There are very few things as painful and exhausting in life than depression.
Its all-consuming, possessive nature can make it hard to escape and you often feel so alone and trapped inside your own head that you feel as if your only hope is to be locked-up inside a mental institute.
Depression can be a lifelong battle, or it can be something that creeps up in waves, affecting you only during the pitfalls of your life, making already horrendous situations almost suffocate you entirely.
I’ve compiled a hit list of things to try, for when it feels as if your quarter-life crisis might consume you. All of you. In one go. Forevermore.
1. Have a tray of candles
This sounds odd, but I have a cute wooden tray I bought from H&M that is crammed with different size vanilla candles. It moves around my flat depending on what I’m doing, and the first thing I do when I get home is to light the candles. There’s something about the smell and soft flicking light that totally soothes my soul. I can then move the tray from room to room depending on whether I’m having a long soak, cooking dinner, or just cuddling up in bed. Trying to relax my mind when it is having an invisible-to-everyone-else manic episode sometimes feels like the most difficult thing in the world.
2. A song
Everyone has at least one song, that for either every reason or no reason can get you out of bed even when nothing else can. For me it’s Clean Bandit’s Rather Be. I have no idea why, but it makes me instantly want to get up and tackle the world, rather than lie and sulk about all the things cruelly holding me back.
3. A diary
I used to keep a daily diary the entire way through secondary school, and now I just have a book that works as an on-off place to gather my thoughts. Sometimes I just have an urge to write without caring about spelling, or being interesting or forming real sentences, just words that pour from my head. Sometimes it’s when I’m happy and desperate to get my excitement and enthusiasm down on paper, but mostly it’s when I’m emotional and all-over-the-place and feel as though I have exhausted everyone else with my mindless drivel. It feels like an instant relief to rid myself of those ideas and concerns.
Some people clean their homes when they’re stressed or needing distraction from emotional pain – I like to clean myself. Bath or shower, exfoliate your skin, give your hair a deep condition, really make yourself feel fresh and new. Team your new, sparkling self with clean, cosy pyjamas. It’s obvious, but it just works.
5. Fresh duvet
Sometimes, in those moments of absolute despair, there is no energy to change your bed sheets, despite the instant relief comfort it brings. Put a blanket in the tumble dryer with fabric conditioner for the same intense cosiness with minimal effort. Wrap it tight. It’ll make you feel like a secure child, tightly-held in the best way possible.
It seems to help mental illness in the same way it treats physical illnesses, don’t ask why, just eat it, and keep your favourite flavours stocked in the cupboards in case of emergency.
7. Get fresh air
Leaving your house, even your bed, can feel like running a marathon when you’re at rock bottom, but it helps. You have two options here, you make plans, or you, well… don’t. Agree to meet a friend for a cup of tea, even if it’s just as a welcome to distraction from your own thoughts, or put on your trainers and take yourself and some music out onto the streets from some fresh air and gentle exercise. I’m constantly overwhelmed by how much it helps and how quickly I forget how much it helps EVERY SINGLE TIME.
8. Lose yourself
It’s easier said than done, but sometimes thinking about all the chaos trapped inside your own head makes it worse. I stick Harry Potter on always when I’m sad, always. It’s an escape from the real world that just makes me feel like I’m home. Hogwarts is home for me. That sounds lame and geeky, but finding a fantasy world in which to hide, if only for a short time, takes the sad and lonely edge off.
9. Take a day off
This is one of the hardest. I find it very difficult to take a day off work for ‘mental health reasons’. It feels embarrassing, a lie, dramatic, attention-seeking and unnecessary – but it’s none of those. You deserve it and you need it more than you probably needed that day off last year for that raging cold. Maybe it’s just a day to sleep and gather yourself, maybe it’s a day to get things done and put your head in a better place, heck, maybe it’s a few weeks off. When you need it, you need it and it’s OK to say so. You’d never tell someone with cancer to get over it and come into work, would you?
10. Read something nice about yourself
Save texts, screen grab tweets, keep links – essentially ensure you have all nice things ever said about you book marked somewhere in case of emergency. I once had a blog post go viral whilst in the midst of a mini breakdown, and despite the magical tweets rolling in, crammed with kind words, I couldn’t stop crying or hiding under my duvet. Sometimes it won’t be enough, but sometimes the instant pick-me-up will be enough to stop you sinking into the darkest of moods.
11. Have someone
This is by far the most important. Have at least one person who knows everything, knows your suffering. Give them a piece of paper with your favourite takeaway, your favourite film and a code word. So that they known when to drop everything to fix you. Have them come round, make you tea, order you food, put you in clean pyjamas, put your film on, and wrap you in blankets without having to say a word. Because stringing sentences and making decisions are not easy when you’re in the midst of psychological despair. The last thing you need to do is answer questions, make small talk or explain yourself. You need someone who just makes you feel safe.
Because when you feel safe and secure and calm and comforted, life seems less daunting, doesn’t it?