As always, I must stress that I am not trained in the field of mental health. I am simply sharing my personal experiences with depression. If you are currently under the care of a physician/counselor, please follow their prescribed treatments.
I wasn’t completely convinced that I needed to write this post. The internet is rife with good, and bad, information on depression, anxiety, panic disorders, etc. Do we really need one more post adding to the clutter? Obviously, I decided yes, yes we do. Everyone has different experiences with depression and you never know when your post may resonate with someone in a way that other posts have not.
Depression is a crushing disease. On some occasions, it sneaks into your life while you’re not looking; on other occasions, it sideswipes you without warning and knocks you on your back. I have wrestled with depression for much of my adult life. (I know, I hit the mental health jackpot, right? And, I haven’t even mentioned OCD yet.) My most significant depressive episode occurred eleven years ago. This episode lasted over a year and during that time I was prescribed various medications, none of which seemed to help, I had a hard time accomplishing daily tasks, and I was unable to work. It truly was one of the most difficult times in my life and in the life of my husband and family.
Thankfully, with the help of counseling, family members and faith, I slogged my way out of that depressive episode, however, depression and I did not permanently part ways. Fortunately, it no longer makes long-term house calls but it still occupies the spare bedroom on occasion. Over the years, I have learned to pay attention to signals that preclude a depressive episode, and I have also adopted a “do one thing” attitude when weighed down by the soggy woolen blanket of depression. For the sake of this post, I am focusing only on the “do one thing” strategy. I believe counseling, faith and recognizing your own depression “telegraphs” are vital to successfully managing and recuperating from this debilitating disease, but those are very personal and specific coping mechanisms that everyone must figure out for themselves.
In my opinion, one of the most frustrating symptoms of depression was (and is) the never-ending cycle of having no energy and no desire to do anything but then feeling guilty as another day passed without showering, doing dishes, attending to laundry, cleaning the house, spending time with other human beings, etc. In order to combat this guilt, I finally conditioned myself to always “do one thing” when under the black cloud of doom. If that meant my only task for the day was brushing my teeth and I managed to brush my teeth, then I considered that a victory. I discovered that giving myself one simple, mundane task to accomplish each day made me feel less overwhelmed. It also eased my guilt because I actually accomplished something. Each small task I completed then provided me with the momentum and motivation to go on and complete another small task until eventually I was tackling laundry, dishes, housework, etc.
I even used this coping strategy once I returned to the workforce. On my “down days,” I mentally broke up my working day into manageable chunks. For instance, I would get to work at 8:00 am and tell myself, “You just have to make it until 10:00 then you can take a break…go hide in the bathroom stall for a while and get some peace and quiet.” Then, I would return and think, “You just have to make it until noon then you get an hour of peace and quite.” I also repeated this process throughout the afternoon work hours.
I know this may sound simple and perhaps the “do one thing” coping strategy won’t work for everyone. But, I believe it’s worth fighting through the mental and physical fatigue and giving it a try – what have you got to lose? Possibly a nagging sense of guilt for one thing! In my opinion, guilt is a powerful inhibitor to depression recovery. Guilt and depression seem to feed off of each other to their benefit and your detriment.
“Doing one thing” isn’t a new concept. I certainly didn’t invent it. I’ve tried it and it works. It’s not a cure for depression, but it can help eradicate one more piece of the depression puzzle, a piece that can often get in the way and distract you from focusing on your recovery.