Monday, June 16, 2008

Depression Recovery "To Do" List (Part 1)

I've been visiting some bipolar blogs and notice that a bunch of people are either depressed or manic right now, which is my prompt for this week's posts. The first is a Depression Recovery "To Do" List. I read Nancie's blog and started commenting about what I used to do when I was depressed to try to help it lift. My routine was too long for a comment, so I decided to post about it instead.

For those who regularly read my blog, you know I have a husband and son, and one of my goals during my sickest years was to try and maintain normalcy for my family. What I've since realized is that this goal is helpful to people whether they are married or not. The 10 top items on my "To Do" list may not have staved off the depression, but it certainly made me feel like I was trying my very best to get well.

1. Every morning (or whenever you can), get out of bed, shower, brush your teeth, and get dressed. It's really important to do activities that are "normal" because it's a way of saying to yourself, "I will be well today." A few tips: Cold water helps reduce depression. While I could never bring myself to shower in cold water, I did buy one of the removable shower heads so that I could use cold water on my feet and head, and it does work.

Never remain in your pajamas. It's important to get dressed in a warm-up suit even if you plan on going back to sleep. Again, the statement you're making to yourself is: "I plan to be well sometime today."

2. Walk outside every day, even if it's just for 10 minutes. The sun on your face is very important. If it's not sunny, sitting outside is still better than sitting inside. When I was at my worst, I could use my mother's walker to get outside, and I could lie on a lawn chair in our backyard. Even though I didn't feel better at first, doing that day after day had an impact.

3. Exercise. Again, even if you can only walk from your house or apartment into your yard or to the sidewalk on the street, movement is very important. In one of my worst depressions, I used my mother's walker to get down our driveway. Also, I wore a hat and dark glasses in case my neighbors could see me, because my face looked so drawn (and here I was on this walker) that I figured I'd feel worse if I was the talk of the neighborhood. We have a very steep driveway, and by the time I reached the sidewalk, I was so done in, I had to sit on the sidewalk and rest.

As I sat there--almost in tears because I couldn't figure out how I was going to get back into the house--I started laughing because I felt so terrible I didn't know what else to do. And the more I laughed, the better I felt. Finally, after about 20 minutes, I summoned the strength to walk back up the driveway and into the house. As I remember, I then slept for the next four hours, but it was still a step towards recovery.

4. Eat healthy food. Whether you're nauseous, have a bad stomach, or feel just plain awful, there is always some healthy food you can eat. At my worst, I could always eat yogurt or soup. If you don't eat, you'll feel worse. Trust me, I've vomited as many times as any human on earth and I still forced myself to eat.

5. Send out an email. Because of my son, husband, and mother (who lived nearby), I always communicated with people every day--even during the worst depressions. But, even if you live alone, you need to let someone know you're alive and feeling bad. Email is a lifeline for the depressed.

(Five more tips tomorrow.)


KJ said...

Great back to basic tips. I look forward to reading more tomorrow. Thank you for your thoughts on my blog, doing fine. :>

Danielle said...

Looks like we have the same plan. Funny you should write this. I have been battling depression and when that happens my anxiety increases to monumental proportions. I have been doing exactly as you write here. I was just thinking the other day that I still had this little 'Dell' booklet (like those sold when you are in the checkout line) that had about a hundred of these things listed. It really got me through a really bad time. Good work Susan!! I wish we were neighbors also!! Thanks for all your support both here and on The Chronicles ;)

bart said...

thanks for this susan, it's a good overview of some vital do's and don'ts which i've been putting into practice...

enough regular exercise has been one of the main ones for me, since my withdrawal i've been boosting my fitness programme and have progressed well in the sports i enjoy so much...

looking forward to tomorrow's installment :-))

keep well...

Jazz said...

Great post! These are all good tips to keep handy. I've never had a depression so deep that I was as physically impaired as you biggest challenge when depressed is overcoming the mental inertia...once I get going, I am able to physically do's just a question of how much effort it takes to get moving.

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Dear KJ,
Yes, sometimes back to basics is what people need. Nancie seemed in dire need of help, and yet I know she knows many wellness activities. Some, it's just important to hear tips to motivate yourself.

P.S. Glad to hear you're okay. That was a really nice photo of you and J on his blog!

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Dear Danielle,
So sorry to hear you're feeling blue. I remember that the worst part of feeling a depression coming was the fear. I would try everything I knew to stave the depression off, but I was so worried it would hit that my fear probably undid all the good I was doing in pursuing my wellness activities.

Thanks for you kind thoughts. If we were neighbors, when a depression was on the horizon--and even if it wasn't--we could go out and take photographs. My class on digital photography starts today. I'm really excited.


Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Dear Bart,
Good to hear from you. I, too, strongly believe in exercise, and I'm in an exercising mode these days too. So glad to hear that it's working for you.


Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Dear Jazz,
Interesting to think about. I always assumed that everyone was physically impaired during a severe depression, but it will be interesting to find out whether they are or not.

Motivation is certainly a common problem, inherent in the nature of the beast. But, combine that with an inability to walk from the bedroom to the bathroom without assistance, and it was overwhelming.


P.J. said...

I can't even imagine being so depressed that I literally couldn't walk, and was physically impaired. I have to force myself to do things, but I have never missed a day of work because I seriously just couldn't make it there. I've never been that debilitated.

I guess I should be really thankful...

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Dear PJ,
Yes, you should be thankful. It's too painful to remember how debilitating it was, so I don't write about that!


Annie said...

Susan, what simple yet vital suggestions for dealing with depression. It is important that we tend to these on a daily basis even though we do not "feel" like it. You have a way of wording suggestions that make them possible. Thanks Annie

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Dear Annie,
Thank you! I guess I know how to word my tips because I've done them so many times. So many authors of books on depression discuss "big" topics, but to me it was always the small stuff that mattered.

And when my psychiatrists would say, "You need to keep your normal patterns and continue to socialize," I had no idea how to achieve those goals.

What they were saying actually isn't very different from what I'm suggesting. But they never broke things down into manageable components so that I felt what they were saying was possible.


AR85 said...

Great tips.
Especially the excerise - I used to do kickboxing before I fell into a bad depression, luckily I've got my own punching bag in my garage, that first punch that hits just releives me and reminds me that I'm alive and thigns are OK. Lately i've been thinking of going back into Kboxing and some of my other hobbies too.
Some say exercise alone can treat can completely cure mental illness.

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Dear AR85,
I don't know if exercise alone can "cure mental illness," but it certainly can help. And hobbies are extremely important as well!