As we face a global pandemic, an imminent winter, and the jarring realisation that Jacinda Ardern will never be our prime minister (😢) it can be hard to figure out which of our emotions are circumstantial, and which are symptoms of something more concerning.
Every year, around 6% of adult Australians are affected by a depressive illness. That’s about 150,000 Australians currently working through symptoms like changes in sleep or appetite, feeling sad and/or hopeless more often than not, feeling guilt or worthlessness, or losing pleasure in activities that are usually enjoyable.
For some people, shifting this depression can be really hard work – and relapses can happen. Sometimes, finding the right medication or mental health professional can take time. If you’re in this boat, we want to reiterate that you’re not alone. We have an entire community of people supporting one another on the SANE Forums. Pour yourself a cup of joseph and crack open a pack of Tim Tams, because we’ve crafted up some insights to add to your mental health tool-box.
1. Hire the right personal trainer for your brain
Everyone has different advice – mindfulness, mandalas, adult colouring books, exercise, medication… Everyone has a different view of what keeps the ‘black dog’ calm.
It’s important that your treatment options for depression work for you. Everyone is different – we all find success in minimising symptoms through so many different means. There are almost 100 modalities of psychotherapy that can help in your recovery: CBT, DBT, solution-focused, person-centred, gestalt or existential therapy, to name a few. Many counsellors are trained in different forms of therapy and specialise in different areas of interest. Have a confidential chat to one of the counsellors in our SANE Help Centre for more info on the types of support available to you.
In addition to therapy, many people have found success through nutrition and exercise, yoga, tai chi, meditation, sport, or medication recommended by a health professional. If you feel your current treatment plan is not right for you, reach out to a trusted GP to explore other avenues or potential medications that may support your recovery.
2. It takes two to tango
It’s common for both anxiety and depression to dance with one another, when we’d rather they just both lie down and take a nap. Let’s call anxiety ‘Anita’ and depression ‘Derek’. Derek and Anita have a lot in common. And they have a real knack for disrupting your plans. Anita tends to antagonise Derek. Sometimes that’s good for him, because it motivates him to do things and gives him a spark of energy. Vice versa, Derek can occasionally bum out Anita, antagonising her to cause further emotional chaos. If the two of them hang out too often, you may want to take them to couple’s counselling to get them collaborating a little more harmoniously.
The reality is, we can all feel some symptoms of depression and anxiety sometimes. This is not always a bad thing. Sometimes, it’s about harnessing the symptoms of each and channelling them into our lives in a positive way. Our SANE Factsheets have stacks of info on different ways you can strategise and manage your symptoms.
3. In the thick of it
Managing a depressive episode (when your mood might be particularly low for a period of time) can be one of the hardest parts of living with complex mental health issues. It can feel like you’ll never be able to claw your way out of it.
Sometimes, we need to employ different strategies to help get us through heavier days. Whether your usual coping strategies are working or not, remember that emotions and feelings change all the time. Try to honour where you’re at in the moment, and remember that the emotion you’re feeling is not permanent. Time can change everything, and it’s important to get support while you’re riding out the tough times. Know that your mood will change, and the support will get you through.
4. Do these genes fit?
“Is depression genetic?” It’s a common question – and one that can send you down a Google rabbit hole. It's true that some people who have a first-degree relative (like a parent or sibling) with depression are two to three times more likely to develop the symptoms.
On the other hand, many people who develop depression don’t have a family history of the disorder, and many people with an affected relative never develop it. The best place to explore this is with a trusted health practitioner, such as a counsellor, psychologist or GP.
It’s important to remember that no matter the cause, there are so many options for recovery. With curiosity, resilience and support, we can overcome many of the challenges relating to severe depression.
Let’s continue this conversation in the comments below. What's been your experience of depression? What advice would you give others struggling with depression or complex mental health?
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