Living with depression can make me feel like I’m trapped inside my own head. Yet, over the years, I’ve learned that depression can also give me an opportunity for introspection and transformation.
By asking myself the following 9 questions, I’ve been able to learn a lot about myself and how I deal with depression. I hope they can do the same for you. However, everyone is different and what works for me might not work for you. Work with your therapist to craft a list that speaks to your needs.
Now grab a journal and get ready for some intense, introspective work! I recommend taking your time and answering each question, one by one, as you read it.
1. What am I doing to invest in my health?
Even if you’re focused on your health, staying committed on a daily basis can feel overwhelming when you’re juggling multiple things. Are you keeping up with your treatment plan? Do you need to create a treatment plan? Am I practicing a self-care routine? Taking care of yourself is work and optimal health is the result of making the right lifestyle changes (where possible) and working closely with your healthcare team to find a symptom management plan that works for you.
2. Am I giving myself enough time for fun?
With all the hours we spend working, doing chores and keeping up with social media, it’s understandable to feel drained at the end of the day. However, make sure you’re giving yourself time to have fun, whatever that means for you. Breaking up mundane tasks with something you enjoy will give you something to look forward to and something to focus on when you need it the most.
3. Am I avoiding something or someone right now?
When I am in a good place, and I sense that I’m starting to slip, I often find it’s because I’m procrastinating or avoiding something important.
Whether it’s confronting someone about a difficult issue or tackling something on your to-do list, completing the task will help to clear your mind and make you feel more at ease. It won’t ever get done if you ignore it! It may seem daunting now, but when it’s done, you’ll feel better.
4. Am I holding onto anything from the past that I can let go of?
When I experience depression, I often find that my perspective on things is more negative. As a result, I may dwell on situations in the past that I can’t change.
Living in regret won’t help you to move forward and feel better. Being able to forgive (whether it’s yourself or someone else) and let go will allow you to work towards a better tomorrow.
5. Who can I rely on to help me get through bad days?
It’s important to have a few people you can communicate with in times of trouble. Whether it’s a close friend, family member, therapist, or someone else with the condition, building a support network is paramount to finding your way through the dark. If you can’t meet people face to face because of unusual circumstances, you can do a lot of this online, whether it’s via social media or through support forums such as Sane or Big White Wall.
6. What was I like before my depression? How have I changed since my diagnosis?
Depression has a sinister way of pulling me further and further from my true, authentic self. If you’ve been living with the condition for a long time, you likely know how true this is. It might help you to look back at old photos, journal entries, or whatever else you can find to reconnect with the person you were before your depression.
7. Am I expressing myself properly or am I letting my emotions build?
Depression can often be tangled up with repressed feelings of guilt, anger or sadness. It’s important to explore these feelings with therapist or a loved one so that you can express them properly and not hang on to things that may be holding you down. This can be done remotely, using technology and online tools.
In addition to talking through your feelings, you can express yourself creatively through music, art, photography, etc.
8. What meaning can I draw from these challenges? Do I need to reconnect with my purpose?
During my longest and deepest bout of depression, I had a major wake up call. I wanted to impact the world, but I realized I needed to make some big changes for that to happen.
I found my purpose with The One Project. Through building this creative process and using photography as a therapeutic tool, I’ve been able to better understand my own mental health and help others as well. The messages of thanks I’ve received over the years have helped me to stay focused on my health and purpose in life.
9. What else can I try as a tool or resource?
Whether it’s a support group, app, online community, or mental health professional, there are plenty of tools out there to help you get through hard days. If one resource doesn’t work for you, try another. Keep track of how you’re feeling when you test out different tools so that you know what is helping you and what isn’t.
Well, there you have it. Congrats on making it down the list! I hope these questions have helped you as much as much as they have helped me over the years. Don’t be afraid to revisit them — and your answers — on a consistent basis.
UK/MED/20/0082 March 2020