5 Ways I Cope With My Depression (And How You Can Too)
Millions of Americans deal with depression on a daily basis and it is the most widely discussed mental health concern. If you are a queer person and a person of color (POC) then your experiences with depression are often greater than others without these identifiers. Queer people experience depression at a rate of two to three time higher than the general population according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). The promising part is that you don’t have to go it alone and there are ways to cope.
During the holiday season it may be that your depression gets worse. I know mine does. This is called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). The pressure our society puts on the holiday season like gift giving, social interactions and general sense of cheeriness seems to make me withdraw more. I barely want to leave my home or spend prolonged amounts of time with people. Even spending time with people I love during the every day mundane, making it more difficult when the holiday season approaches and I am expected to do these things. Especially because not doing these things is often frowned upon. People that are not dealing with depression sometimes don’t understand that this is simply too much for us.
Perhaps your depression is due to socioeconomic reasons surrounding displacement or unemployment. If you don’t have a consistent home to go to or income, the holiday season will throw you for a loop even more because messages of family, merriment and consumerism are constantly bombarding us all. Living “in the closet” may also be a source of depression. It is understandable that shutting down a core part of our being can cause intense feelings of sadness, shame and anger. Death of a beloved partner/spouse or family member will cause grief especially if it is recent. Facing these situations can bring up memories of the past, regrets, disappointment and hopelessness. It is not easy facing any mental health concern but you can get through this.
First take an inventory of your thoughts, actions and emotions for the past two months to see if they align with these symptoms of depression:
Feelings of hopelessness or “there is no way out”
lost interest in activities you once loved
Little to no desire for self care
Starting or increasing alcohol / drug usage
Over-eating or under-eating
Constant fatigue or insomnia
Thoughts/attempts of self-injury or suicide.
Some commonly used coping skills that have proved helpful for me may help elevate your mood, regroup, refocus and work on regaining a sense of self.
Keep a journal of when you are feeling down. It will be helpful to include dates and times if you can manage so you will have a better understanding of when it hits you. Yes, you should write down how you feel, but try your best not to dwell on those feelings. One way of counteracting this is to include three things that you are grateful for in that moment. Fellow Lesbionyx writer Tiffany Favers explains more about gratitude in her article “There’s Always Room For Gratitude”. The journal will also be helpful if you decide to seek therapeutic treatment as it will give your practitioner a better understanding of what is going on. Some other ideas include writing inspirational quotes, and write down some achievements you’ve made in the past few months no matter how big or small. You can also make a board of places or things that bring you joy.
2. BE GENTLE WITH YOURSELF
If you are a perfectionist like I am this can be the most difficult. Often times I feel like I must be moving, on the go and making money moves or I am a failure. That is simply not true. Depression can be debilitating. Allow yourself some leeway. If you feel that you can not do a specific task it is okay to take a break. Call out of work if you need too, just a day or two can help you recharge a bit to make it through the rest of the week. Cancel any plans that are not urgent you can always reschedule that day trip, hair appointment or club night and you will enjoy it more when you are feeling better. If you’d like to explore more about overcoming the idea of being perfect, personal wellness blog article “How to Overcome Perfection” may motivate you.
3. DON’T BEAT YOURSELF UP
Be kind to yourself. When you are engrossed in a depressive episode, it is very hard to commit to acts of self care. You are not worthless or ugly because you can’t get that full on face “beat” that you normally serve. You are not disgusting because you don’t have energy to take a shower or wash your hair. You are sick. Depression is a illness like any other. You would not feel bad because you couldn’t brush your teeth or comb your hair due to a physical illness, so why treat mental health differently? If all you can do is tend to your hygiene once a week, do that for now. Healthline’s article “10 Self Care Strategies That Help Me Manage My Depression” may inspire you be kind to yourself during these moments.
4. DO WHAT YOU ENJOY
During your depressive episode everyday may not be fog and gloom. Some days you will find that you have burst of energy. Use them doing things you enjoy. If you like drawing perhaps make some cards for people that have helped you out during this time. Is cooking more your thing? Make yourself the most delicious meal you can and enjoy every bite. We are fortunate to live in a time where we can get supplies, books and services delivered without even needing to step out of our home (or pajamas). If all you can do is stay on the couch, watch your favorite movies, read your favorite books or sit with a cuddly friend—anything from pets to stuffed animals.
5. CHAT IT OUT
There will be times that no matter how many inspirational quotes you write, favorite movies you watch or all the self-care tips in the universe will not help you. Especially if you are having thoughts of self injury or suicide. It is paramount that you speak with someone. These are not easy conversations, but they can save your life. Reach out to a partner, BFF, close co-worker or anyone you have a solid relationship with. It can be as simple as saying “I don’t feel well and I would like to talk.” You may want to make a plan of action with this person, even something as simple as sending each other a text twice a day to check in.
No matter how good our friends are to us there are things they aren’t qualified for or don’t have the tools needed to help. This is when it would be good to see a therapist. Having someone to talk to that is not directly involved in your everyday drama can give you new light on situations. They can also offer resources and medication management if that is what you need. Dr. Joy, Atlanta based psychologist, has developed a therapeutic website where you can find providers and read articles specifically geared to POC, Therapy For Black Girls. This cannot be stressed enough, if you are in immediate danger to yourself and the feelings or thoughts are overwhelming please seek care at any local hospital or call The National Suicide Prevention Line at 1-800-273-8255 (you can also chat online with a counselor). They will help you figure out the next steps. You can also chat with others online dealing with depression at Depression Forums or the Depression subreddit on Reddit. You aren’t alone.
My hope is that you do not have to face depression and to those of us that are dealing with it, I know that you can manage successfully. Everyday in spite of depression I manage to make a life and I know there is a life of joy, peace and happiness for all of us. Do not suffer in depression, deal with it using these resources. There is light at the end of the tunnel. There is hope.