Self-Care For People With Depression
I want to talk more specifically about self-care for certain groups of people, like we did for people with chronic illness. Self-care is a huge aspect of self-love, but one of the hardest elements to implement, and it not only changes from person to person, but from population to population. I spoke about three specific groups of people (empaths, entrepreneurs, and people with depression) in a podcast, and I am now breaking them down into smaller blog posts for you to reference. Of course, feel free to listen to the original podcast as well!
Most of the time the problem is we think we don’t have time. Now, as my friend, Sarah Starrs, aptly pointed out, you don’t have as many hours in the day as Beyoncé does. She has people she can outsource almost everything to. She can get her hair, make-up, and nails done while she catches up on podcasts, books, or shows. She can work on practicing choreography and writing songs while her hired help watches her daughter, goes shopping for groceries, and cleans their house. She has more hands, and therefore more time, than the average person.
Of course everyone has different lives. The amount of “free” time you have available drastically depends on if you have kids (and how many), if you have a full-time job, what your commute is like, if you have more than one job, if you have a significant other, if you’re going to school, etc. etc. But the reality is we make time for the things that we determine are important.
One of my least favorite things is when someone tells me I have too much “free time”. I created my own business and can technically “make” my own hours, I’m not in school, I don’t have a commute, and I definitely don’t have kids. In comparison to someone who does have all those things you’d easily be able to say I have “more free time” than them. Still not quite as much as Beyoncé because let me tell you that building a business and struggling financially for years is fucking hard, but still. I recognize I don’t have to be responsible for another human life or spend two hours in a car every day to get to my job.
However, like I said, we make time for the things we think are important. If you say you don’t have time for your hobbies that’s because you decided something else was more important than them on your priority list. There really are only 24 hours in a day and I’m not denying that. BUT, you absolutely need to decide that self-care needs to be pretty fucking high up on your priority list. That might mean you don’t have as much time to dedicate to #6 on your priority list, but I promise that by making time for self-care you will not only start to feel happier and more relaxed, but you’ll have a clearer head which will make it easier for you to figure out ways to fit more into your life.
When I was working full time and commuting forty miles to college where I took four classes every semester, I still had a boyfriend and friends who I saw. I still started a blog that was able to turn into my new career. I still created guerrilla art because it fed my soul. I had to double up on some things. I worked on my blog during lunch hours, I knitted while I hung out with people or during meetings at work so I could further my yarnbombs along. I did things like that because I knew I didn’t have that many hours that weren’t devoted to structured things like work and school, so I wanted to maximize the way I spent my time to maximize my happiness. If it got to be Saturday and I had no guerrilla art projects to post in the city, I’d be sad. So I knew I needed to make at least a couple hours’ worth of time for that during the work week.
It would make me infuriated when I spent weeks trying to find small chunks of the day to knit giant panels and I finally had enough material to cover a bench or a tree in my handmade knitting and people would scoff and say, “You clearly have too much free time”. I would go off on people and say, “NO! I DON’T, ACTUALLY! I JUST HAVE DIFFERENT PRIORITIES THAN YOU.”
Basically what I’m getting at is self-care is one of the most important things people leave off their priority list and if it’s not on yours then you need to make sure you re-write your list tonight. You might not have as much time after work to yourself as your neighbor or best friend, but you decide how you spend that time and if you prioritize self-care you will watch your world open up even more. It pays for itself ten times over.
Today I want to focus on how to practice self-care for people with depression.
Okay, the last group of people who definitely need to practice self-care are those who suffer from depression. First of all, depression is a mental illness. It is no less real than a kidney disease, psoriasis, or high blood pressure. It’s physical because it’s a sickness inside your physical brain. Please get this through your mind before we move forward.
Telling someone to “snap out of it” (the it being depression) is as useful as telling someone with cancer to “get better”. It doesn’t work like that. We think that because it overtly affects our emotions that it’s just someone being dramatic or wanting attention. That’s not depression. Depression is more than sadness. It’s so much more. It makes you feel empty, numb, or in pain. You care about nothing, no matter how hard you want to. You sleep too much or not at all, and the same goes with eating. It affects every aspect of your life. Your relationships, your job, your hobbies, and your happiness.
Because of this, self-care is probably the hardest for those suffering from depression than any other group I mentioned today. Your mind might feel like you want to practice self-care because you WANT to be better, but you can’t muster the energy to get off the couch. Your mind might also reject the idea of self-care completely because you fully believe in that moment that you’re not going to ever feel better.
Reminding you I’m not a doctor, here are some things I’ve noticed help people with depression when practicing self-care:
- Understand your condition is real; that means there is NOTHING wrong with taking medication for your disorder (check out my other podcast on that which I’ll link to at the bottom of this page
- If you’re on a medication, you have to take it, babe. You just have to. Set an alarm – even if that’s literally the only thing you do that day, please do it. To skip a day or stop taking a psychotropic drug cold turkey can make things so, so much worse. Consider it a personal favor to me.
- In addition to your medication, try to take care of your basic needs as much as you can. Please eat something, shower at least every couple days, and drink as much water as you can. You also have to do things like pay your bills so you don’t end up sitting in the dark or kicked out of your apartment. If any of these things sound like something you can’t handle on your own, please ask someone else to help you. Your friends, your family, your neighbors, your coworkers, your church group. I promise if all you say is “I need help, could you please make me dinner a couple nights this week?” or “I’m not doing so well, would you be able to come over to write checks and pay my bills for me? I’m extremely overwhelmed right now” that they will say yes 90% of the time as long as their schedule allows it. You don’t have to disclose any more than you feel comfortable with. You have a lot of people who care about you who will understand.
- Know it’s okay to temporarily or permanently quit something. That means not feeling guilt about calling your kickball team or book club and telling them you won’t be attending for the foreseeable future. It’s okay to ask someone else to watch your pet for a while. It’s okay to tell your neighbor you can’t watch their kids after school anymore. It’s also okay to call out of work or use medical leave to not come in for a more extended period. By quitting when you know it’s not something you can commit to, you’ll alleviate a lot of future guilt and stress. There’s a difference when you feel like you should be somewhere and you have to keep canceling than knowing you decided you didn’t have to be there and don’t have to worry about it again. It’s a huge sigh of relief and increase in mental space you can use for other things.
- Try your best not to shut out the people you love and care about in your life. It can be really hard. Sometimes depression can fool us into thinking we don’t even love our significant other or family or pet while it’s really bad. I promise you do, the sick part of your brain is just screaming louder than the healthy part right now. Tell them you’re sick, and allow them to come see you if you’re comfortable with having company that day. Explain your boundaries (i.e. no physical touch, don’t make me talk about X, Y, and Z) and let them know up front you can’t promise anything. You might just want to have someone else in the house for comfort. But shutting them out of your life completely is a bad idea. It will only make both of you feel worse. And no one can help you if you’re pushing them away with all your might. It might even be beneficial to go to couples therapy during this period for you both to feel an extra pillar of support. Please see this link for further information: Couples Therapy.
- The only things I don’t want you to quit are taking your medication, your basic human needs, and any medical help you need (not just mental, either). Don’t let a physical condition you have worsen because you don’t feel like you can drive to the doctor. Don’t stop going to therapy even if all you do is cry there and listen to what your therapist might have to say to you. Ask someone to drive you. There are always ways to get to the doctor. It’s really important for you.
- Recognize this is temporary. Of course, without medication or treatment depression can technically linger for extremely extended periods of time. But if you’re taking care of yourself, eventually you will start to feel better, even if it takes a while and even if the process seems turtle-speed slow. Know this is something that will eventually cease, at least for a while, and know you have that to look forward to.
- Allow yourself to do nothing if you truly need it, without guilt or shame. If all you do today is eat, brush your teeth, take your meds, nap, and watch Netflix I’m proud of you. Having depression fucking SUCKS. There’s no sugar-coating it. It’s terrible, and I’m truly sorry you have to experience and suffer through these symptoms. Making it through the day is sometimes all we can do, and you deserve a hug for doing it.
- Say out loud once a day, or however often as you can, “I am not my depression”. Because you’re not. You are a beautiful person who HAS depression. You are not depressive. You are not your depression. You would never tell someone with Lyme’s Disease that they are nothing more than their disease, right? Neither are you.
There are so many more pieces of advice I can give for each other these groups of people and many more different groups, but there’s only so much time in a podcast! If you need help with self-care, I’m here for you. Not only can you feel free to e-mail me when you need to, but I also made you a totally free no-strings-attached e-course with seven lessons. You’ll get one in your inbox every day for seven days. You can save them for later or do them as they come. However you decide. Even if you’re not feeling like you’re floundering right now, I sincerely recommend reading each lesson, doing the assignment, and utilizing the free worksheet, DIY, or playlist I provide for you each day of the course. In fact, it’s probably way easier for you to do it while you don’t feel like you’re drowning, which will build up your self-care and positivity reserves for the future.
If you have depression, what tips do you have for self-care?
Photos: Maura Housley