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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Dealing with Depression

I thought I was handling my mom's death pretty well, until the other day. My sister sent me a photo of my mom's gravestone. I had asked her to, but somehow, seeing that stone with Mom's name and date of death, sort of sent me over the edge.

Of course, this came at a bad time. A lot of my professional life is up in the air. I'm living in a rental house, and it doesn't always work for me. My husband is working a lot of hours. None of my family or friends are nearby.

There's this general feeling of emptiness that invades every cell. It's so hard to fill all those losses up.

I'm trying to stay positive, really I am. So I thought I'd do something positive: I'll write about how to help a friend or loved one with depression. Here goes a few caveats:

This is not intended to replace professional treatment or help. No way! In fact, here's step 1 and 2:

1. Of course, if they aren't on medication or they haven't had their medication checked, do so immediately.

2. Take any suicidal comments seriously. Never, ever dismiss a suggestion that the person wants to hurt him/herself, and do encourage them to share these thoughts with you.

Okay, let's assume you have all this in place. Now what can you do?

1. Monitor the person's medication. Depression saps energy and distorts thinking. Check to see that the person is taking his/her medication and taking it properly.

2. Discourage or help them avoid natural depressants such as alcohol, marijuana, and other drugs. I find that antihistamines make my depression worse.

3. Help them get a good 8 hours sleep. This can really make a difference, so adjust your sleeping schedule if possible.

4. Make sure they are eating healthy food at regular hours. Help them avoid sugar. It makes the highs higher and the lows lower.

5. Don't run away from them. Oh, yeah, I know. You are thinking, "I can't do anything." So you disappear or go off and do your own thing. Wrong, wrong, wrong. You can. And when you disappear the message you send is, "I like you when you are healthy but not when you are sad." That's really destructive.

Here's what's most important about all of this: A depressed person can NOT do for himself/herself the way they usually would. Depression deprives you of energy. You don't think clearly. You don't have the resources to care for yourself, and your natural inclinations (like grabbing a candy bar or not eating) may actually make your depression worse. So having a loving person spend a little of his/her energy looking after you means the world.

This is a great video--one that brought me to tears because of her honesty--

PS If that darned guy who is trimming our bushes doesn't stop soon, no one will have to worry about my depression. I'll be in jail for murder. ARgh.


Marlis Day said...

Hi Joanna,
I remember how sad I was when I had to give up my mother. She had been sick for years and had no quality of life left, but it still hurt sooooo bad.
Just think about this, dear. Your mother was probably so proud of you. You undoubtedly brought so much sunshine into her life. She could never repay you for that. Hold onto the good memories and let her go. She's in a better place and you will see her again.
Sometimes I wear something of Mom's a scarf or piece of jewelry and it makes me feel close to her.
Praying for your healing,

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Marlis, does your name mean sunshine? You certainly bright it into my life.

Anonymous said...

Dealing with the loss of your Mother is so the worst. My Mother died 10 years ago and I still think, at least once a day: "oh gosh, I have to call and tell her such and so..she'll laugh so hard!" I am lucky though that my daughter still lives with me and we can talk about it. I am so sorry we don't live closer for a nice cuppa, biscuit and a chat. I'll be thinking about you. xxKaren

Amy said...

It's helpful to me to read that others who seem to always have it all together (like you) sometimes fall prey to depsression like the rest of us! I really like how you mention sticking with those who need support. Good tips, and I hate to add it, but exercise does seem to jolt me out of blues or thinking about sad memories for too long. It doesn't have to be painful - sometimes 20 minutes of yoga or even tackling a quick cleaning project will do it.

I know you'll get this one, too - starting a new type of craft or skill is something I try to do if the sad thoughts linger or if something tough is going on.

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Dear Karen, there's nothing quite so restorative as a good cuppa tea and a listening ear.

Amy, you are so right about the exercise! It works wonderfully well.

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