What is depression and how to defeat it
By now, most of the world knows that Robin Williams, one of the greatest comedians of our time, committed suicide as a result of depression. Unfortunately, depression (even in its mildest form) is something a lot of us have gone through at one point of our lives. I have been depressed as well and when I was about 14 years old, one good friend committed suicide, also from depression.
I understood from this process that depression is a temporary illness and it is curable if it is treated as such. When you are depressed, you are somehow limiting, even more than we normally do, your map (or your internal representation) of reality by drawing even more borders, obstacles and a much harder “terrain” to that map.
When you are feeling depressed, you often feel hopeless and/or helpless, meaning that there is nothing you can do to improve your current situation and/or that nobody or nothing will be able to help you neither. Those are limiting assumptions and they can turn into beliefs if you let them. Once those assumptions turn into beliefs you start living by them as your mind and even your body take them as absolute truths. Have you realized that some people seem to be addicted to drama or sadness while others are to joy or danger? Well, that is because your body is always producing chemical substances and eventually it gets used to them if you are “feeding” your body with those substances frequently. For example, when you expose yourself to dangerous situations your body secretes adrenaline. If you begin put yourself in these type of situations often your body will become used to adrenaline thus encouraging you to get involved in circumstances that would allow it to get its dose of adrenaline. Interesting, right? Well, our body and mind get hooked to what we are constantly giving them.
I am not saying that depression should not be taken seriously. Quite the contrary, since a depressed person needs a lot of help, specially in re-framing his or her depiction of reality.
Realizing that someone else is depressed is easier said than done as some persons “hide” it quite well. Actually, I bet quite a lot of people who know me will be surprised to read this but hey, just because I smile doesn’t mean I am (or was) not hurting. Like I said in another post, everybody is fighting his/her own demons. So, if you or anybody you know, are experiencing the following symptoms, please seek professional help. Depression could be a silent killer and as such it should be handled promptly and thoroughly:
- Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. A bleak outlook—nothing will ever get better and there’s nothing you can do to improve your situation.
- Loss of interest in daily activities. No interest in former hobbies, pastimes, social activities, or sex. You’ve lost your ability to feel joy and pleasure.
- Appetite or weight changes. Significant weight loss or weight gain—a change of more than 5% of body weight in a month.
- Sleep changes. Either insomnia, especially waking in the early hours of the morning, or oversleeping (also known as hypersomnia).
- Anger or irritability. Feeling agitated, restless, or even violent. Your tolerance level is low, your temper short, and everything and everyone gets on your nerves.
- Loss of energy. Feeling fatigued, sluggish, and physically drained. Your whole body may feel heavy, and even small tasks are exhausting or take longer to complete.
- Self-loathing. Strong feelings of worthlessness or guilt. You harshly criticize yourself for perceived faults and mistakes.
- Reckless behavior. You engage in escapist behavior such as substance abuse, compulsive gambling, reckless driving, or dangerous sports.
- Concentration problems. Trouble focusing, making decisions, or remembering things.
- Unexplained aches and pains. An increase in physical complaints such as headaches, back pain, aching muscles, and stomach pain.
Again, please remember that addressing the issue and (seek, or offer) help in time can save a life!
Now, let me share with you my recommendations to defeat depression for good. They worked for me, I am pretty sure they will work for you:
- Ask for help: This is probably the most important thing to do. Please speak to someone about your situation. It does not have to be a family member, it can be anybody. Actually the more people you tell you are depressed, the better because those persons will support you, even if only with their presence or phone calls. And yes, go to a therapist, life coach, psychologist, local priest, or rabbi. Believe me, there is always someone you can talk to. I spoke to my family, they took me to a therapist that knew about Neurolinguistic Programming. After just one session I was almost reborn. Then I was open enough to talk to my closest friends and they supported me as well along the way. Yes, NLP truly works!
- List all the good things in your life: No matter what you lost, there are plenty of things/people to be thankful for. Start listing yourself because you are important, you are special, you are unique!
- Go out: Magic happens outside your comfort zone. Leave the coach/bed/floor, open the door and go out. Here the support group you got will be important but if they cannot come with you go alone. If you are already depressed and you believe things cannot get any worse, what will you lose from going out? Trust me, taking some fresh air and some sun, if possible, will help you.
- Exercise: Any exercise is better than no exercise. As simple as that. Try yoga, it will bring you all those things you are lacking at the moment: energy, balance and clarity. Exercising will tell your body to produce hormones that will make you feel better.
- Re-frame your mindset: Learn to replace destructive, self-loathing, limiting thoughts with positive, enabling and constructive ones. My therapist back then told me “your mind is like Aladdin’s lamp, if you say you are a fool, it will grant you the wish”. Start using positive, loving affirmations. You can base yourself on Louise Hay’s book “You can heal your life” then work on your own. Your mind also needs to be exercised and get used to thinking positively, again!
- Meditate: Meditation is the ultimate solution because at the end is all about you. Being alone is the biggest challenge when you are depressed. Meditating will bring you back to the endless possibilities that life is all about. It will re-energize you, bring you calm, peace and creativity. Meditation is pretty much about contemplation, or in other words to observe something deeply. Your mind is always thinking, so through meditation you will learn how to observe those thoughts, rather than react to them and create a chain reaction. Immediate reaction to a thought produced by our “monkey mind” frequently causes some sort of pain. I practice Vipassana meditation but there are many other techniques. One that is becoming popular among Hollywood stars is Trascendental meditation, reportedly practiced by Hugh Jackman. There is no better mood and/or emotional regulator than meditation.
- Spend time with others: Being alone is harder when you are depressed, so do yourself a favor and (force yourself if you have to) and call your friends, or make new ones, find a support group, talk to anybody! We are 7 billion people (2014), believe me somebody will listen and will be willing to help. If you feel you got nobody, you are wrong, you can even contact me if you want. You are alone only if you want to.
- Treat yourself: Have you ever received a massage? Then go get one. It is always good to treat yourself well! Be creative and be open, if you cannot think of anything ask for ideas.
- Eat well: You will make it worse if you are poorly nourished.
I would love to read your comments, thoughts, suggestions or even your own methods for conquering this disease in the comments below.
* Table of symptoms taken from HelpGuide’s article.