Today, as I’m writing this, I’m fighting the urge to crawl into bed and pull the covers over my head. My antidepressant dose was doubled last night and it’s stolen almost every drop of energy I have. (Please forgive me if my writing reflects how much my brain feels like it’s gone to mush.) Between going to bed last night and this evening, I’ve slept for 16.5 hours. I still feel exhausted. I dragged myself out of bed to my personal training session (don’t ask me how I got through that – I really couldn’t tell you), then had a bath when I got home (I fell asleep in the bath), and then climbed back into bed and slept through until this evening, waking briefly every hour or so with the unrealistic intention of getting up.
My antidepressant was doubled because I’ve slipped back into depression. Two steps forward, one step back. I started spiralling downwards about three weeks ago. It started with episodes of anxiety and morphed into low mood. In the past couple of months I’d managed to get back to normal, happy me. I’m fighting it – I’ve seen my psychiatrist and am having appointments with my occupational therapist weekly – but it’s still hard to acknowledge that I’m struggling.
Part of the reason it’s hard to accept that things aren’t going too well at the moment is that my mood isn’t constantly low. I’m going through a period of depression, but some days I can function completely normally. Some days, I’ve been able to be out all day, relaxed and enjoying myself – happy, even. But the rest of the time, I have a thick grey cloud following me around, blocking out my sunshine.
I keep asking myself whether I’m really depressed, but depression isn’t always constant. Sometimes it catches us in the quiet moments as we lie in bed before we get up in the morning, or on the train journey home when we’re alone with our thoughts, or when we’re wandering around the supermarket doing our weekly shop. Depression feeds off isolation, so when we’re busy we can often do a pretty good job of distracting ourselves from it.
Distraction is a great way of coping with low mood and negative thoughts. Here are some things that have helped me when I’ve been struggling, and might help you too:
Spending time with friends
I know how hard getting yourself out of the house and socialising can be when you’re low, but I’ve found that if I can make myself do it then it’s one of the most effective things for helping to distract and lift my mood. Try to reach out to someone you feel really comfortable with, someone you don’t need to explain yourself to.
Netflix, Amazon Prime, Sky, BBC iPlayer – whatever floats your boat. Mindlessly binge-watching movies or a TV series is an underrated distraction. Find something that is easy to watch, but engages you enough to get you invested and take you out of your own head. Comedies are your friend.
Any sort of exercise is great for you when you’re low. As a goal, healthy adults should aim to do 30 minutes of exercise 5 times a week. If that seems out of reach, a 15 minute walk can still do wonders for your mood. It’s something I find hard to overcome mentally, but thank myself for as soon as I begin because it kickstarts a motivation to do other things.
Cooking and cleaning
This might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but cooking and cleaning actively occupy you and help to create purpose. There’s also the benefit of seeing the end product of a tidy home or a cooked meal, which is helpful when those areas of self-care have become neglected.
Having a bath
From being young, my mum has always encouraged me to have a bath when I’m having a bad day. Now, I normally have a bath once a day with a delicious smelling Lush bath bomb for company. Hot baths help to relax your muscles and naturally encourage a good night’s sleep.
If you’re struggling at the moment and think you might be suffering with depression, I’d really encourage you to talk to someone and make an appointment with your GP.
Click here for more information about depression from Mind – including symptoms, treatment and advice for family and friends.