Tis the season… for depressive states. More and more we hear about seasonal affective disorder (SAD) where people are affected by the seasons, particularly the darker ones. Something that is helpful to understand is that there is a difference between a depressive state (SAD), depression, and grief. For instance, I know every fall I’m going to go through a period where my energy is low and I generally feel blah. This isn’t depression, however; it’s my annual depressive state coming out. My body hates the growing darkness and cold and it responds to it by feeling miserable, and questioning the point of life. It’s like I have an overly negative philosophy class in my head: (philosophy teacher) “What is the point of life?” (students) “Nothing; it’s all meaningless.” (philosophy teacher) “Excellent… or stupid; who cares it doesn’t matter anyway.” Some people find trips down south help break this depressive time up, but this makes it worse for me since I’ll feel guilty for not enjoying the trip as much as I normally would and then I’ll have a serious crash after; see how good I am at seeing the negative at this time? Fortunately, I know there will be a couple months reprieve as the Christmas season starts and the lights shine bright at night and there’s a general hustle and bustle feeling that I find invigorating… and then it’s January and February, the dark months; crap. My body just doesn’t like the dark mornings and early evening darkness. This isn’t depression; it’s a depressive state. Many people go through a tough period and they call it depression, but it’s not. Other people suffer a severe loss like a death or divorce and they think they have depression when it’s grief. So what are the differences?
Depression: This is a time when hope and joy are gone, and you feel broken. Some people mask this by being a workaholic and being constantly on the go because they’re afraid of feeling what’s really going on inside, but most people with depression have a hard time getting out of bed and facing the world. This state is usually connected to pervasive negative thinking and self attacking like calling ourselves stupid.
Depressive State: This looks and feels like depression except it’s brought on by certain times of the year. I know one person who becomes suicidal around the time the clocks change. The season and time change just affects her in a powerfully negative way. Unlike depression, a depressive state has a timeline unless we don’t handle it properly and then it can easily become full blown depression.
Grief: Grief looks a lot like depression, but grief is brought on by a major life change like a death, loss of a job, having something precious taken from us like a dream, or losing a relationship. During these tough times you’re supposed to feel pain because your life is being completely overhauled. Similar to a depressive state, grief can become depression, but grief can last a long time. I know for a major loss, most people can expect they need to get through a year with all the holidays and special occasions before they start to feel right after a major loss. In divorce, that year can start after the break up and possibly restart after signing the papers to finalize it.
All three of these periods in our life require the same basic remedies: healthy routines, avoid major life decisions (especially tattoos) and possibly try a medication to numb the emotional pain. When I write we need ‘healthy routines’ what I mean is when we’re at our best we need to be getting ourselves used to healthy habits that we continue even in the worst of times. This is the best thing for me for when I hit my depressive state every October. I just need to keep doing what I know is right, and that will help get me through to the other side limiting the chances of facing actual depression. Healthy routines should include:
- Exercise, proper sleep, and healthy eating (maybe a few helpful vitamins)
- A solid bedtime & wake up routine with possibly a thankful journal and positive reading
- Watching or reading things that build us up and don’t bring us down.
- Pet and/or child therapy (Their positive energy can be very helpful)
- Proper alone and social time
- Constant acknowledgement of our small and big accomplishments
- Connecting with a mix of happy and hurting people
- Proper venting of feelings and not bottling things up or attacking people (attacking others just adds guilt)
- Distraction and forcing ourselves to get up and do things we don’t necessarily want to do even though we know we should
- Putting ourselves in places we can hopefully laugh and connect with people we can hug
Sometimes with depression, the best way to get out of it is to hit rock bottom and have survival mode kick in where we stop thinking about what we feel and just do things to survive. Thus, if you love someone struggling with depression, coddling typically allows the person to continue in this unfortunate state. Ultimately, the cure to depression is asking yourself ‘what don’t I want to do?’ because that’s most likely the very thing we need to be doing.
This week may you greet people warmly to give them a better day because who knows what they’re facing.
Rev Chad David, ChadDavid.ca, learning to love dumb people