Helping me through my depression
Blogger, Kelley Baker, shares hints her family uses to help her through depression.
By Kelley Baker
Most of the time, I’m the one you call when you want someone to cheer you up. I like to dance. I love rock concerts, farmers markets, dogs and children. But there’s another side to me: I have been living with clinical depression since I was a child.
Thanks to treatment, coping tools and lifestyle changes—working from home, eating a natural diet—I am better now than I have ever been. Still, every so often I feel the depression returning. I have described it to my husband as a demon eating my brain.
I know it’s confusing for him as one day I seem fine and the next I am sad, distant, or even angry and pushing him away. And I know he wants to help me, but sometimes it’s hard for family members and friends to know what to do.
I had to learn how to be more open with my husband about how I’m feeling and what I need from him. These are some of the things I’ve shared with him:
Help keep clutter at bay. A person spiraling into depression may feel like they are slowing down while the world around them speeds up. The daily routine feels overwhelming: The mail stacks up, dishes pile up in the sink, laundry goes undone. It feels more and more impossible to keep up. Getting extra help with kitchen chores and other mundane tasks keeps things under control so everyone in the house is happier.
Pitch in on meal plans. People who are depressed tend to either eat too little or overeat—usually going for something less than nutritious. Plus, driving through the pick-up lane at a fast food restaurant or ordering a pizza feels so much more manageable than fixing a meal. Having someone make a healthy meal not only contributes to my physical and mental well-being, but also eases my “mom guilt” over what my kids are eating.
A simple ‘Do you want to tell me what you’re feeling?’ makes me feel less alone.
Ask how I’m feeling. If I am able to articulate what I am going through, it helps my husband understand what I am dealing with—and sometimes it helps me understand better, too. Unfortunately, I won’t talk about what I’m going through unless someone asks me. I don’t want to impose, or I don’t think they care. A simple “Do you want to tell me what you’re feeling?” makes me feel less alone.
Encourage self-care. A lot of things fall by the wayside during a depression, including personal appearance. Brushing your teeth and taking a shower just don’t seem to matter—much less getting a haircut or going to the dentist. It all just seems too hard. That attitude can snowball quickly into greater feelings of worthlessness: “Now I’m such a mess, no one could ever love me.” Hearing something like, “I’m going to do the dishes, why don’t you go enjoy a bubble bath?” is often what I need to make me feel okay about doing something self-loving.
Offer a hug. Studies show that a sincere hug lasting longer than 20 seconds can release feel-good chemicals in the brain and elevate the mood of giver and receiver. The fact that people who are depressed often don’t want to be touched can make this tricky, but a hug from the heart, with no expectation of anything further, just may help.
Offer reassurance. Along with the feelings of worthlessness, anger and even guilt that are part and parcel of depression, there’s often fear of ending up alone because really, who would want to put up with these episodes forever? Being reassured I won’t scare away my family because I have an illness takes a huge weight off my mind.
Give a reality check. A never-ending loop of painful, destructive thoughts—“I’m unlovable, I’m a failure, I’m ugly, I’m stupid”—loop through the mind of someone with depression. When my husband reminds me how hard I worked to get a teaching credential, or tells me I’m a great mom or that he loves me, it helps me keep those kind of thoughts in check.
Remember the good. When I’m depressed, I sometimes forget that I was ever happy. Looking at pictures of vacations with my family, watching home movies, hearing things from my husband and kids that they like about me, reminds me that while I may feel sad or numb right now, I’ll get through it.