A Writer’s Take on What to do About Depression

Chocolate Cake Hostess Homage
Chocolate Cake Hostess Homage (Photo credit: lynn.gardner)

Writers are not immune to the everyday stresses of life, and in fact we might sometimes even wallow in those feelings because they feed our ability to emotionally connect with a character. Not that I’ve ever done that. *cough* Additionally, writing can be a difficult occupation with tons of pressure, slow progress, and the potential for failure continually hanging overhead.

So, what do I do about depression?

First of all, I’ll let you know that I kind of lump many things into the term “depression”. I think of it as experiencing frustration, hopelessness, sadness, and despair simultaneously. I’ve had those feelings various times in my life, and if you have as well you know that it can be a dark place. It’s the darkest times when I need to remember not to take everything so seriously. I have to find the humor in life. After I find the humor, it gets a little easier to realize that the situation is temporary. Granted, it gives me a rather warped or morbid sense of humor…but as a writer I just get to chalk that up to being eccentric. 😉

I could make a great list of what to do about depression, but the reality is that everyone is different. My “great” list might be a crappy list for someone else. I will say that it’s a good idea, no matter how much you don’t want to, to talk to friends and force yourself to get out of the house. I’m not a hugely social person, but when I talked to a friend a little bit and let myself live in the moment, I felt remarkably better. I’m definitely struggling at the moment, but they always say that things are darkest before the dawn. I’ve gone through enough in my life to know that it is true. I’m not sure if my little list of things will help you if you are ever in a dark place, but just in case it might I’ll put a few things here. Just be warned that silliness pretty much reigns supreme in my life. I don’t mean that I refuse to acknowledge reality, but I don’t need to make it a permanent reality and I don’t need to accept it as my reality. Accepting it as my own reality gives the situation permanence and power over me that it shouldn’t have.

  1. Read. Now, I know that I read a lot, but I have a set of books that I read when I get depressed or lament my romantically-challenged self. This won’t work for everyone, but you might have your own books, or genre that you can turn to. Look for great reads where people change their destinies. While you’re depressed the content will no doubt want to make you roll your eyes, but read enough and you’ll start to believe it. My books are the Twilight series mixed with other sci-fi/fantasy books.

    Must read more books!
    Must read more books!
  2. Write. Go figure. A depressed writer who…writes. I decide to change my point of view about tough times, at least long enough to channel what little energy I have into a poem, story, or journal entry.
  3. Music. For a long time I didn’t realize what a pivotal role music plays in keeping me level-headed and emotionally stable. When you’re depressed do NOT go for the moody music, go for fighting music. Go for the stuff that makes you want to break your chains (figuratively speaking) or dance.
  4. Eat. I really wouldn’t recommend this particular one to people, but I do need to acknowledge that I am an emotional eater. Sometimes I care, and sometimes I don’t care. If I don’t care that I might gain an extra pound or two, and I know that I’ll feel a little better after I have a piece of triple chocolate cake…then I’m going to go for the cake. It’s not the greatest cycle to begin though…so again, I wouldn’t recommend it. 
  5. Exercise. I love to exercise but haven’t been able to really go all out the way I usually like to. I love Zumba, TaeBo and sometimes even Sweatin’ to the Oldies. I blame my Mom for that one, but seriously…it lets me be a total diva if I want. Plus, there is no way you can get through one of those workouts without at least smiling.
  6. Solitude. When I’m discouraged I need more time alone than usual. This definitely is not everyone’s cup of tea, but I need the time to sort out my feelings. Alone time helps me identify the root of the problem so I can begin working on a solution. Until I reach this point, I usually feel pretty helpless and trapped.
  7. Change. I also like to change my habits when I’m not feeling 100%. I might try a new hobby, or just shake up my daily routine by going to a park or for a walk. If I have only been writing for a while, I might try drawing or playing guitar instead.
  8. Good vibes. For me, this is the toughest part of depression. You should try to surround yourself with people who are optimistic and positive. You’ll probably want to gag, but eventually you may find yourself looking at things a little differently. Anyone can see the crap right in front of them, but it takes someone special to see the diamond underneath the layer of crap. Practice being the person who sees the diamond. This is exceptionally challenging if you’re surrounded by negative Nellies.
  9. Solutions. Finally, in order for me to pep up a little bit I need to know that I’m working on a solution. It might be work-related, relationship-related, or something entirely different. The bottom line though, is that until I have the hope of planning real change I’m not truly free.
  10. Weird. I like to be weird sometimes. Okay, that’s bogus. I like to be weird most of the time. I might get myself a small trinket that tickles my fancy like wooden nesting Ninja dolls, a nostalgic movie, or an inspirational desk decoration. When I’m broke, I sometimes come up with my own. Stress balls, silly putty, and yo-yos have all played a part in helping me out of doldrums. Oooh…and slinkys, slinkies? Is there actually an official pluralization of a slinky?
  11. Movies. Uplifting movies or ones where the “underdog” wins or the impossible happens are awesome. Sure, they may set completely unrealistic expectations like Cinderella, but they’re also effective. The long and short of it is that those movies are the ones that remind us that happy endings do exist as long as we don’t give up.

We can’t always just “get better” though the people around us who love us often wish it was the case. We’re depressed for valid reasons and even my psychology professor admitted that eventually people can overcome depression without medications, especially if they have a good friend. This doesn’t mean that everyone can do it without medication, and it doesn’t mean that getting through a situation won’t take a lot of time and effort even with medication. Give yourself permission to acknowledge your feelings. You don’t need to hide them, deny them, or feel guilty about them. They are there for a reason and they are trying to let you know that something in your life needs to change so you can regain emotional equilibrium. It’s like a psychological alarm system that lets you know when something in your life is out of balance. Don’t ignore it, but try not to wallow either. Acknowledge it with the intent and purpose of moving toward a solution.

Remember, just because today or this year sucked doesn’t mean that tomorrow or the next year will suck. Sage wisdom, right? 🙂

So, it’s not really a crazy list of things, sorry. If you want to add to the list of things to try when you’re feeling depressed feel free to add. We might be online, but we can all try to be that friend who helps someone through a rough time. You never know when someone might be looking for the one thing you want to add to the list. So, feel free to leave a comment with some fun/zany/useful ideas on what to do about depression.

In the meantime, I’ll work on a list of some of my fave songs while I work on finding my list of books I was supposed to read for the year. You can tell that I’ve done a good job on the list, eh? Toodles!

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