"There's only one hard and fast rule in running: sometimes you have to run one hard and fast."

Friday, March 5, 2010

Fighting the Black Dog

First - thanks for the support, guys. Things are getting better.

This post might actually help someone. I'm not quite able to get my thoughts organized, so please excuse the randomness.

Depression is like a dog that follows you around; sometimes it's a puppy that bites you in play, sometimes it's the giant three-headed hell-hound. Here's what I've learned in a lifetime of keeping the dog at bay:

sensory stimulation - sometimes it's just a matter of getting outside and getting some sunlight. Listening to music, starting with slow and sad to match one's feeling and then increasing the brightness and tempo, often helps.

sensory deprivation - sometimes you need to get out of the chaos, isolate, be somewhere dark and quiet, but you need to limit the time for this. Strike a balance with the above.

move - rhythmic motion helps. Exercise and dance. Get into a rhythm.

relax - learn how to be calm. Try biofeedback. Get some sleep, but keep a regular sleep schedule; if you can't sleep, keep resting anyway. Don't hide in bed all day, however.

touch - physical contact helps. Sometimes just noticing the tactile quality of things is enough. Massages sometimes are great. Sex, as long as it's not part of your stressors, helps.

concentration - meditation, self-hypnosis, focusing intently on something other than one's problems.

talk - get another point of view, whether just added attention from a friend or structured counseling.

create - making something, whether art or just making a meal.

chemical/herbal/aroma therapies - sometimes medication is required to get through depression. Check the medications and supplements you're taking; some may be adding to the depression.

pray - if you're religious, prayer organizes your thoughts, takes your focus away from yourself, inspires, brings hope.

affirm - boost your self-esteem. See your own value. Be grateful for what you have.

purification - sometimes cleaning the clutter out of one's life (one's schedule, one's house, one's computer) can remove a lot of problems

charity - do something selfless. Volunteer. Get out of your own problems by dealing with those of others.

change - get out of any rut you may be in. Be spontaneous.

play - simple games, puzzles, anything you liked as a child

laugh - sometimes relief comes from comedy; seeing humor gives perspective. If you can laugh at yourself, all the better.

work - "do yourself into feeling better, don't try to feel yourself into doing better."

study - learn something new. If you can, learn something new about yourself.

optimism - look for signs the bad mood is passing.

other people - surround yourself with optimistic, happy people. Imitate them. "Fake it 'til you make it."

rearrange - find new ways to structure your life, your finances, your schedule, your surroundings.

escape - sometimes you have to take a step away. Take a short vacation doing something you enjoy.

point of view - don't see yourself as doomed, fated just to suffer and die, but see yourself as a positive agent of change. Don't see life as meaningless and empty; create meaning, add to life. Don't feel guilty and damned; you have value, you may have made mistakes but you are not a mistake, forgive yourself and others.

As Lori once said, "For a chronically depressed guy with a sucky life, you're surprisingly well-adjusted."


Diana said...

Very nice list. Really makes one look at them self a little closer!
Thanks for the "therapy"!

GeorgiaSnail said...

Thanks for the last two posts. Getting a little insight to "Steve Q" is always interesting. What I really appreciated is the lack of a pity party. I will never be able to fully understand the level of pain that you go through but will learn a lifetime worth of lessons on the way you deal with it.

nwgdc said...

Wow, those are suggestions for EVERYONE to follow.
Insightful as always.
And, if you REALLY want to get random (and annoy Glaven in the process), include bullet points next time.

sea legs girl said...

I really, really, really like that list. I don't suffer from depression, but I know what it is like to feel depressed. And it is easy enough to know that one has to stop the negative feedback loop to get out of it, but finding HOW to do it is the tough part. I am going to save this list for myself and who knows if I can also pass it on to others at some point. Anyway, there is probably no human on earth who would not get depressed when in such terrible pain. But as soon as that gets better, I am sure you will be able to fight that black dog one more time. HOpe your weekend is better than your week was :).

Julie said...

Hi Steve,
I am just getting caught up on a few of your last posts. I am so sorry for the black dog in your life. I have had spells of being depressed for short periods of time but can't imagine the pain you must go through. I think that you have a wonderful list. I agree with many things that you mentioned...sunshine is key for me!

I enjoy reading your blog and also the comments that you leave for bloggers. I think that you have so much insight and helpful information to share because of the amount of time that you have been running. I hope that your weekend is full of sunshine and happiness! Hang in there Steve!

Jean said...

That is a fantastic list, Steve. Good lessons for all of us in there. Thank you so much for sharing these thoughts, and I hope you are doing better. Take care of yourself and know that my thoughts are with you!

wildknits said...

Steve - thanks for the list! Again something I would love to share with others. Okay to do that?

SteveQ said...

@Lisa: Sure, that's the point.

Glaven Q. Heisenberg said...

You left out:

don't listen to anything dr. nic says.

Good advice, but I really like the advice about humor. Two funny things happened to me today, and I'll be running off their fumes for awhile.

1. I was watching a Colbert Report I had DVR'd from a couple of days ago and it was from 3/2 - Dr. Seuss's birthday, though I didn't realize it until Colbert uttered a variation on his usual beginning tagline:

"Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss! This is The Colbert Repoose!"

I was laughing so hard. I saved it for Teh 'Bride (because she's a Youth Services Librarian) and she watched it and she and Ian just agreed that I'm weird. Tough crowd. But I'm still laughing.

2. Teh 'Bride just came home and saw that our neurotic dog pooped in the kitchen and this is funny because she saw it so that means she has to clean it up because them's the agreed upon rules.

I can't wait till next December when I'll be able to say: "Happy Birthday, Dr. Nic! Can I just say that you're a ... Chiropractor?"

It'll be funnier when I do it as a bullet point.

SteveQ said...

@G: I don't get it.

I find Colbert amusing in an abstract way, funnier in retrospect than when I actually hear the material.