For years I have searched for the answer to the question of how you can improve a deeply depressed mind. And what improves my mental health is quite different to all the research the medical professionals say. I’m only an expert from my perspective, and please don’t follow what I have to say if your doctor advises against it. But this is what I do, and one or two of the tips might help you if you are having trouble with depression or mood swinging with bipolar.
What is Wrong with Lou Farrell?
I have bipolar, and memory problems caused apparently by the medication I’ve taken over the years. Bipolar was diagnosed back in 2002, and I’ve been living with it ever since. Believe me when I say I have experience with everything it can throw at you. From delusions to depression, elation to emptiness.
Over the years, I have learned several ways of coping, and I’m going to share seven of them with you today.
1. Set A Date
This is not as morbid as it may sound. The one thing that has stopped me from doing myself; is knowing I will get better. But, you only get that with experience. The first five years of my illness, I had many attempts on my life, but now, when I feel so low, the only option seems to be to leave this mortal coil; I set a date for six months.
I write it down in my diary and do you know what, whenever I have reached that date, my mood has been much better and I set it for another six months, I’ve done this for 15 years, and I’m still here. I have never arrived at the date and felt hopeless.
Since starting this date-setting thing, I have experienced deep depressions, I’ve been hospitalised, and I’m still here.
No matter how you are feeling, regardless of your circumstances, delay it. When you are at rock bottom, the only way is up; you can not fall any lower. It’s not nice there; in fact, it’s absolute torture, but it won’t last.
The world and universe are in constant change; your skin renews every 27 days, your blood is new every 4 to 6 weeks, your cells renew every 7 to 10 years. Now even though you think things will never change, they are already in the process of change.
Life abhors a vacuum, as they say, this means the emptiness you feel will be filled.
2. Movement to Improve a Deeply Depressed Mind
This one, the doctors, will probably agree with me, but the movement is key to helping you. Even if you can’t get up and get out of bed, raise your arms and stretch. Do the same with your legs. If this is too much, stick your tongue out. Stretch your fingers.
You have to move something. Have you ever noticed when a cat or dog is curled up, and then they stretch out? It looks so satisfying. Or when they wake, the first thing they do is lower their front half, stick their bums in the air and stretch their back out. It would help if you did this.
Somehow or other stretching makes you feel good. Let’s go back to the cat and dog again; no matter how deeply asleep they are, they are instantly alert if they hear a noise. When you have depression, alertness can escape you, and you need to get that back.
The stretching will help; it will keep you limber. And, you don’t need to be superfit to do it. You don’t need any equipment. All you need is movement. You’ll find after several days of doing this; your mind will feel a little freer and more alert. I’m not saying drastic changes will happen, but enough to move you from rock bottom to a ledge of safety.
3. Take Your Medication
I went through 6 years of trying to avoid medication, and in that time, I nearly developed a drinking habit as I was trying to self-medicate. I had serious trouble sleeping, I still do. But I learnt, alcohol only exacerbates the situation. You drink to feel good; then you feel bad, so you drink more, and then you are more tempted to self-harm as your inhibitions drop. I advise anyone with mental health problems do not drink alcohol and do not to take recreational drugs.
I’m not saying forever. I’m saying when you are low or when you are experiencing mania. Avoid stimulants because they will only heighten what you are feeling. And, that rock bottom pit suddenly develops a tunnel you never knew existed, and it takes you lower.
Or you get airlifted out of the hole and rise so high you are going to land right back in the pit with one heck of a crash.
Now, I take my meds, and I avoid alcohol as I know it does me no favours. I don’t touch any other drugs, just the medication. I can’t sleep still, but I’ll get to that in number 4. All you need to remember is that alcohol will not now or ever solve your problems.
Your medication may have side effects if taken with alcohol, and you do not want to enhance side-effects. You must tell your doctor if the tablets’ side effects begin to impact your life even more than the illness is.
Once on a tablet that gave me hallucinations, I would see spiders, and I kept it to myself for too long, and the tablet caused memory loss. And the inability for me to learn new things. I can’t work out how to use new computer programmes unless they are similar to what I already know. I can’t read a novel anymore as I can’t remember the storyline. I have to reread or watch films I’ve already seen. Otherwise, I won’t remember them afterwards.
Tell your doctor if things are going wrong with your meds, don’t just come off them, do it slowly, with reducing by half over 4 days. So 100mg goes down to 50mg for four days, then 25 for fours days etc. Doctors prolong it, and I’ve found doing it this way gets you off it quicker with the least amount of withdrawal symptoms, and then you can start a new medication.
The bane of my life is getting a good nights sleep. At the moment, I’m sleeping one night, then staying awake 36 hours, then sleeping for 12 hrs. I’ve been doing this for two and a half months now, and it is suiting me.
I’m not suggesting you try this, but I will say if you have trouble sleeping, don’t try and be normal. If you are not tired when others are, don’t try and fit yourself into their system if it doesn’t work for you.
There is nothing wrong with developing your own pattern. It might be you sleep for four hours, and if you work, you go and do your job, come back have another two or three hours kip.
I think it’s a fallacy we should all sleep the same; yes, we all need sleep. But, at different times in our lives, our sleep pattern changes. Some people with depression want to sleep all the time. If this is the case, then do so. If you work or have children, it’s more difficult, but there is nothing wrong with a nap during your lunch break. Or, dozing while your kids are watching their favourite tv programme, even if it’s just a shut eye for ten minutes.
Obviously, if you have an active child, then go to bed when they do, sleep when they do. Don’t think, oh, I must get the washing up done. It’ll be there tomorrow, and you are missing out on half an hour’s kip.
Be you, not someone’s idea of what you should be. They say you need 7 – 8 hours sleep per night, but some of us need more, some need less. I read once the Prime Minister of the UK from the 1980’s Margeret Thatcher, only had 4 hours of sleep a night, and she ran the country.
Sleep how you want to.
5. Filling time
OK, sometimes you are too ill to work, and if you are not a sleeper, that is a long time to be doing nothing. Which in turn will make you feel as though you are just existing and not living.
Before I knew how to handle this, I would see people on TV or in magazines and feel useless. The internet was not like it is today, so thankfully, I didn’t have social media to compare myself with others. By the time I had a bad spell in 2012, I had learned my coping mechanism, and I was unaffected by social media.
Nowadays, it is second nature when I can’t cope with other people. I switch off. Literally, I switch the tv off, the laptop off, my phone off. I stop interacting with technology as it affects my wellbeing. I’m sure the blue-light affects me too. So make sure you have a red filter installed on your phone, tablet and/or laptop.
But this leaves a lot of time to be filled. And reading is a lot of hard work. So what do you do? It’s OK to stare out the window; it’s OK to doodle and then colour it in. It’s OK to paint your nails; it doesn’t mean to say you feel better. It’s OK to go to bed and lie there. It’s OK to sit in the garden and watch the birds.
Whatever you feel like doing in peace is OK, as long as it is not harming you. If you want to make a daisy chain as you did as a kid, do it. If you want to find a rock to paint a face on it, do it.
When you are mentally ill, you are freer than you would ever believe. Nobody expects anything of you! You can do things and try things out to see how they impact your health and if it makes you feel better, then continue doing it.
I know, though, sometimes there are no thoughts that come into the brain, and you feel like a vegetable. When I get like this, I watch Murder She Wrote or Columbo. I’ve seen them countless times, and I mean, I could tell you the episode from three seconds of watching it.
You don’t have to watch what I do, but choose a couple of series which you are quite happy to watch over and over again. Nothing dark or sinister, keep if fairly light.
They say a healthy diet helps improve mental health. I’m not sure about this; who wants to eat lettuce and cucumber when you feel empty. But at the same time, you don’t want to overladen your belly with food, making you feel sluggish and lethargic.
I’ve found a sandwich, a packet of crisps and a handful of peanuts is my perfect meal. In fact, some days, this is all I will eat; other days, I’ll throw in a bit of chocolate. Once a week, I’ll have a takeaway.
I like sandwiches as they are easy to make when you don’t feel like cooking, even though I still cook for my family. I still eat my sandwich. You can put anything in them, and bread is heartwarming to my soul. I can’t do without it.
You will have your own preference when it comes to food. But just like sleep, don’t think you need to follow the same as everyone else if you like fish finger sandwiches, eat those. If you like cereal for breakfast, lunch and dinner, then eat that. Who is to tell you what you should eat. If you worry about food, that is taking energy away from your brain for healing.
7. When to Get Help
I know my first sign when I’m getting depressed. I start sighing a lot. But I only noticed it in the past five years. I spent a lot of time before then trying to pinpoint it, and then I would catch myself sighing as I walked up the shop.
After a few years, I realised every time I started doing that; depression was developing within me. When it starts, I ask the doctor to increase my anti-depressants or change them as they are no longer working.
If I’m manic, I won’t realise and I will end up in the hospital. I have no advice on that one.
Here are some useful websites if you need help. If you considering self-harm go to the hospital do not wait, just go.
Phone Numbers & Websites:
- Samaritans UK – 116 123 or use their app; you can also email them.
- List of Suicide Crisis Lines Worldwide – Wikipedia
- Mind UK – 0300 123 3393
- Global Mental Health Support – They list the main mental health charities in your county.
- Phone your doctor
- Phone Your Psychiatrist
- Phone a friend
- Phone a family member
I hope at least one of my suggestions helps you. If you have your own suggestions, please leave them in the comments section below to help others.
Always be yourself, be kind to yourself as you are your own worst critic. If others try to force you to behave in a certain way, resist, as this will give you determination and alleviate a depressive episode a bit.
Peace & Blessings x