How To Combat Depression: For Yourself As Well For Others

Posted by Tariq Shakeel in #LetsTalk, Mental Health
April 7, 2017
This story is in response to Youth Ki Awaaz’s topic for this week – #LetsTalk to start a conversation on the stigma around depression. If you have an opinion or personal story of dealing with or helping someone else deal with depression or suicidal thoughts, write to us here.

Depression is a disease, just like any other. You hear?

It impairs everyone, regardless of intelligence, creed, belief, age, education, gender, socioeconomic standing, race, or even species. That’s right, species.

So yes. A smart person will be impaired. But so will anyone else.  I am suffering from depression, and I am not ashamed about it. I am not ashamed about it just like any other person suffering from any other illness or disease. And I am not embarrassed to seek help. Just like any other person seeking doctors’ help. People can give you support. You have to treat yourself.

And I have tried my best to combat it.

Depression is best understood as a chemistry problem in the brain. Not enough dopamine or norepinephrine or something like that. This is important because the typical approach to a depressed person is to blame them. You tell them to pull themselves out of it. Happiness is a choice. They should choose it.

While I was going through depression, every next person told me to come out of it. This approach backfires. It’s hard to imagine how anyone who was depressed would not fix themselves if they could. But they can’t. Telling them to fix themselves makes them feel worst because it puts the blame for being sick on them and then they feel doubly inadequate for being unable to fix themselves. They get more depressed.

So the million-dollar question is, how to treat depression? Every depressed person has their own story of combating depression. so the same thing may work for few but not for others. It’s very difficult to find the right approach. A depressed person doesn’t have control over their thoughts. Depression makes it very difficult to do anything; to take any action. While I was suffering from it, all I felt like doing was to lock myself in my room and stay in bed for days. I know it will just take me 5 minutes to eat my food or to take a bath or just to wash my face. But I remember, I didn’t move. Depressed people feel incredibly guilty about this.

If you can’t tell a depressed person to snap out of it, can you try to praise them out of it? Unfortunately, this doesn’t work either. Depressed people have hypersensitive bullshit detectors. They know when you are jollying them along. They know when you aren’t being sincere, and this backfires. They overcompensate by beating themselves up and they hate you for being such a happy Holly. This is why we often want to be alone.

You can’t prod a depressed person and you can’t treat them with endless praise. So what can you do? It’s very difficult to find the right approach. Depressed people can twist around anything you say to make it a failing of their own. It is easy to convince yourself that everyone hates you when you’re depressed.

So how to help a depressed person?

I think the best thing to do is just to be there. Don’t be chased away when they insult you. Understand they are depressed and their view of reality is distorted. Honor their view, but don’t give into it. Remain kind. Listen. Help them do healthy things like exercise, eat right, take their medications, attend support groups, meditate, do yoga, engage in creative activities. Remember – you have to be a rock. Unmoved by their depression. You acknowledge the depression but focus on healthy activities. You never blame them if they don’t engage in those activities, but you do offer, over and over, to participate with them.

As a depressed person, how can you help yourself?

People can be of help but you have to carry your weapons to fight yourself. People will not make you stand up, buddy. You have to do it yourself. It is one phase, which too shall pass.

If you think it will help, do talk to a doctor or psychiatrist. There are various medicines, which can help you, I repeat HELP you to fight depression (unless it is a clinical depression). It is often argued that depression medicines are just placebos, which comes with various side effects.

Doctors do not always give medicines. Various cognitive therapies are also there. Sometimes all you need is someone to hear you. You can open yourself to them with no breach of privacy.

Few of the things which I followed and which really helped me to cure are worth mentioning –

1. Exercising regularly, 4-6 times a week.

2. Socializing.

3. Meditation and prayer.

4. Keeping some kind of gratitude journal. Write 3-5 things in it every morning that you appreciate or are grateful for in life. These can be tiny or huge.

5. Avoid alcohol or any other such things.

6. Get some natural Sunshine if possible.

7. Be productive and creative, in anything.

8. Aromatherapy like lavender oil.

9. Surround yourself with things you enjoy.

10. Travel if you can. It helped me a lot.

11. Eat healthy.

12. And finally, being kind to yourself and loving yourself is the best medicine.

Everyone is a fighter and a survivor of their own type. And so are you. Find yourself, be a Spartan. You have to realize that whatever unwanted happened, was beyond my imagination, never thought about it. So what is the assurance that whatever I am worrying about will actually happen? The answer is, none. So why worry. Just do what makes you a better person and feel good about yourself.