Dealing with Depression
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Teresa Mulvena, CBT Cert, MA Counselling, MBACP (senior accredited)
3rd December, 2010
Feelings of loss from a relationship break-up or the death of a loved one may be traumatic, but sadness and depression are not the same thing. You may still need some help to make some sense of a difficult loss, and if not dealt with it may lead to depression. At other times there may not be anything obvious that you can put your finger on that is leading to feelings of depression.
Typical symptoms of depression include:
- Difficulty getting to sleep, or more commonly waking up early in the morning and not being able to get back to sleep
- Loss of appetite (or occasionally eating more than you might normally eat)
- Feeling sad, crying a lot, and loss of enjoyment of the activities that you used to enjoy, including loss of libido
- Isolating yourself and finding it difficult to want to talk to people
- Feeling despair or hopelessness about the future
- Feeling guilty, self-critical, or feelings of self dislike
- Feeling anxious or agitated
- Not being able to make decisions as easily as usual
- Decreased energy levels
- Feeling more irritable than usual
If you recognise that you have a number of these symptoms it may be time to acknowledge that is time to get some help. It is a good idea to see your GP for a more thorough assessment and advice.
Give yourself a break. Be kind to yourself. Notice your ‘self-talk’ -the inner voice, the way you talk to yourself, and try to develop a kinder more compassionate voice.
Try not to withdraw from family and friends. It may help to explain to them how difficult it is to be cheerful, and to let them just be with you, however you are. Sometimes people can be afraid that their feelings of sadness or despair will be too difficult for anyone else to hear. If you don’t feel there is anyone that you can talk with about your feelings, it may be time to seek professional help.
Challenge the belief that friends won’t want to be with you if you’re not entertaining. “Some of the best moments of connecting with a friend have been when I’ve been able to be honest about how awful I feel. It is great to feel someone else can understand that, without pretending everything is OK, without feeling I have to be cheerful, or entertain.”
“What’s the point of talking about it, it can’t change anything.” To an extent this is true. Talking may not solve any of the very real difficult life situations you are faced with. However sharing your feelings with someone you trust can be an enormous relief.
Don’t run away from your feelings. “I was afraid if I let myself feel the sadness that I could sense under the surface, I would become really depressed and not be able to find my way out. I’d be giving in to something that would take over, I would lose the coping side of myself”. This is a common fear. However it is a bit of a trick to believe that issues and feelings we’ve pushed to the back of our mind aren’t affecting our health and relationships now in some way, and won’t re-emerge in the future. These feelings are still there waiting to be dealt with, and can affect our relationships now – our relationshipw with those we care about, and our relationship with ourselves. It can be painful to face your hurt, disappointment, or anger. But unfortunately there is no shortcut. It may hurt to deal with these underlying issues, but it may also be a huge relief to not have them haunting you.
Look after your Physical Health: When you are depressed everything can feel like a huge effort: exercise, eating healthily, bothering with getting dressed, contacting friends. However these activities will improve your mood, in themselves. Also you’ll feel better that you’ve taken the initiative and done something for yourself. This is empowering and gives a sense of being in control and helping yourself.
Now is not the time to be making decisions. Give yourself permission to leave such decisions until you feel better.
Sometimes concentration is poor: “at work I’m either crying in the toilets or staring at the same piece of paper for hours” Maybe this is a message to yourself that you cannot carry on carrying on, and you need to seek help. If you are someone who is usually the one people turn to, it may be hard to let others see your needs and vulnerability. It may be difficult to put yourself and your health first. If you feel worried about letting people down and that it is selfish to put yourself first maybe you need to “reframe” this and remind yourself that you need to put yourself first in order to get better. It’s not helping anybody to be at work but unable to concentrate.
Know yourself: recognise the warning signs of depression and your particular triggers and act before the symptoms become overwhelming.
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