A survival strategy for depressive crises ~ 10 tips from the edge

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Sleep. The brain has a chance to reboot.
  4. Make no decisions more important than coffee or tea, tuna or cheese.
  5. Wear clothes that feel good. Clean ones for preference. Something that suits you as long as it feels good.
  6. Accept this is how it is today. Don’t beat yourself up about it.
  7. Try and eat decent food. Avoid alcohol.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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. 

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24 thoughts on “A survival strategy for depressive crises ~ 10 tips from the edge

  1. When my blackest days are upon me, the old phrase ‘This too, shall pass.’ sometimes puts things into perspective. Someone once posted on Facebook; ‘My record for surviving the worst days of my life = 100%’ Tomorrow will always bring something new and with that may come hope and lighter days. Depression and SAD (I encounter both) are terrible things that gnaw at the mind while the world seems to go on as if nothing is happening inside our minds. It’s not that the world doesn’t care – it’s just that there is often no outward sign… except for the tears. And as you said, that happens when it becomes unbearable. One thing missing from your list: – seek hugs, even if it’s just from a pet. Human hugs can be like gold; hard to find but a joy when they are available. I’m still looking for mine, but this pesky stream isn’t giving them up… 🙂

    • Actually, I didn’t forget about hugs, but I chose not to put them. If you’re alone, hugs are extremely hard to find and soliciting them can bring all manner of complications! Having a pet can be extremely useful for depressives, even if it is a pet pot plant, but the cats and the guinea pig, and even my fish in the pond are all beings who need me and that is itself an anchor.
      My dad gave me some advice many years ago, that is pretty much, this too will pass and it’s stayed with me. He’s a wise chap my dad.
      For SAD, I find my light box can help but a sunny, pleasant day is also very effective. Thanks Andrew. Good to see you. x

  2. Great tips here Viv – I know how I yearn to re-read an Enid Blyton or Malcolm Saville book. Even an episode of Postman Pat can make me smile, bringing back memories of happy times with the kids. It is so hard to just let yourself live it, rather than fight it. I haven’t got the hang of it yet…

  3. Great tips.
    Endowing a shower symbolically with psychic cleansing is most powerful. The element of water is also used as part of a traditional Sufi purification-breath series. It clears the mind – drawing in emerald light with the in-breath ‘through the nose’ into the solar plexus, then letting the breath escape ‘through the mouth’ and allowing it with the emerald light (like water) to wash thoughts and feelings downward, to be absorbed by the ground.
    The little devil is self-sabotage, lack of faith in one’s imagination when one feels low.
    A way round this is to adopt a technique that works as daily routine, so it becomes second nature.

  4. I wasmoved by your post Viv, and there is a significant amount of it that I can relate to, as a writer. As an independent writer, I feel it’simportant to remember “we cannot do this alone.” We need each other. Seek help and comfort from others because you most certainly are not alone. On another note, I must say your comment about re-reading classic children’s books tuned in with my current situation. I chose to do that just a few days ago, and can recommend it. However, I did begin with RL Stevenson’s “Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde”, which some might find helpful, and others might not!

    • I might finally read it (I don’t recall ever reading it!)
      The thing about being alone as a writer can be reinforced by unavoidable comparisons to how well certain others seem to be doing. I belonged for a short while to a secret FB group of writers who aimed, supposedly, to help each other, but I left largely because certain members started each day off by detailing how many books they’d sold overnight. It can get you down, that kind of thing!
      I’m actually reading Glittering Images at present as some of ms Howatch’s books are £1.99 on Kindle at present. Very good to revisit them.

  5. Wow, what lovely followers you have. Sounds as if you’re doing well Viv and thanks for the tips. Like you, I have a list of physical problems, some of them curable, some of them not. I haven’t given up on the incurable ones and have surprised my GP a few times by overcoming seemingly incurable ones. We all have our special things that help, mine include shiatsu, acupuncture and Taoist meditation, for some reason any guided meditation makes things worse! It would be a dull world if we were all the same.

    I used to teach taiji and qigong, Chinese brush painting,many different crafts and took commissions for painting. At the moment I can’t do anything with hands or feet (hypermonility problems), back, hips and shoulder ( osteoarthritis), walk uphill (heart) or eyes (cataracts)! I say “at the moment” because I am convinced that in time I can overcome them all or at least cope with them. Depression is by far the worst and in a category of it’s own.

    At one time I thought that I was being tested in some way by a huge list of problems that came along one at a time. As I’d dealt with one another would appear. I could almost hear a voice saying “Oh, she has dealt with that one, let’s give her something worse!”. This too will pass is an excellent phrase to hold in one’s mind.

    This is something that I’m trying now, I noticed that I perceive depression as a hard lump of nastiness crushing inwards and giving the feeling that I can only think how horrible I am. I’m trying to reverse the flow and open up to all that is wonderful, truthful and beautiful. A bit hard to describe but seems to be working so far. I have a wonderful warm feeling in my heart when it is.

    When I wake up I think hooray, I can walk! Hooray I can hear! Hooray I can smell and taste! You get the idea. It is a slightly different take on the “Be positive” thing, it is as if I can plan my day according to what is working. I re-define myself each day.

    Sorry, I have gone on a bit but believe me, this writing was very cathartic. Must go and rest my hands.

    With love.

    • Dear one, I truly appreciate your thoughts. I know precisely what you mean about Oh she has dealt with that one!
      I think my various physical problems and the depression all feed into each other; not sleeping properly makes it all harder to deal with.
      I’m a lot better today, thankfully.
      You are in my thoughts and prayers (as are all my kind readers)

  6. Hi Viv…I hear you loud and clear. Thanks for these. I would suggest also that many are good practices, regardless of mental state. I am going through a separation now, and while I am not in a depressive state per se, it is very difficult and very painful. Much of what you mention here is helping me get through it.

  7. I was touched by this post and am familiar with many of the same feelings and insights you shared so honestly about…creativity, online interactions, taking care of ourselves. Thank you for expressing it “out loud” for me.

    Fairly new to your offerings here, I am looking forward to reading more. I hope you continue to move through and out the other side again.

    • I know. It was almost 2 years ago but it’s still at the back of my mind and makes me sure that person is not trustworthy in the slightest.
      Good to see you.

  8. Gardening is the best thing.
    Clearing my energies with water,
    with exercise and lots of sleep.
    Getting outside every day,
    rain or shine.
    Seeing my grandchildren.
    Getting away
    for a day or longer.
    Hugs and music.
    Remembering,
    this too shall pass.
    All things shall be well.

    And all things shall be well.

  9. Great list, Viv. Thank you for sharing what you are going through, and what helps. It is a comfort to connect with others who understand. I’d like to add to your list — “Wear colorful socks.” I always pay close attention to the colors I wear when I am low, and I am building up my collection of “happy socks.”

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