What can we do when the blues take hold of us? How can we function in daily life? And can we really beat them? Are the blues more likely to be depression? This has been my story over the past month or so. Read on..
What causes the blues?
I’m not sure what caused this latest round of ‘the blues’. There have been a multitude of ‘challenges’ going on in my life. To many of us it can seem like we experience lots of challenges over a short space of time and we feel unable to cope. For example, I can remember back to 2008. My sister was undergoing heart bypass surgery, my mother in law died suddenly, my husband contracted shingles and then pericarditis (inflammation around the heart), my dog was attacked by another dog, my other sister was seriously ill with undiagnosed conditions which left her in hospital for weeks on end, my mother died after a few years of steady decline caused by Alzheimers, and I was struck by mystery ill-health (later diagnosed as M.E. (chronic fatigue syndrome), leaving me unable to work since. And they say God / the Universe never gives you more than you can cope with!!
Blues or depression?
Back in 2008, I became unable to function in daily life. I found myself taking laundry to the bedroom to put away in the wardrobes only to find myself still sitting on the floor 45 minutes later staring at the same piece of wall. This was no ordinary case of the blues because I wasn’t feeling anything. That for me has been the distinguishing feature between low mood and depression. With low mood I can plummet, run the gamut of negative emotions, cry and then after a few days have past I find that I’m over the worst.
With depression (and I speak as a non-expert here and solely from my personal experience), there’s a nothingness to feeling. You don’t care about anything (in most extreme cases, even your life); you don’t feel anything about anyone. It’s a dark, horrible place to find yourself in, and you MUST SEEK HELP if you find you have fallen down this dark well of depression. It won’t get better by itself. If you seek help, you have many options from CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy, or “talking therapy”) to anti-depressant drugs, to nature ‘prescriptions’ and many more. Here are 10 key signs of depression to look out for which I researched from the informative psychcentral.com. The key seems to be for these symptoms to have persisted for more than 2 weeks.
10 Signs of Depression
Here are ten common signs of clinical depression:
- Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
- Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
- Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities that were once enjoyed, including sex
- Decreased energy, fatigue, or feeling “slowed down”
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
- Insomnia, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
- Appetite and/or weight loss or overeating and weight gain
- Thoughts of death or suicide or actual suicide attempts
- Restlessness or irritability
For my latest bout of depression over the past month or so, I could feel an ever-increasing melancholy growing within me. I could see decay all around me in fallen leaves, denuded trees, one of my dogs dying, the other becoming unwell, dwindling sunlight with the shortening days. I became entrenched in the sadness of it all, in the sadness of the terrible events happening all around the world. But I recognised depression’s gnarly symptoms and knew how I could help myself.
Self-help for regular slumps:
Firstly, I take lots of nature ‘prescriptions’. I force myself to get out for walks with my dog. I persuade myself to spend as much time as possible outdoors, tidying up leaves in the garden, pruning back trees and shrubs, doing some light exercises if it’s warmish. The sun’s rays are really beneficial for my physical and mental wellbeing. I literally feel warm, loved.
Distraction is a useful strategy, since by focusing on something or someone else, other than me and my woes, can be transformative. It doesn’t have to be gardening; it’s whatever you can find to hand for crisis moments to distract yourself – a meditation app for instance; that section of skirting (base) board that needs painting, etc. I find baking particularly useful as it involves following a set of instructions. It’s a creative yet logical activity, using both sides of the brain. Not only that but it involves reward – not just for yourself, but you can also share the results with others. Seeing their enjoyment makes you happy.
I need to give a shout out here to the wonderful Meditation Oasis Podcast. I’ve listened to, and found great comfort from, these beautiful guided meditations by Mary and Richard Maddox. You can download an app onto your phone or tablet too. There are meditations of various lengths to support you in times of struggle. Mary’s voice is so soothing and the music provided by Richard is wonderful. (I’m not affiliated in any way with this site. They simply provide such an amazing service that they deserve praise and thanks!)
Faith and Prayer
My other recommendation for helping you through periods of the blues, or even more severe depression, is faith and prayer. I’ve come to this late in life but am finding my growing belief and trust in God to be extremely helpful and soothing. I go to my meditation room. I pray for strength to endure this challenge (or mini test as I see it). I hand over my pain to God, and I pray for others who are suffering.
A sense of perspective also helps. When my ego is strong and has dragged me down into the depths of self-pity, I find the strength to bring to mind the suffering of so many around the world who are in much greater agonies than I. People who have no home due to war or natural disasters; those who have lost limbs and mental equilibrity in the fields of conflict; those who are starving. It is a very long list and it doesn’t do to focus on all this sadness for too long lest melancholy assail you, as it did me over the past couple of months. However, in times of crisis, a sense of perspective is definitely helpful. We all know that phrase, “There’s always someone worse off than yourself.”
I hope this post may help you or someone you know to cope with the blues or depression. But remember, do not hesitate to seek professional advice if you recognise some of the signs in the above list. Love yourself. Get help. Keep well. Be happy. Much much love, Anita.🙋♀️😘