Should you feel like self-harming, take the Sharpie, and draw on yourself with it instead. The idea is to get a similar release, but to avoid actually hurting yourself.
- A snack you love. You probably don’t want to eat. As long as you are sipping your water, that’s ok for the moment. You can catch up when this dark hour has eased a bit. However if you start feeling peckish/ dizzy/ faint, there it is, within arm’s reach, eliminating the need for you to expend effort you may not have in deciding to go to the kitchen to eat.
- Tissues/ Napkins. For cleaning up after snacks, and wiping eyes and noses after crying.
- A bin/ wastepaper basket/ or even just a plastic bag will do. This is so the rubbish doesn’t collect all over the floor, making you feel worse.
Assemble your kit when you’re having a good day, and it’ll be there waiting for you next time you can’t get out of bed. Put sufficient supplies in it for you to weather the storm for as long as your personal storms last. I have mine in a basket by my bedside at all times, and it has saved my sanity on more than one occasion. I just ensure I don’t use it when I’m not feeling too bad, so that it’s there when I am, and I replenish it on my first good day after use. UPDATE: I’ve added a checklist if you want something to tick off as you assemble your kit: Depression Survival Kit checklist
2. Make your kitchen as easy to use as possible.
- Buy a whole bunch of disposable crockery and cutlery – paper plates, cups, plastic knives/ forks/ spoons etc.
The first idea here isn’t going to be the most environmentally-friendly tip of all time. However, I would argue that when you’re struggling, you need all the easy options you can get your hands on – and if you feel too badly about it you can always put the debris into the recycling bin rather than normal trash once you feel up to it. But I encourage you NOT to add more guilt to your list of bad feels – this is something you will only do when you need to, not all the time, and I don’t think anyone’s going to blame you for that. The point is that clearing, cleaning, and washing up are very unlikely to happen when you are at your worst (although if you feel like you do want to tackle the dishes, see my post here.) So, to avoid it building up more whilst you are like this, or to avoid build up in the first place, use the disposable stuff as soon as you feel the Black Dog’s approach. Chuck the disposables away when you’re finished with them: no washing up to feel awful over later (or easy and quick clean up if you leave it all for a few days).
- Stock up on easy foods and ready meals.
Nutritional content can be agonised over when you’re out of the storm. In this case, it’s ease that should concern you. If it’s easy to grab and heat and eat, you’re much more likely to do so than if all you have in the fridge is raw ingredients. HOWEVER, if you have the tendency to overeat when depressed, I’d suggest stocking up with fruits and veggies which can be grabbed and eaten raw, and protein bars. It all depends on how your storms manifest themselves to you. Adjust accordingly.
- On your better days, stock up on toilet paper, coffee, sugar (if you take it), tea, and longlife milk.
You might not feel like going out to the shops for ages. If you always have what you need on hand for a hot drink, this can help immensely.
- Keep your trash bags easily available.
This means out and on the countertop, however unsightly it looks. It makes them easy to grab and fill if you feel the mess is getting out of hand. You’ve got to give your depressed brain access to as many shortcuts as possible so as not to overwhelm it.
3. Invest in pjs and/or loungewear that looks presentable enough to be daywear but is insanely comfortable.
Leggings and a shirt, for example. Basically, if you’re going to spend all day/ night in bed and in the same clothes, it will help you so much mentally if they look okay enough to answer the door in if necessary. As long as they are comfortable enough to sleep in, it’s fine.
However, by the same token, say you have an appointment later or the next day which you can’t miss (like therapy for example). It is TOTALLY OKAY and I GIVE YOU PERMISSION to get ready the night before or when you have the energy, and then sleep in your clothes until it’s time to go. I have actually done this a lot.
4. KNOW THAT IT WILL PASS.
Not a tip, exactly. Just an assurance. No matter how bad you feel right now, you will have a better day at some point. Everything is temporary, including your mood. It maybe won’t ever entirely go away, but it will at least ease a bit, even if it doesn’t feel like that’s possible to you at the moment.
That’s all for the time being, folks. I put this out there in the sincere hope that it will make someone’s life easier. Much love.