This is a topic I’ve been thinking about lately, more so because I think I’m in the midst of a depressive episode. For the past week or so my mood has felt…off? My mood has been pretty stable the last few months (I saw my psychiatrist last week and had good things to report to him) so this change was stark. I’ve felt more anxious, irritable, depressed, and looking at things in a more negative light. I haven’t wanted to do things I normally enjoy either. It all culminated into a very scary couple of hours last night; it mostly consisted of ruminating over what has been bothering me and some interspersed suicidal ideation. Thankfully, those thoughts diminished with some time (and rest). My depressive episodes can normally last a few weeks but there are some things that help me (in addition to seeing a mental health professional on a regular basis) when dealing with depressive episodes.
- Fighting the urge to isolate. I 100% know that when depressive episodes happen, the urge to isolate is strong. I usually ignore my phone, ignore my fiance, and just want to stay away from everyone. However, even if you don’t feel ready to talk about what’s going on just being in the presence of someone else (someone you love, feel comfortable around, and can trust) can be soothing. Even if it’s through electronic means (i.e. calling someone or FaceTiming them), it can really be helpful to be in contact with someone.
- Going out of your way to be “kind” to yourself. For myself, it’s helpful when I write myself little inspirational messages on notecards to take around with me. If I’m having trouble getting through a day I’ll pull one out and read it to myself for motivation. If it’s a really rough day (particularly at work) I might go into the bathroom or my car and give myself a little pep talk. Something like “You’ll get through this day, you’ve made it through so many other days you can make it through this one. You’re strong and have the tools to succeed”.
- Treating yourself in someway. Whether it be getting your favorite dinner or snack, watching a favorite TV show, or getting some pampering done (i.e. nails or haircut) it’s something small that might help for a moment to lighten the weight of the depression.
- When you feel ready, talking to someone about what you’re going through. Whether it be your mental health professional, a trusted loved one, or a person at a talk/crisis line, talking (when you feel ready) can be beneficial. It can help with processing feelings and sometimes (if it is wanted) the person on the other side may have some helpful insight. If you don’t feel comfortable speaking with someone, journaling (in an online blog or a private journal) can also be a really beneficial way to get feelings out.
- Reaching out and communicating honestly with mental health professionals. This (I feel) is a really important one. If you feel you’re at the point where your mood is getting worse and previous coping strategies are not helping as much as they use to, it may be helpful to call your mental health professional (psychiatrist or therapist) and schedule an emergency appointment to discuss everything. They might suggest an adjustment in medication, increasing in appointment frequency, or even a higher level of care (think intensive outpatient treatment program). If you are ever struggling and need immediate help, in the U.S. the National Lifeline is open 24/7 (1-800-273-8255). This website also includes a list of suicide prevention hotlines across the globe. Your local ER can also be of help as well.
Overall for myself, what helps me get through the episodes are the small moments of happiness interspersed throughout. It reminds me “Hey, even thought I’ve overall felt depressed the past few weeks I can still experience happiness and this depressive episode (like the other ones for the past 10 years) will pass”. I know the next few weeks will be tough, but I feel I’ve learned some good strategies in the past 10 years and have good professional support that will help me make it through a depressive episode.