Friday, November 6, 2009

When a Depression Speaks

One of the best things a psychiatrist ever said to me during a depressive episode was when he told me to ignore my feelings because, "It's the depression speaking."

And while it's difficult to do, it's terrific advice. For those of you who've experienced a severe depression, you know that everything changes when you're depressed, and it changes back again when you're not.

Since it's already November 6th, and I'm not depressed, this is a very good sign for someone who suffers from seasonal depression. However...should a depression hit, for the first time ever I've written myself letters, reaffirming my strengths, and reminding myself which wellness activities work, and which people I consider to be members of my support team.

So...for example, I've written:

1. You are a talented writer.

2. You're a good person.

3. You're upbeat most of the year, so it's okay if you choose to share some of the sadness you feel if you become depressed.

4. It's okay to let the people whom you help during the rest of the year help you if you're feeling sad.

5. Wellness Activity: Gardening.

6. Wellness Activity: Playing the keyboard and electric guitar.

7. Wellness Activity: Walking Jack.

8. Wellness Activity: Photography.

9. Wellness Activity: Watching your favorite musicals.

10. Wellness Activity: Writing poetry.

Of course, this is just a partial list. And, my letters to myself are far more personal. I remind myself of everything I like about me. I'm my best cheerleader and I tell myself what wellness activities I need to do and why.

I've created a list of people with whom I enjoy being if/when I don't feel well, and I remind myself why I like them. I've also come up with a list of activities we could do together.

Given the way I'm currently feeling, I believe it's possible that my November/December depression won't be realized, or the symptoms will be greatly reduced. While that's undoubtedly due to therapy and my gardening program, maybe the very act of writing these letters has made a huge difference. Wouldn't that be a kick in the head?

Have a happy and healthy weekend. See you on Monday!

(When I originally posted this last night I was tired from gardening and grammar-challenged. Thus, this is a slight revision.)

22 comments:

Wendy Love said...

Susan,
I do hope and pray that you won't need those letters this year. I am so glad you are feeling well. Your posts continue to encourage, inspire and challenge me. Thanks!

havisham said...

Susan,

I love the idea of writing letters to yourself, and I agree that when depression takes over we think in a completely different way.

This past summer I was so tortured over relationship problems that I found myself--for the first time in years--suicidal. And that's not an option for me. I have to remind myself of that. I'm a mother. A single parent (with no other parent in sight). I have a special needs son. Sometimes I feel that I was given this responsibility as a way to keep me on the planet. Because, before I do anything rash, I always remind myself that my son needs me around (my daughter, too, as any kiddo needs his/her parent(s)--special needs or not).

I think I'll try writing myself one of these letters. It's such a terrific idea.

I spent the longest time writing a reply to your earlier post about baby steps last night. Then lost it in cyberspace. I wanted to kick myself, lol, and was too tired to rewrite it.

I love what you do here. You give me so much hope. I'm in the process of trying to forget someone who really ripped me apart this summer. Not my ex-husband, but a man who was a close friend and confidant for over four years. He'd said he would love to start seeing me when I was ready to try. I said yes (he'd been one of my best friends for years; I was so hopeful). Then he disappeared without so much as "goodbye."

Devastating. And I checked to make sure he was okay, because the silence scared me. He's fine. Just not responding to any of my attempts at contact. So I stopped because I'm not into stalking people, and I was beginning to creep myself out with my emails and voice messages. It was all so bizarre. I still have no idea what happened, but for the longest time blamed myself, sure that I'd "bipolared" him out of my life.

Sorry. Rambling. I have this tendency to go on...

But thank you again for this blog and your wonderful insights.

Take Care,

Sooz

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Wendy,
As always, thanks so much for your support. I'm glad these posts are helping. And I hope you're getting a warm response from the posts you've been writing about depression.

Susan

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Sooz,
I agree that our love for our children truly can save us during the worst of times. But, in the best of times, at least for me, it's inconceivable to think that suicidal thoughts (even if I never would have considered acting on them) were ever a possibility.

In terms of your friend who deserted you without having the courage, humanity, or compassion to talk with you, I can't imagine how painful that must be.

Yes, I, too used to say, "I'm at fault (about whatever) because of my bipolarity." But, after therapy I no longer feel that way. Explaining why is more than I can address in a comment, so I've decided to post about it next week.

Anyway, hang in there Sooz! You're too talented a writer to even consider leaving the planet prematurely:-!

With love and support,
Susan

Barbara said...

I love your blog for today. I have Bipolar and SAD. I've been struggling along with SAD for a couple of weeks now and trying to keep my mind focused on the fact that this is not "me" but my disease. I use a therapy light which helps quite a bit, but I believe the mind is the strongest medicine we have. I want to include the affirmations that I believe to help me through just as you are doing. Thank for writing today's blog. It was very timely for me.

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Barbara,
So glad it helped. I tried the 10,000 Lux light, which doesn't work for me, but I've instituted a lot of other changes in my life that work.

Still, I believe that just because I've been depressed at this time of year in the past doesn't mean it has to continue.

After all, people cure themselves of cancer, don't they?

Susan

havisham said...

Holy crap, Susan! I had to delete that last post of mine at my blog(the lament against the guy who disappeared) because he's suddenly reappeared today. After four months. He's apologizing up and down and says it was all his fault, all about his depression, and had nothing to do with anything I'd done. So that's a relief. But sad. Because though I'm still in love with him, I don't think I could be in a relationship with him. Could I ever trust him again? I don't know. Life has a way of taking the most bizarro turns.

Thank you so much for your supportive comments. And writing--the funny thing is, because "Byron" abandoned me and I needed to save myself, the memoir draft got written. He'd always wanted me to finish it (he was my reader for a long time; he's also a kick-ass writer). So it's ironic that his dumping me made the rough draft happen.

Ttys,

Sooz

Wellness Writer said...

Sooz,
I'm speechless and for the first time in a long time, I have absolutely no advice! If I did it would be a cross between "to err is human," and well, I'm not sure what else!

Susan

WillSpirit said...

Susan--

Thank you for the list. I too am watching out for seasonal depression, but it has been slow to come. Maybe the work I've been doing in managing and tolerating my moods will keep it at bay this year. Just in case, I have my SAD light ready to go. Do you ever use one, and if so, does it help? I'm never convinced the light makes a big difference over the long run, though I enjoy the brightness while I'm in it.

It's been a while since I visited. I took a break from blogging, but have started in again. I'm changing directions and trying to write more about how I work with depression rather than just how I experience it (though both are important.) It's good to see your site and get pointers.

Thanks.

--Will

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Will,
Glad to hear from you, and I'll check out your site this weekend.

Yes, I've tried the 10,000 Lux lamp, and it didn't work for me, although it does seem to work for others.

However, I get light by gardening, and spending time outdoors, which is critical for my health.

Susan

Mikee said...

I am going to give this a go, it might help me write now. Im really enjoying your blogs Susan, really helpful and open. Im very glad i found your page.

Sweet and Twisted said...

Like!

All good advice, some I should take myself!

KJ said...

This is really good information. I think it could work for me with all this bitterness I have been feeling. I will be doing really good and then something will happen and I will get angry again and it consumes me. If I had some letters to myself, messages, and activities to do instead of dwelling on the anger I would heal faster I think. Thanks for the advice.

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Mikee,
I'm glad it helps. And I'm delighted you found my blog!

Susan

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Sweet and Twisted,
When I was depressed, I always was looking for practical advice that worked. I hope this works for you.

Susan

Wellness Writer said...

Dear KJ,
When I was really furious, I found that writing in a journal was very helpful.

For me, a blog is too public to really blast someone, and tell the specifics of what he/she did. But, according to James Pennebaker, one of the foremost experts of writing to heal, writing all the specifics in a journal--for four days--is very effective. (If you spend much longer on it, he says you begin to dwell on it, and it can make you feel worse.)

However, these exercises work in a different way because they take your mind off anger, and replace it with more uplifting activities.

Susan

mmaaggnnaa said...

Hi, Susan -

I agree with you about the feelings that come up during a depressive episode . . . if I can just step back from them, let them be, try to not give a meaning to them, I am better off.

And, when the depression lifts, it is not as bad as it seemed in the depression.

Great post!

- Marie

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Marie,
Thanks for your comment. I think it's really important for those of us who "get it" to share with others.

While we might not always be successful in refusing to give meaning to feelings that evidence themselves during a depression, at least we intellectually know better.

And, if we can change our behavior one step at a time, it makes a huge difference, doesn't it?

Susan

havisham said...

Susan,

Once again I lost my post. I need to stop doing that, lol.

I've decided to just let it ride with Byron. I've told him I'm here, would like to be friends, and that I need to work on myself--mentally, emotionally, and career-wise--before allowing myself another romantic relationship. I'm just flat-out not good relationship material at the moment.

The sad thing is that we're both still in love. But maybe in the long run...

Guess we'll see.

Take Care,

Sooz

Writing Works said...

Something I TOTALLY need to do...

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Sooz,
Well, it sounds like you handled it really well. Maybe there's a lesson in all this although I have no idea what it might be!

Susan

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Writing Works,
It works for me; hope it works for you!

Susan