“One Day at a Time”: How to Live With Depression

by Sandra on August 13

howtolivewithdepressionDepression sucks. Let’s get that out of the way right now. There’s no way around it, there’s no silver lining, it’s not a hidden blessing, and it won’t go away by praying, thinking happy thoughts, or drinking a green/maca/magic-unicorn-dust smoothie once a day.

Does that mean that it is hopeless? No. There is a way out, although it might not seem so at this moment. That way is different for everyone. For some it is medicine. For some it is rigorous exercise. For some it may be a complete change of scenery, or finding your passion. The point is, it is different for everyone, and one size does not fit all when it comes to finding your way out.

I’ve been there, done that, and apparently, now I’m doing it again–which just goes to show that it isn’t a choice, either, because who in their right mind would choose this for themselves?

This article is not about beating depression, though. This article is about what to do while finding your way out of this labyrinth. You still have to continue on living, still have to take a breath every now and then. Your heart will go on beating and preferably, you get out of bed and do something each day.

What follows are things that work for me. That doesn’t mean that they will necessarily work for you since we are different people and experience depression differently. But maybe it’ll give you some idea of what to do to make it just that tiny little bit easier to get out of bed tomorrow.

Be kind to yourself.

What I like to do is imagine there is someone living in my head. I choose to have him look like a nasty, old-fashioned schoolteacher. You know, the old guy, bent over, with a ruler in his hand, looking at you from over his glasses? He will find something wrong with everything I do. Hell, I don’t even have to do anything, and he’ll tell me that I am at fault somehow.

My depression is like that. It’s like having this guy live in your head and comment on your entire day. What you eat, or don’t eat. What you look like. What those 2 old ladies across the street might be thinking and gossiping about you. It’s exhausting.

Even when I cannot shut this guy up, at least I acknowledge that it is him talking and not reality. Because it’s not. It’s an old-fashioned, horrible little man who seriously needs to get laid.

Speaking of getting laid…

Have physical intimacy.

No, I’m not necessarily talking about sex. Although sex is good if it comes with intimacy. But hugging, cuddling, holding hands, or just being close to another human being physically helps. Get a massage. Get your hair done by a professional. I’ve even sometimes taken the metro or bus just to be close to other people. Pathetic? Sure. Does it help? Yes, just a tiny little bit–it helps not feeling so alone and isolated.

No other human beings around? A dog, cat or mouse will also work, and they are usually less annoying.

None of that possible either? Then go and take a shower and show yourself some love. Yes, I know what that sounds like. I tried to type that sentence several different ways and I cannot find one that doesn’t seem like I’m talking about masturbation. I’m not though. I’m talking about touching yourself, lovingly. Not sexually. Soap yourself. Hug yourself. Stroke your own arms.

A physical connection to your own body is good. Which takes me to my next point…

Exercise.

Yes, it is awful when you use all the energy you have for the day just to get up in the morning. Of course you are not ready to run a marathon, or join some of your more annoying Facebook friends in their cross-fit craze (how do you know if someone does cross-fit? Don’t worry, they’ll tell you).

Yet, exercise does help. A lot. So let’s redefine exercise for ourselves:

Exercise is using your body more today then you did yesterday.

Yesterday, you got out of bed, and got back in bed? Today you did do exercise, because you also got a cup of coffee.

Yesterday, you wanted to go to the gym but sat on the couch instead? Today, you put your gym clothes in a bag, so you did exercise.

Use your body a bit more today then you did yesterday, and you did exercise.

The same thing goes for eating.

Eat right.

 Yesterday my dinner consisted of chocolate, chocolate cookies, a bag of chips and some gummybears. Not very helpful if you are trying to feel better. But if you have ever tried to diet and eat healthy when you physically, emotionally, mentally and any other “-ally” feel like crap, you know that it’s one of those things that is easier said than done.

Since I already have the nasty school teacher commenting on everything I do and do not eat, I decided that as long as I eat a little bit better today compared to yesterday, I’m doing great. And yes, that bit better might just be that today I left two potato chips in the bag instead of eating it all. Or it might be that I went to the supermarket and at least thought about buying an apple. Small steps, and I hope that some day I will get there.

If you cannot stop eating unhealthy, add some healthy. Keep eating what you are eating, and add some fruit. Or eat the garnish with the fries instead of throwing it away. Have a splenda instead of sugar.

There are those wonderful days though that everything just seems to go right, and I eat healthy, I might even cook. And the next day it all goes into the trash and even opening a bag of chips seems like too much effort (except not really, because guess what I am eating right now?)

Take it one day at a time.

Again, this is one of those things that I can keep telling myself until I’m blue in the face, yet it doesn’t really sink in.

It is also one of those things that helps me most. Not to feel guilty about yesterday, or an hour ago and to think about my choice right now, and what the best is that I can do right now.

I cannot go back in time to change what I did or didn’t do. If I could, I would have kept doing exercise, never bought that first pack of chips, and about a zillion other things that I like to blame for feeling like I do right now.

I can’t though, and chances are, neither can you. So just think about right now, and make the best choice you can make right now. If that is eating chips, then do so. If that is lying on the couch, great. If that means that today you can go for a walk, even though yesterday you could run for a bit? Great. Do what you can today. Yesterday doesn’t mean anything.

Tomorrow doesn’t mean anything either. Taking it one day at a time also means that you can do everything you want to do, regardless if you will continue to do it tomorrow and next week.

Sure, I will probably not do exercise tomorrow. But that doesn’t mean that doing it today will be pointless as well. Taking it one day at the time works both ways.

You don’t have to face all of reality, every day.

When I am depressed it is so easy for me to get overwhelmed. Every little thing seems like a mountain to climb. Take it easy on yourself and forget about things that are not important. Personally, I recommend that you stop paying attention (as in watching, reading, hearing, and talking about) “the news”. 99% of it consists of things you cannot do anything about, even if you weren’t already having trouble getting out of bed.

Give yourself some space. Stop connecting with “friends” who make you feel bad or guilty. Hide from your facebook news feed the people who post pictures of mutilated animals. Don’t call certain family members so often if you feel like crap afterward.

You cannot hide from your own reality forever, though.

Be careful not to fall into the danger of hiding away completely. Games, books, alcohol, drugs or even something as simple as facebook are all great hiding places from your own reality. Everybody deserves a break. It’s wonderful to not be stuck in your own head for a little while.

I like to read books and watch Netflix. A nice Netflix binge is great. It makes you forget about the world for a bit, and you get to feel what the characters feel, and none of it is real. I have to be careful though. It’s so easy for me to just have the days go by, and feel like I accomplished something because the characters in my favorite show did something.

So I have rules. No TV or books before 7pm. No alcohol while I’m alone. No drinking more than 2 days in a row.

They suck, and most days I really wish I could throw my rules out of the window and lie in bed watching Buffy, and having some wine. And yet I won’t, because it is a very slippery slope, and I am already hanging on by my fingernails. There is no reason to make this harder on myself, so I have rules.

Am I now cured of depression?

I am not. I am seeing a psychologist, and I am taking medication. Hopefully I’ll feel better soon. In the mean time, these are the things that help me get through each day. They help me not get in deeper, and at least stay at the same place I am, even if they cannot lift me out of depression.

Good luck, and I hope you will find your own way out. I’m still looking, but let me know when you got there.

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Sandra

Sandra is a 33 year old mother, wife, life coach. As a Dutch national living in Mexico she is trying to find ways to make most out of life. She’s passionate about simplifying life, yet loves her luxuries and non-minimalistic lifestyle.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Jason August 14, 2015 at 5:50 am

Beautiful work Sandra. I can deeply relate to both sides of your message, the active and the passive are both parts of beating depression. I’ve had some intense battles with this ugly old man thing. Especially since the breakup with the major partner in my life. Other methods I find useful are daily meditation, doesn’t matter if its 20 minutes or 2 or even 1, just making a space and sitting down in the pose and letting thoughts go without attaching to them. It can be tricky and if you find that you can’t let thoughts go sometimes its best to end the meditation with a sigh, but over time there will develop a method to stop thoughts becoming so chemically destructive, in the same way muscles develop strength. Being around kids can help alot to of course, whether they be a friends kids your nieces or nephews or your own. Just being in their space, playing their simple little games and letting them lead without controlling so much, it can really shift away those swirling thoughts and get one back to being in the “Now,” the what is, and often with alot of giggles to boot…

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Jacquelin November 27, 2017 at 12:13 pm

Thank you. I have had many people in my life, including my mother, go through depression, my mother’s was severe, but thank God she’s doing alright. I’ve always had an interest in mental health as far as an educational stand point and have much experience in social sciences. I’ve always been helpful and bubbly, giving out lots of sunshine and helping and understanding of others as they battled this demon. Low self esteem is no stranger to me, but I feel throughout my life I have been very good at working through it and coming out stronger. But this time, this time it came out of the blue, so it feels. But in reality, It’s been there and I hid it with an incredible job that I loved and also got fired from. I keep fighting it and talking myself through it like I did all those years and times before, but it’s not working. It feels like a mutant strand of self doubt that I fight to kill everyday, leaving behind one cell that reproduces 1000 times over while I sleep. Depression is new to me, like this anyway. I’m working on obtaining medical insurance so I can seek help, but I couldn’t just sit by and wait anymore. This article was so helpful. I related to the things in it and it gave me some insight on how to get by everyday. When you mentioned games, it occurred to me that I have been focusing on dumb facebook games a lot lately. Making sure I collect my daily allowance of bingo chips and it gives me anxiety if I don’t collect them, firing up the laptop after shutting out the lights to go to bed at 2am because I’m not sleeping and worrying about bingo chips. Oh boy. But thank you. I would apologize about rambling in this comment, but I presume you will understand as you are also going through this. It is oddly comforting to talk to you about this, even though I have no idea who you are, where you are and completely okay with not receiving a response or even checking to see if I get one. haha Again Thank you!
Sincerely,
Jackie- Saratoga, New York, USA

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