In the last few years I've learned to think of depressive episodes in a new way. Rather than feeling there is nothing I can do about them--aside from taking medication and hoping it works--I now realize there's a lot I can do to minimize the symptoms.
In my case, during a depression, I take Adderall in order to get out of bed in the morning. For me, the depression saps so much energy that without the medication, I would sleep all day--until it lifts, and that's presuming it does lift.
However, unlike an antidepressant (when it's effective), Adderall doesn't make me feel happy, it just gives me energy. So, it's really important for me to start my day quickly and get out and about or at least begin moving.
First thing, I eat protein for breakfast, which is something I need. I also drink one cup of coffee. I need it as a stimulant although I only drink one cup a day. If I take more than 30 mg. of Adderall, I can't drink coffee, however, because the extra dosage gives me a "bad" stomach and the acidity of the coffee is too much. In that case, I eat yogurt for breakfast because it's soothing and I eat whole wheat toast for roughage.
During a depression, it's particularly important for me to make lists--before I go to bed--of what I'm going to accomplish the following day. When my son was younger, and when I worked as a freelance writer, I made different kinds of lists. Early on, I learned that depressive episodes affect my memory, so I made sure that I listed all the tasks I needed to do for my son, husband, and my clients.
Now that my son is older and I'm semi-retired, my lists are different. While I go to class twice a week, and while I am writing a book, I have far more freedom to do what I want during the day. But if I'm not feeling terribly well when I awaken, it's very important to know what tasks I want to accomplish, or what activities I want to participate in, so that my days are pleasurable, and yet I also feel I'm doing what needs to be done.
What I've learned is that if I have activities lined up, I'm always happier. If I complete tasks, I feel a sense of accomplishment. If the weather is good--and it usually is in Los Angeles--it's very important for me to spend part of the day outside--whether it's weeding, gardening, doing home improvement chores, or exercising. Sunlight is a key element of my wellness program, and the earlier in the day I spend time outside, the better I feel.
Unlike years past, the book I'm working on is a long-term project, and I don't have a deadline. So...I don't have to spend time indoors writing every day. And for me, that's very important. I spent about 20 years writing indoors--working at least eight hours a day--and I now know that it contributed to my depressions.
At the time, I was happy I could work even though I felt depressed. What I didn't know was how important sunshine is for my well being. Now that I do know it, I make sure I get enough sun to "melt the blues."
(to be continued)