Hello, my name is Nicole and I have depression. You may have known that already, but here we go. With this illness comes a lot of symptoms that I kind of just need to live with. They range from slightly annoying to utterly disabling. Either way, here is a relatively comprehensive list of them and how I try to cope with each. My mental health has kind of been in the hole lately so this list is as much of a reminder to me as to anyone else! The terminology used in this article is from http://www.mayoclinic.org.
Feelings of sadness, tearfulness, emptiness or hopelessness.
I think this is the most obvious and common symptom associated with depression. It’s basically synonymous with depression. In fact, I think it’s the symptom that is absolutely required for a medical diagnosis. Anyways, it is a symptom I really struggle with. I go through long periods where my only mood seems to be neutral or sad. Sometimes is feels a lot more like numbness, but since it’s not very fun or chipper to not feel anything at all, I’m categorizing that feeling under this symptom.
The number one way to cope with sadness is to talk to someone about it. I can’t stress this enough. You might not feel like talking to anyone when you’re feeling down but venting your feelings to someone and maybe having them understand and relate to what you’re going through is very cathartic. It reminds you that you’re not as alone as you feel that you are.
If that doesn’t work or isn’t an option for you for some reason, journalling can replace it. It is another way to get your feelings out and sort through them if they’re feeling muddled or confused. Besides that, just do what you would do for a friend if they were down. Watch some funny videos, listen to upbeat music, or do something that you enjoy doing.
Loss of interest or pleasure in most or all normal activities
Second on the list and my second most severe symptom. Just when your mood is getting low and you can’t cheer yourself up, suddenly all your favourite pastimes are also uninteresting to you as well. How am I supposed to cheer myself up now, brain?
The best method for overcoming this is honestly just to force yourself to do the things. It’s not easy and it will feel like work at first, but you just have to remind yourself that the thing is fun! You like the thing! The thing helps you relax! Remember?! I’ve actually written about this before, so check out that article for more advice.
Sleep disturbances, including insomnia or sleeping too much
This symptom may seem a little weird since it’s both ends of the spectrum at once, but what’s worse is when you keep switching between both. One night you can’t sleep, so then you’re really sleepy for a couple days, and then you can’t sleep again. My best counter for this is to try your best to set a bedtime and a wake-up time. Nap during the day only if you absolutely have to. Also, only turn to things like coffee or energy drinks if incredibly necessary. They may feel like they help, but really they can make other symptoms worse, especially with anxiety.
Tiredness and lack of energy, so even small tasks take extra effort
This symptom is a big one for me as well. It is also exacerbated by the previous problem. Besides over caffeinating, which as previously mentioned, isn’t the best idea, the only thing I can recommend is to pace yourself. I know that may not be possible for everyone, such as those with dependents or full-time jobs, but if you can, it’s a great way to help yourself get back on your feet.
Basically, choose one thing that you need to do. I know you have a big to-do list that keeps getting longer. But choose one thing and make sure you do that one thing. Tell yourself that you only have to do that one thing and then you can rest. Then, do the thing. Then, if you need to, rest. But if you think you have a little bit left in you, do one more thing. Rinse and repeat until either you have to rest, which is fair, or you finish all your jobs.
Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or self-blame
When you’re depressed, it’s really hard to see your own worth in the world when nothing in the world seems to have value. It becomes second nature to assume everything is your fault or that things would be better without you. All the things you’ve done wrong suddenly seem so important and close. I often struggle to remember why my friends could possibly like me or why my partner could possibly still be around. It can be really hard to dig yourself out of this hole.
The first way to combat these thoughts is to look for the evidence. Is this problem actually my fault? Is it really due to some sort of flaw of mine, or is it just a simple mistake any person can make? Are the people in my life stupid or careless with their time, or do they actually enjoy spending time with you? It can be helpful to write down these thought counters in a chart. The left side is the thought you’ve had and the right side is the more objective analysis of the situation. It can help you develop the ability to counter those thoughts on your own.
Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
This is a symptom can often sneak up on you without you knowing or realizing. I show this symptom with having terrible memory and struggling to make decisions. When I’m in a depressive episode, I can’t hold onto details or facts. I can forget entire conversations and even the promises I’ve made. When my anxiety is bad, I hate making decisions. I don’t love making decisions in the best of times, but when I’m anxious, every little choice I make feels like a life or death situation. Even something as simple as ordering dinner can feel overwhelming as I worry that I’ll make the wrong choice or at least not make the most right choice.
Unfortunately, I don’t have much advice yet on this. As far as the memory issue, I just write everything down as soon as I think it. I am constantly buried in to-do lists, reminders, and notes. This doesn’t really help make the symptom better, but it makes living a lot easier. As for decision making, the best thing you can do is just think about the worst thing that could happen if you make the wrong choice. Usually, it’s not that high stakes once you really think about it. As for my example of ordering dinner, what’s the worst thing that could happen? You don’t like your meal a little. The fact that you’re considering something means that you are probably going to like it at least a little bit. See, not quite so scary!
And that’s it for my most severe symptoms of depression. What about you? Do you suffer from any of these issues? If so, do you have a good way of coping with them? Share in the comments below and we can help each other in this always confusing and changing world of mental illness.