Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Share Your Expertise: Depression Edition

It's my second year of doing Elf4Health! I just love the 4 weeks of this program. So many great challenges, so many uplifting people and this year I have made some pretty awesome new elf friends. Social media is such a great thing! If you remember, last year for the "Share your expertise" challenge, I wrote a blog about teaching, getting healthy, believing in yourself, going to the gym, surviving and thriving, and pretzels and hip hop.

Almost the entire time I've been doing this challenge I've thought about what I should write about since I covered so much last year. And then I thought how my life has changed in the last year. I'm in such a different place this year so here we go.... Elf 4 Health's Share Your Expertise: Depression Edition

For those of you just joining, 2014 has been awful (to say the least) for me. I started off the year dealing with the death of a friend and it really was just one bad thing after another. In June, my grandpa died and that was really just the straw that broke the camel's back. In August I was diagnosed with depression (I went to the doctor for some health issues I was convinced were cancer or something else terminal). I've blogged through it so if you are really interested just read back a few months. :)

Part 1: How to Deal With Grief and Depression
When things in life take a turn and you are faced with grief and/or depression it is so important to take care of you. Taking extra time to sleep will help you get through it. When your energy is low, it is important to ask others for help. One thing that really helped me was that when I did have energy, I would go grocery shopping and stock up on foods that were easy to prepare, otherwise in those low moments I just wouldn't eat. I created "Self Care Saturdays" where I just did what I needed to. Most of the time that consisted of laying on the couch all day in my sweats. Other times it meant going shopping or having lunch with a friend.

Another very important thing is to find those people who you can talk to and be around. Not everyone will understand what you are going through, so find those who do and who can support you. Find someone who you can call, even in the middle of the night, and keep their phone number handy.

Go get the book Life After Loss by Bob Deits. Such a phenomenal book that can help you!

Seek counseling. Finding someone you can talk to is going to be so helpful. Also look into GriefShare.

If you doctor wants to put you on anti-depressants.... GO ON THEM! I was very hesitant to take this step. I was scared I would become numb, but there are so many different medications out there that they can start you off at a very low dosage and switch prescriptions if one doesn't work the way you want it to.

Cry. Let it out. Feel. Don't shove those feelings down. When you keep them in, you keep those sad feelings in. You want to get them out. Start to journal about your feelings. Sometimes when you journal feelings come out that you didn't even know you had. This is good!

SPEAK UP!!!!! Being vocal about my struggles brought so much more support than I ever would have imagined. Share your story with others.

Part 2: How to Help Someone Going Through Depression
Maybe I should title this part "What's Not Helpful" as here are some things NOT to say to your loved one dealing with depression.
*You don't seem sad.
*Just cheer up!
*You're not going to commit suicide, are you?
*Everyone goes through this. You just need to figure it out.
*You should be over it by now
*Just smile
*Why are you depressed?

Here are some things that are GOOD things to say to someone who is going through depression.
*I love you
*I care
*You're not alone in this
*I'm not going to leave you
*Do you want a hug?
*I'm sorry you're in pain
*You are important to me

Being there for someone going through depression is quite simple actually. Just BE THERE. Acknowledge what they are going through. Understand that their energy might be low. Meet them for low-key things. Help them cook or do basic household chores or even cook a healthy meal for them. Don't ignore them. When they tell you they are sad, don't ask why. Ask them questions (about what they are going through or the loved one they lost if that is the case). Help them keep clutter at bay.  Get them outside. Ask them to help you understand what they are feeling. Encourage them to focus on self care. Hug them. Laugh with them. Reassure them that you can handle their feelings. Challenge them to their destructive thoughts. Remind them why you love them.

This is best summed up in a letter....

 My dear friends,
I have experienced a loss that is devastating to me. It will take time, perhaps years, for me to work through the grief I feel because of this loss.
I will cry more than usual for some time. My tears are not a sign of weakness or a lack of hope or faith. They are the symbols of the depth of my loss and the sign that I am recovering.
I may become angry without seeming to have a reason for it. My emotions are heightened by the stress of grief. Please be forgiving if I seem irrational at times.
I need your understanding and your presence more than anything else. If you don't know what to say, just touch me or give me a hug to let me know you care. Please don't wait for me to call you. I am often too tired to even think of reaching out for the help I need.
Don't allow me to withdraw from you. I need you more than ever during the next year.
Pray for me only if your prayer is not an order for me to make you feel better. My faith does not excuse me from the grief process.
If you have had an experience of loss that seems anything like mine, please share it with me. You will not make me feel worse.
This loss is the worst thing that could happen to me. But I will get through it and I will live again. I will not always feel as I do now. I will laugh again.
Thank you for caring about me. Your concern is a gift I treasure.
Sincerely, Jessica

Depression is an awful awful thing and I would never wish it on anyone. But, the good news is that there are SO MANY resources out there to help get you through it. And with a good support group around you, you can get through it.

To Better Days

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