Crippling depression is like being caught in the middle of the ocean. You are tired, alone, and have been swimming for minutes, which feel like hours. You aren’t quite sure how you got there and find yourself unsuccessfully swimming against the current, desperately trying to stay above choppy waters. As the waves relentlessly crash down upon you and menacingly threaten to pull you under, it takes every ounce of strength to fight to the surface for air. You helplessly let out a gargled scream, but nobody can see or hear you. As the ocean violently pushes to swallow you whole, you feel the water’s resistance, and every motion leaves you seemingly paralyzed. Alas, motivation slips, tired limbs can no longer swim, and you lose all fight as you are pulled further and further into the ocean’s darkness.
Similar to drowning, crippling depression is a fight for one’s life. Several mechanisms of coping exist for individuals suffering from daily, chronic depression. These strategies target symptoms, such as isolation, impaired eating and sleeping habits, lack of motivation, feelings of helplessness, and low self-worth. When feeling unmotivated and discouraged, it is important to refrain from setting unrealistic expectations. Thus, starting small and working towards larger victories is key, as slow and steady is the only way to win this race.
First and foremost, it is strongly recommended to seek guidance and support from a trusted professional. A professional would assist you in processing the origin of your depression along with providing clinical interventions for symptom management. If you are open, a professional counselor could also assist you in setting up a psychiatric evaluation to see if you might be a candidate for psychotropic medication. Counseling and psychiatric services occur in a face-to-face modality, or via phone or internet.
Crippling depression causes seclusion like nothing else, as venturing into public seems inconceivable. It is critical to start small by forcing yourself to reach out to at least one trusted person per day via text message, phone, or by meeting in person. Enlist trusted individuals to force you away from isolating when socializing is the very last thing that you want to do. Disrupting isolative patterns is a key mechanism in combating depression, as it reduces idle time and breaks up cyclical, negative thought patterns.
Depression obliterates healthy eating and sleeping patterns, as individuals sleep excessively, while simultaneously consume too much, too little, or the wrong types of food. Compel yourself to keep a consistent bedtime, strive to obtain 6-8 hours of sleep per night, and avoid naps or waking too late in the day. Attempt to eat at least 2-3 small meals per day and consume periodic snacks for extra nourishment and energy.
To combat low motivation, feelings of helplessness, and low self-worth, it is important to empower yourself by focusing on the moment. Improve positive outlook and foster gratitude by keeping a journal, even if you can only write a few sentences per day. Find something daily to be grateful for, however insignificant it might seem, and write it down. Reduce catastrophic thinking and improve focus on the here and now by practicing deep breathing and simple mindfulness strategies.
Crippling depression can feel like you are drowning, barely treading water, and fighting for your life. It is lonely, terrifying, bleak, and all consuming. Starting small in combination with these strategies can provide you with a life preserver and rescue boat to save you from being pulled under a dark, relentless ocean.
Tracy Smith is a Licensed Professional Counselor and employed as a clinical supervisor for the Community YMCA, Counseling & Social Services branch. Tracy has over 12 years of experience working in the mental health field and has worked in a wide array of settings including partial care hospitalization and intensive outpatient programs, community agencies, group practice, and school-based programs. Tracy has worked with clients of all ages, but especially enjoys working with the resistant adolescent population. Tracy enjoys facilitating groups, coming up with creative interventions, and is interested in creative art therapies, such as sand tray, play therapy, and psychodrama.