Has my discouragement moved into depression? How to know.
An angry gray sky greeted me. Standing at the top of the flight of stairs which opened to the roof, the breeze mussed my hair and reminded me I was near the ocean. It also whispered that rain was coming.
It was a risk to hang my heaping basket of wet laundry, but I had no choice. I grabbed the heavy towels. Clip. Clip. Shirts attached next, then socks. Clip. Clip. In the midst of the up-and-down, picking-and-clipping repetition, I had lots of time to think.
I was sad. I'd been sad for a while. I rarely smiled or laughed. All of my actions felt laborious. A long season of disheartening events had fatigued my body. My emotions were all so numb now. My recent self-describing words were down, discouraged, and even depressed. I couldn’t bring myself to imagine tomorrow as it felt like darkness had enveloped me.
I asked myself if I felt like dying. No, I didn’t. But I didn’t feel like living either.
I carried my empty basket back inside and began down the stairs. Faint pling-plings started echoing in the stairwell which turned into full fledged raindrops. A storm.
One big wet mess.
"It figures," I thought. "I feel like one too.”
A longer or intense time of discouragement could lead to feelings of depression. Depression presents itself as sadness and a withdrawal from life, but could also have attributes of irritability or even aggression.
What does depression look like?
According to the American Psychiatric Association, a “major depressive episode” includes five or more of the following characteristics over a two-week period and represents a change from previous functioning (and must include either #1 or #2).
Look over this list and see if any of these qualities currently describe you.
A depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day, as indicated by a subjective report or observation made by others
Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the day, nearly every day
Significant weight loss—when not dieting—or weight gain, or a decrease or increase in appetite every day
Insomnia or hypersomnia nearly every day
Psychomotor agitation or retardation nearly every day
Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day
Feelings of worthlessness, or excessive or inappropriate guilt, nearly every day
Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, nearly every day
Recurrent thoughts of death
Do you see some of these characteristics in yourself? Even if you have only three or four of them, if your mood affects your ability to do regular tasks, please consider taking action.
*If you’re thinking of acting on plans to harm yourself, tell someone who cares about you immediately, call emergency services, or go to your nearest emergency room.
What can I do?
This might be a hard step. Depression is, by nature, an isolating activity. Often, we like to put on appearances and not worry anyone. But, it’s important that those closest to you know. They may have already noticed it in your non-verbals, sighs, and actions, but are nervous to ask.
Take the first step and tell a trusted person about an instance where you didn't feel like your normal self. Use a word picture to capture a little how you feel. Explain how your feelings affect your daily life. Invite someone in.
Try to maintain a healthy sleep routine.
Shut off any “blue light” items (phone, computer, TV) before bed so that your melatonin (a sleep-regulating hormone) won’t be depleted. Avoid caffeine late in the afternoon (a difficult one!). Try to not eat simple sugars (like sugary desserts, juices, and fruit) right before bed to avoid waking up due to blood sugar rising and falling. Your most regenerative sleep is between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m., so schedule accordingly. Try an essential oil like lavender to calm you before sleep.
There is extensive research showing that exercise is beneficial for depression. In fact, it’s been shown to be as effective as antidepressants. If you aren’t currently in an exercise program, start by walking outside in natural light. Walking 3-5 times a week for blocks of 30-45 minutes may significantly reduce depressive symptoms. Walking with someone may help even more. Always start slow and check with your physician first.
Begin hoping again.
Is there a way forward? How can you begin to see it and start hoping again? Hope is an expectation for a desired thing to happen. Look at the components of hope and brainstorm how you can take a step forward today.
What things used to make you smile? It might not sound like fun to go out for coffee or visit for tea or play football with friends, but these activities which used to give you life may uplift you more than you realize today.
Be careful about trying to comfort yourself in a destructive way.
Escaping by numbing the pain of depression isn’t a healthy solution. But, it could be tempting! Eating too much food, spending too much money, wasting too much time on social media are all excessive activities we think might soothe us, but will actually continue to numb. Avoid other activities like illicit sex or porn, alcohol, drugs, and gambling which might bring some temporary pleasure, but are destructive to healing. Be aware of your temptations when your mood is low.
Seek professional help if your symptoms of depression are disrupting you from fulfilling your responsibilities, or if you have strong or persisting thoughts of wanting life to be over or to harm yourself. Seek help if you've felt discouraged, even mildly, for a few weeks. It never hurts to talk it over with someone. See Beyond staff are ready to listen and walk with you through this. Set up a free consultation today. See Beyond offers counseling in person or online.
You don't have a choice whether it rains on your laundry. You do have a choice of moving toward a more hopeful future. See Beyond would love to help.