The key word in ‘how to fight depression’ is FIGHT.
I am not a doctor, a psychologist, a neuroscientist or qualified to give medical advice. What I do know though, is that fight. I know it well. I don’t always win but when I do it’s because I follow the advice I’m going to share. When I fail, it’s because I stop following my own advice. And I do fail. We all fail sometimes and that’s ok. It’s the getting back up and fighting on that matters.
I’ve been living with depression for the best part of my adult life. I function, go to work, party, I have fun, love my girlfriend, love my family and to most people I don’t fit the typical depressed mould. I can be the happiest person in the room and I often am. That does not make the shit times any easier.
What I write here may or may not help you. Like with any advice, you take the parts that work for you and the rest you can leave for someone else.
For me, fighting depression can be broken down into 2 stages: Before & During.
This is without doubt the most important time when fighting depression. My experience tells me it’s much easier to keep it away than it is to get rid of it, once it arrives.
What can you do to keep it away for as long as possible?
Talk to someone about it. If you can’t talk to a friend or family member, talk to a doctor. There is an abundance of online options available now, so you don’t even need to leave your house. Imagine trying to fix a knee injury without telling anyone. That doesn’t make any sense. Why would you expect to fix your brain without discussing it with an expert?
Doctors, psychologists, and psychiatrists train for years on how to deal with depression. Ask a specialist and at the very least, when possible, use a mates ear to have a wee vent. Its always better out than in.
Nothing works better for me. This is a big one for Before because During, its sometimes feels impossible to even get out of bed. So exercise as often as you can in the Before stage. It doesn’t need to be ultra-marathons, but getting a sweat on does wonders for the head!
Most of the time I hate the thought of going to the gym and especially going for a run. I’d say 9 out of 10 times, I do not want to go. When I’m in the zone though, I do it anyway. I tell myself, “this is going to be fucking awful, but do it anyway”. I struggle with finding ‘motivation’ but I have taught myself to be disciplined (though I have more to go on that). It’s rare that I wake up wanting to exercise, so I try to do it at night as that works better for me. Find your spot in the day and if you can’t find one, make one. Accept that it might be unpleasant, but so is knee therapy. You would go through that if you needed to walk again wouldn’t you? Grit your teeth and move as much as you can.
Social media isn’t the devil but when I stopped staring at other peoples worlds for hours every day, it made me think more about mine. Its also pretty false. Most people don’t post a picture of that depression day in bed, so it makes sense that we feel alone as the ‘world’ we are watching is all happy with wrinkle free faces and filters. I’d like it if someone invented Instagrump, were everyone could log on, post bad pictures of themselves and have a right good moan! That would at least feel real.
All in all, social media is a form of escapism from your own reality. Its designed to be addictive too. How can you deal with your own life if you are focusing on others? Give yourself some likes and give yourself your own attention.
I don’t think I have a perfect diet but I have gotten better over the last few years. Its clear to me that when I eat shit, I feel shit. When I’m feeling down I do crave junk food so it’s back to being in a fight with myself. Eat healthy and feel better. Its not rocket science.
A brain that suffers from depression is often lazy when it comes to self-maintenance. If I don’t plan to cook or plan my meals, I end up going for the easy option. Nowadays its too easy to have a cheeseburger delivered and that is a dangerous thing! Both for your mind and for your belly. Plan meals, write them down, cook when you can and use the cooking time to forget about the world…while you burn a pot. If you put cheap fuel in a car it wont run well. The same rules apply to you, in that if you put in bad food full of sugar, then you wont run well.
I didn’t have an extended period of depression for about 2 years. It was bloody marvellous! That’s been the longest since I remember ever having it. Then, when lockdown happened and I was frantically trying to keep a business going while stuck in doors, I forgot about me. I forgot to do the things I’m talking about. I worked early, finished late, ate bad food, drank too much, stopped exercising and didn’t give myself a chance. Eventually my brain gave up and I slipped into a depression.
I have learned that I need to keep my self-maintenance up and I need to regularly check in. I cant forget about me again or I’ll be back in that hole.
To get me back on track and to stay there, I booked regular chats with a therapist. Its all online so it’s convenient. Sometimes I’ll need it and sometimes I wont, but either way it’ll remind me to be aware of my mental fragility and to do the things that help me be at my best.
All of the above is what works for me before I have an episode. The real hard part is what to do during one.
Its fucking hard. I wont hold back on that. It can be different each time too. Sometimes I can ride it out by just taking time to relax and sometimes it takes a huge effort to pull myself out.
I think the best piece of advice I can give anyone is to throw absolutely everything at it. I’d recommend trying some or all of the following:
This can feel impossible, but if you can make that happen, its an instant positive buzz that you’ll need.
Same as before I know, but depression is a lonely place so talking it over can help, especially while you are experiencing it.
If you haven’t done it before try an app like Headspace or Calm. They teach you the basics.
It’s YOU vs. YOU and it’s all in your head. If it was in a boxing ring, you’d learn how to punch. It’s in your thoughts so learn how to fight that fight. For me, that is what meditation is.
Alcohol, drugs and junk food will just slow down your progress. That stuff can be the obvious go-to as it has an immediate uplift on your mental state. It also has a severe downturn, that isn’t ever too far behind. You need your mind to be as clear as possible to win this fight.
Try, try, try to not cloud it with toxins. I have failed at that far too many times than I want to admit and all its did was slow my progress and make things worse.
Its ok to feel like this and it’ll pass. It always does and always will. Many times before I’ve felt it and panicked. ‘Oh no, here we go again’. No no, this can and will be dealt with.
You’ll get there because you are a fucking warrior and YOU can definitely beat YOU in a match of the minds. Stay calm, play smart and give yourself a chance.
It was either Bruce Lee or Yoda who said ‘”where there is light, darkness cannot exist”. Whatever martial arts expert with great chat it was, he was right.
If you can, feed yourself confidence. Feed yourself positive reinforcement. You CAN do this. Even if you don’t believe it, tell yourself it over and over and over. Eventually the negative self will give up and the positive you will win.
All of this stuff works for me when I do it. It’s the doing it that takes the effort. Some days I hate myself but I don’t count those days. The ones that do count are the ones when I focus on myself and then I win.
You may get something from this and if so, great. If not, keep searching for the answers. There are some smart cookies out there who will have the answers you need.