A survival strategy for depressive crises ~ 10 tips from the edge
Even seasoned souls have depressive crises. I suspect this is familiar to most of us who have been affected by depression: those days where every bad thing seems to come to a head and drag us to hell again. They seem to come out of the blue, no matter what our usual strategies for evading them might be. However unexpected they can be, there are probably triggers.
I’ve been in such a place this week which is why I am writing this, on the hoof you might say. Triggers I have identified so far are complex: lower book sales, blog visits and a sense of slipping away as a writer. The words have been hard to pin down, the rolling narratives have stalled and begun to grow moss and lichen. Then my first attempt at working with Createspace for paperbacks totally failed, and I felt terribly stupid. And a final trigger was spotting that someone who used a private conversation between us as a basis for a blog post had released a book that shares both themes and ideas as one of my books. I know, ideas are not copyrighted, but it wound me up to breaking point, and I reached a point where I felt I was at the end of being a writer. I’m not cut out for a lot of what goes with it as an independent and all the energy used for the business side of things is energy taken from the creative side.
People often only get a clue that someone is in trouble mentally when they cry. But for me that’s often the final thing. I get numb, I stop being able to react to things at all. I feel like I am stuck in a big insulated bubble of nothingness. And it makes me want to wipe away any evidence I’m here at all.
So, what can you do? Tuesday the 10th of September was World Suicide Prevention Day and people were encouraged to reach out to others for help. That’s a start, but there’s plenty of folks who cannot easily do that, so being aware that someone in your circle of friends and family is struggling may mean you can reach out to them in their bubble first.
Here is a list of my suggestions for surviving a crisis. Needless to say, if you can reach out to someone, do so.
- Try to stick to your usual basic routine if you can. By which I mean the normal eating, sleeping, washing, going to work. We are creatures of habit, and maintaining routines can at least help reassure.
- Don’t underestimate the power of water. Ellie Jasper from Twitter taught me about the Magic Shower. It’s the same as a normal one but you also visualise all the misery and confusion and pain being washed off you as if it were mud. Standing in a flow of water affects the body and the energy field in all sorts of ways and works better in these crises than a bath.
- Sleep. The brain has a chance to reboot.
- Make no decisions more important than coffee or tea, tuna or cheese.
- Wear clothes that feel good. Clean ones for preference. Something that suits you as long as it feels good.
- Accept this is how it is today. Don’t beat yourself up about it.
- Try and eat decent food. Avoid alcohol.
- Avoid long exposure to the internet. If, like me, you’re a fan of social media, it can be very difficult to watch your time-line whizzing past with people oblivious to you. It can also be comforting to see life going on around you, though so be cautious.
- Reread a favourite book. Classic children’s books can be a huge source of comfort. Likewise favourite films. This may be displacement but who cares right now.
- Sit with it. Let the feelings be. If you cry, you cry. Other than blow your nose and wash your face, take no actions.
When the storm begins to abate, and only then, analyse what happened and why. Make notes. If you found anything that helped, make a note of that too. We all have our own list of things we find help us; but we sometimes need reminding of them. I use fragrance, incense, music, walking, writing, poetry, pets and a few other things, but sometimes during a crisis these can be either too much effort or counter productive. For example, trying to write a story when I am in crisis may help, but if it doesn’t go well it just reinforces the sense of personal failure.
Everyone’s experience is different and these are just my suggestions, written as much to remind me of my own strategies as to share them with anyone else. If they help you, I am glad. One of the things that keeps me going is the belief that the things I write, from poems and blog posts to novels and short stories, actually benefit others. The kind people who have told me that what I write has helped them may not know how grateful I am for this feedback.