Ivan Ana-Maria

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How do you actually cope with depression?

I have read some of the debates on 'depression' posted here and contextualized according to the author's experience and interest in a particular issue.
My question, though, comes from underneath possible references and eventual scientific explanations. It is a puerile question inspired by my recent intellectual and existential lethargy and it is an attempt to reach out and try to discuss it with those who have been through a similar situation.
Although I have experienced depression in the past, it strikes me now in a rather inappropriate moment. Depression is never welcome, I know, but I am also trying to see its self-revelatory side, the 'good one', the possible 'fruits' of an unpleasant emotional exploration.
May one actually learn from this? I acknowledge the inherent process of learning about yourself, about acting in a certain way when recognizing your weakness, your impotence. But is there really a 'good' side to depression?

I am now fighting my own monsters, so to speak, while I feel that my life has been put on hold, indefinitely. I am in my final year of master studies and what I am facing now is more than a banal writer's block, it is a paralyzing fear of the future that might prevent me from completing my studies on time (something I can hardly afford).
And therefore I must ask how does one cope with this? I agree with Tina Moore's idea that finding your way out of this emotional abyss is a highly individual process, then how did you overcome it? I am sure that one can learn from this simple act of sharing experiences.
I am afraid that this discussion is initially not based on some academic interest, but I welcome any ideas and suggestions that could shed some light on how to deal with this problem, maybe in a more creative way than in a traditional one.

  • Jun 5 2012: Here are a few practical ideas I found very effective:

    If you haven't start to exercise regularly. Exercise is one of the most important tools to prevent or minimize depression and to make onself feel more energetic, creative and positive.

    Stop watching TV or at least news. Don't read newspapers that focus on reporting murders and other negative activities.

    Eat healthy.

    Avoid or minimize medications. Their side effects can include depression.

    Get a good sleep. The best way is to get used to go sleep early and wake up early. You will find having more energy and ideas after a good night sleep.

    Have enough light and sunshine. I have read about several scientific studies that suggest as we get older our eye get much less certain specturm of light. If needed use artificial light lamps for a small periods of time but be aware of possible UV rays.

    Connect with possitive people and keep sociallizing regularly with your friends/family, not online but in real life.

    Meditate and frequently remind youself about what you are greateful for this day, week etc.

    • Jun 5 2012: Yes I agree to exercising and eating healthily. At least it makes you feel good about yourself.

      Talking to a close peer or family member whom you are comfortable with helps to. At least you get someone to know about your problems and I'm sure they will be there if you need them.

      Or start a blog to write down your feeling and thoughts, or why are you feeling upset. Then as you read back on your posts, you might just as well identify the root of the problems. :)
      Also, writing helps you to relieve stress and if you are not comfortable with telling anyone the problems, it can be a very helpful..
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        Jun 5 2012: Fenni,
        good idea.
        i dint know writing does have an advantage.
        will start practising it!!!
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        Jun 5 2012: Dear Fenni, writing is quite therapeutic and I completelly agree with the idea that it is a gate to your true self. I am sure that one can deal creatively with this emotional burden.
        Thank you for your advice. Thanks to it I actually went to sleep scheduling a 'meeting' with my fear for the next morning. This is really wonderful and exactlly like drawing and painting, it is a way to look deep within yourself.
        Have you ever tried writing as a therapy yourself?
        • Jun 7 2012: Hi Ivan, yes i tried it myself. The blog is private, so there's no chance of anyone reading it. Then I can pen all my feelings down without the fear of anyone judging. As I write more and read back on what I wrote, I find it actually amusing sometimes at what I posted. It's like, you have to find some humility in yourself then you can take life easier. :)
          Whenever you are feeling down, you can just write it down, even if it's 10 or 20 times a day.
          No one would judge you.

          I wish you all the best. :)
      • Jun 5 2012: Fenni, writting is a great idea. I also think that writing about something positive that happened that day or week will help to feel better as well.
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          Jun 7 2012: Dear Fenni and Zdenek,

          I appreciate your enthusiasm about writing, and I completely agree with you both. I think that creative activities (writing, drawing) are ways to access your subconcious, as in my experience I often found myself surprised of what I was reading about myself in my written or graphic past endevors. And even if it is a very personal journey, I am happy to know that there are other people that enjoy its simple and natural benefits. With this in mind I must brace myself for a journey of my own.
          I wish you both all the best,
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      Jun 5 2012: Your suggestions are indeed useful, Zdenek. To a small degree, I have tried most of them. I guess one of the hardest part now is to remain consistent in whatever I choose to do and to stop rationalizing and negating the usefulness of a certain action. To my surprise, although I have never done any sport in my life, at the beginning of May I displayed a theoretical interest in doing sport and I heard myself praising it in front of my friends. Perhaps some part of me was already forseeing and intuiting this critical moment.
      I appreciate your advice and I believe that I am on the right track.
      Thank you for your comment and for all your suggestions.
      • Jun 5 2012: I forgot to mention that going to nature should help as well. Go for a hike, camping, kayaking, skiing etc.

        I think it is the best to start with sport and/or exercise because if you do that regularly you will start having energy and positve thoughts in taking on the rest. =)

        It is great to hear about your sport activity and good luck!

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    Jul 4 2012: I think you put one foot infront of the other. You eat better than you ever did in your life. You work hard not to alienate those who support you while also owning your responsibility to your own well being. You excersice a lot even if you feel too tired. You consider whatever meds you are prescribed in light of the side effects and you can also journal your deepest darkest moments in the fervent hope that Pennebaker's work whichindicates that writing (or talking) to a trusted other helps integrate facts in a new way in the brain which in turn kick starts the immune system. You have to believe you will get better at your core. If you do not, just act like you do for a while and see how you feel. Hold on/! Life can get better in an instant. You also have to be brutally honest with yourself about the things that are off the table because they cnanot be the problem - ie your marriage or living arrangement which you do not want to lose but which might be the catalist.
  • Jul 2 2012: I too am at the final stage of my master's, having taken time off since April last year. I have suffered from depression on & off since at least my mid-twenties, but have had lengthy periods of remission during which I accomplished a lot. I find these days that I need to keep taking my anti depressants, varying the dose with my everyday functional state. I currently have a psychiatrist who has helped me several times. She is trying to attack my melancholia from several angles at the same time using different means, Therefore, besides the anti depressants (which used to give me moderate nasty side effects, but which I am determined to persist), I have been thoroughly assessed physically & biochemically so that I now take low dose thyroxine for Hashimoto's disease, Vitamin D3 for a huge deficiency, plus omega-3 fish oil 15 to 20mls per day (liquid, not capsules). I keep my coffee consumption to a minimum as it tends to make my head buzz with the antidepressants, I restrict wine to times when I am feeling OK & only drink the occasional beer which dosen't interfere with my mood. I exercise at least 20 mins aerobically as many days as I can, with 1 hour of aquarobics once to twice per week, walking for 1 hour on most days or getting on a "rock climber" machine. I've been "prescribed" socialising at least every second day- talking to store personnel is counted as socialising! I organise snacks and lunch with friends as often as I can and try to take part in community activities, eg. Google Photo Walks etc. I have many online friends as well as quite a few real-life friends whom I stay in touch with, no matter what I feel on the day. I have had hand/wrist arthritis treated with cuffs & flexible splints plus isometric exercises so I can remain functional & must keep any pain controlled using simple drugs, not codeine or NSAIDS. I have had to swallow my pride and ask for help with anything I find painful, eg. chopping hard vegetables, lifting anything heavier than a plate.
  • Jun 14 2012: I have faced significant depression, including currently, on two occasions. 20+ years ago, I went through one shortly before ending graduate school and for 2 years post. I faced simliar paralyzing issues as you and couldn't find a way out. Small little wins, a relationship that turned to marraige, a job that allowed me to learn and have new successes, exercise and social interaction helped me through - all little things that supported and accelerated one another. Looking back at the experience, I recognized the depression, but can't say I learned anything about it until I was out and could really look objectively at the process and see how much stronger I had become because of what I went through.

    With my current depression, I was facing behavioral changes in me that convinced me I couldn't manage the process on my own, so I sought help from my doctor, a therapist and medication, all of which helped a great deal. I am much more mature and able to recognize the 'monsters', but have had varying success managing them. I think the part I learned through therapy was to acknowledge the emotional and physical symptoms that come forth from my depression, look to move them off without judgement and proceed on with my life. I learned of some of the prior history and personality components of what breeds my feelings which has also helped in that I can make a decision as to how important those values/traits are compared to what remifications come from them. I believe it will be the small successes that come forth that will get me out of this current state and I will look back more objectively and be able to learn more.

    I would have to lean with many others on this discussion and recommend taking steps to move you out of your state as soon as possible (with some internal learning being a part of it) and look to learn afterwards when you have less emotional blockages to cloud your thinking. Good luck.
  • Jun 9 2012: Dear Ivan,

    "May one actually learn from this?" Yes, we can learn who we really are. The solution seems to rely upon a spiritual path. that's because the mental blocks the mind creates can't be solved with the actual way of thinking. When the mental schemes that create the way of seeing the world are incorrect they create inconsistency, fear, etc. But if one is trying to solve the situation "depression" with the actual way of thinking, the picture get worse.
    The practice of presence of spirituality gives us mental clarity, because it leads us to use all our senses, that way we can see how our thinking process and the mind operate. Then we can realize which mental structure are incorrect, incompleted o misperceived. But this is even a result, a result of a understanding of oneself, that goes deeper than a set of beliefs.

    For a spiritual guidance you can see Eckart Tolle and for a scientifc explanation you can listen to David Bohm.

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      Jun 10 2012: Dear Yuri Gomez,

      I completely agree with you that one gets to learn an aweful lot about oneself through such experiences. I also think that they may represent accumulations of feelings and emotions that may have been repressed for years, and once they reach a certain limit they can overwhelm you. Exactly as dreams depressive episodes may carry across messages from your subconsious, sometimes warning about an inner inbalance. Maybe depressions come to fill in a similar gap, signaling that there are emotional matters that have to be solved in this particular moment as they become a solid barrier against your further development.
      I see this experience as a constructive one because I have to question again and again why this is happening. I have tried some strategies against depressen/writer's block and some gave me a momentary sense of utter enthusiasm. But I understand now that it was just a battle and not the whole war, so to speak and that one has to persevere. However, during this whole process you need to stop and reevaluate, and sometimes you have to go back into your past and retrace the invisible thread that connects a past even with your present, and solving that may be an achievement in itself.
      I've come pretty far in identifying the painful spots that may stand for different factors of this equation, and I just have to find my way around them. It is a slow process, but as silly as it may sound, maybe I should be grateful for this. It is a moment of crucial decisions in my life and naturally inner changes or realizations must come before external ones. It is a journey and I am grateful for both the good and negative things I encounter along the way.
      Thank you so much for your suggestions, and I agree with your idea of spirituality. Maybe once in a while people need a kind of spiritual updating as well.
      I wish you all the best and thank you so much for stopping by,
  • Jun 7 2012: One thing that honestly helps me is acts of kindness. Helping others makes you feel needed I guess.
    When I feel terribly bad as if I cannot leave the house I tidy a bit, or make dinner for my partner, If feeling a little better I will walk to the shops and pick up some litter along the way, or move a box, help someone on a bus, give to someone who needs it etc. It is important for me to take care in these things and to think about the impact no matter how small.

    If I feel capable I volunteer. This is something I do anyway however I feel working for others is humbling.

    One thing i do often, that always makes me feel better is to shop for someone in need, where I live there are allot of homeless and I was once part of the ''problem'' no fault of my own. I always remember the random acts of kindness I received and truly believe that that is the one thing that kept me sane! something someone used to do for me is every Wednesday they would buy me lunch. I now do the same, knowing what a difference it makes, that human connection no matter how fleeting makes me feel better even if just slightly.

    Another thing I do is to stop. Go somewhere where I can truly absorb how small and insignificant my life is within the bigger picture. I know it sounds weird, often the feeling of being insignificant is a catalyst for, not a preventative action however feeling the wind across my face or seeing the expanse above me helps me understand that nothing is forever. My depression will pass and life is so frail one must take the opportunity to live it to the fullest.

    But everyone is different.

    Depression however is hard to shake. My only advice is not to take medication for it. It is not known fully the impacts of anti depressants on an individual. Try natural ways to boost serotonin levels, conversation can help, and so do setting personal goals. If you are thinking of getting profetional help, look at the different therapys avalible and choose one that is right for you.
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      Jun 10 2012: Dear Ripley Bullock,

      I found your comment so lovely, I had to take its main message with me and literally process it yesterday. I admire this positive attitude that you have, and for some reason it made me think about my mother. I could never understand how she can be so kind to everybody and so understanding, and she is one of the people that simply exult positive energy and joy. ( I started to cry after finishing the sentence, but I am smiling at the same time.)
      My mother lives in another country, but she has always given me full support and I couldn't be more grateful for having such a good mother.

      Lately, I came to understand how this depressive episode is caused by a mixture of factors, some of them related to bigger things that are not in my power to change. I am sure that this is one of the lessons I must learn this time, namely that you have to cope with a situation, even if you cannot change it, and most importantly that you have to try to fix yourself before fixing something else.

      I enjoyed visualizing that image you wrote about and the importance of recognizing one's "insigificance within the bigger picture", I completely agree. And it must be so liberating at the same time. I embrace this feeling of being liberated and being just a small particle in a huge existential desert, and I thank you for sharing them with me.
      I think that realizing what you have and being grateful is a sign of being humble at the same time,and only by being humble you can truly and wholeheartedly help someone around you. This is what your message made me think of.

      Thank you so much for your words. It was my birthday yesterday and I was happy to have found inspiration in the comments I received here.
      I wish you all the best,
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    Jun 5 2012: Ivan, I think all of the responders have offered good advice. I particularly like fritzi. You say that professional help is expensive ... consider this .... what is the cost of your depression becoming debiliting. You have much invested in time and money you want to throw that all away.

    I am going to talk to you like a real friend. Get help. Stoip asking for opinions of the unqualified. Your post is screaming for help .... well friend ..... get professional help before you compound your problems.

    When you are rich and internationally acclaimed .... remember where you once were and lend a hand to someone in need. I wish you all the best .... face the dragons .... Bob
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      Jun 7 2012: Dear Robert Winner,

      I appreciate the honest and wise approach that you so kindly suggested to me. However, without meaning to sound stubborn, I decided to take this experience as a kind of self-discovery. I have tried to talk to a doctor, but all I could receive was an eventual appointment in 6 weeks. I take this as another indicator that I must face this on my own. And there is nothing undermining or unnatural in this, it is just an obstacle that must be addressed now and not later.
      I have taken your advice to my heart as well, and I will consider it, although I must at least attempt to find my way out at first and see how this goes. There are people that communicate so easily with their true self, and it was never my case, but maybe this is the right moment to start laying the ground for a better relationship with my own self as well.
      I apologize for making this conversation so much about myself, when there so many important topics altruistically approached on this website. But maybe there are other people facing such a moment in their lives and this whole palette of thoughts on depression and writer's block will help them as well.
      My kind regards to you, Bob!
      Thank you again for your kind comment,
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        Jun 7 2012: I appreciate your honesty and openess regarding this problem. That you cannot see any one for 6 weeks is, to me, shocking.

        May I suggest a tactic I use in brain storming projects and think it will also help you.

        Develop lists: Negative life experiences ... posative life experiences ..... what makes you sad ... what makes you happy .... fears / phobias ... You get the picture ...

        Look for common denomiators. Even if this is not an immediate help, it would be a really great tool for any professional later.

        When looking at the lists / charts ... it is very important that you also see where the holes are. You will see gaps ... omissions ... This is where the road gets very rough ... you must fill in those holes. That is where a professional wants to go and you do not. This will be a really hard thing to do.

        Suggestion. Make the appointment (6 weeks away) and if you have made no progress keep the appointment.

        I wish you success. Bob
  • Timo X

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    Jun 7 2012: Dear Ana,

    Did you know that your facial expression can change how you feel? This seems trivial, but is not. Having something to do, having fun, that is the only way to get out of a depressed state of mind. Focusing on your 'monsters' as you call them, only serves to make you unhappy. Learning from your mistakes is important, but dwelling on them is useless. So think happier thoughts: get together with friends, enjoy the sunny weather, flirt with a cute guy, it's up to you.

    If what you experience is real clinical depression and not 'just' a bout of sadness, it would be good to get some help like Robert Winner recommended. If you really are depressed, doctors will recommend some pills and some exercise; that's good advice. But they will also tell you to get a social life and a hobby; and that's excellent advice.

    Kind regards,

  • Yao Liu

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    Jun 14 2012: It is really really tough to fight with repression.
    I suffered the same experience as you.
    To conquer the depression is not as easy as people or books say.
    How is everything going on about you now?
    Do you have the desire to escape from the reality? I thought that was the source of depression. I constantly told myself to face, to be bold. Sometimes this can help, not always.
    Hope we can conquer depression soon. it is really really painful.
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    Jun 5 2012: Do you know what you are afraid of about the future and what the basis is for your fear? In what will your degree be?
    I ask these questions because depression has different forms and different causes and your best road to freedom might depend on your specifics.
    You probably know that a great deal has been written about ways of dealing with such fears and with the creative blocks that may follow from them.
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      Jun 5 2012: Thank you for your comment, Fritzie Reisner! Regarding your questions I believe that there is an amount of conscious fear-triggering factors, but the most problematic ones remain undisclosed, as they are probably rooted in deeper issues that often one cannot access by oneself. This is the ambivalent status of my situation now. I am aware of the superficial causes of this fear and of this overwhelming state of passivity, but at the same time I intuit a complex web of additional problems that may go far back into the past, and the thought of accessing that is honestly intimidating.
      Maybe it is important to mention that my world as I see it right now is one that is narrowing down and becoming this claustrophobic space of intense anguish and time pressure.
      Approaching specific literature on this topic could be an option. But I was interested in how one usually enters and exits such an experience.
      "The best road to freedom" sounds very appealing, but also enormously difficult.
      Some people find confort and support in God, some maybe in science. But at the end of the day I wonder how "constructive" depression can be, what does it leave behind it once it's gone. Is there always a painful core somewhere, ready to be activated, or can one be permanently 'cured' of it?
      Thank you for your suggestion to look up how one can fight writer's block. Maybe it is also a cultural manner of dealing with this. In my culture (Romanian) going to a therapist is still something that not everybody can afford, so...in front of an imperative such as "Just toughen up!" I find myself wondering how to actually positively work with this, or how to make something good out of it. (Or, ideally, how to just male it dissapear.)
      My degree will be in British and American Studies.
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        Jun 5 2012: People use the word depression differently. I would start with your regular doctor, who should have some idea whether you need to pursue further help for your own health and safety.
        Another useful step is to approach a friend to whom you can start trying to articulate your fears.
        A project like a thesis doesn't always flow easily. Sometimes not staring at it when ideas aren't coming but rather going out for a fast walk can help.
        The website Lateral Action (with which I have no affiliation) has a free downlaodable ebook called something like 20 types of Creative Block and how to overcome them. Download and read it in case it helps. You have nothing to lose. The author is an intelligent, well read guy.
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          Jun 7 2012: Dear Fritzie Reisner,

          I am now reading the book you recommended to me and I am quite excited about it.
          Thank you for your kind thoughts an suggestions! I may come back with a conclusive idea on the book after reading it. Have a lovely day,