The isolation of battling depression is a major hindrance to recovery, loneliness and depression are best mates.
When I feel myself tumbling into a depressive phase the last thing I do is call my friends or family about it. Almost subconsciously I nestle in and I go full throttle speeding into hibernation mode. I stop making plans and confine myself to the duvet tent. I order greasy takeaways and play endless games on my phone, I watch an entire season of Orange is the New Black on every hermits Holy Grail – Netflix. I then trawl through Facebook to make sure no one is having too much fun without me (but of course, they are.) This in turn triggers loads more negative thinking, leading to another sizzling hot American (pizza) and a serious marathon session of ‘World Chef’ on my new best friend of an iPhone. I become ensconced in an unhealthy and insular grease laden bubble of misery.
I spent much of the last two weeks hibernating and this is after a full recovery from ‘The Episode’ aka my emotional breakdown last year. Which proves that this illness can rear it’s grim head at any point. Even though I am fully aware that cutting myself off is the worst thing I can possibly do, the feeling that I have nothing to add to any conversation and physically don’t have the energy to put my eyeliner on straight in order to meet people in a social setting where normal humans dwell, is far stronger.
I’m telling you all of this because I can now feel myself coming out of this little bleak place, and the two key reasons?
- Self Care
- Social Inclusion
Basic self care goes out of the window when you’re depressed. You might start smoking because the nicotine rush takes you momentarily out of the hole. You might not shave your legs for weeks (when you’re a person who normally does.) You’ve run out of all the fucks to give about body moisturiser, but worst of all, you beat yourself up about all of this until your innards are black and blue and you feel all of the guilts. Sorry to be a cliche, but it’s just a ma-hoo-sive vicious circle. BUT, you can find your way out. This week I did it by:
- Running myself a hot deep bubble bath with the expensive shit I got for Christmas that I’ve been saving for a ‘special occasion.’
- Painting my nails
- Going to the London Buddhist Centre for my favourite yoga and meditation classes.
What I found was (and I always knew this really, I just chose to forget it) that small positive steps lead to many more. Good activity breeds good activity, just like bad breeds bad. Before long I started feeling human again and I got my confident walk back. (Instead of looking like Tigger.)
Social inclusion is a term I’ve only recently started using. I’ve often felt better when I’ve had a purpose and when I’ve mixed with people for that purpose (aka work) but I didn’t realise it was ‘a thing.’ Now I know that it is THE most crucial part of a persons recovery from depression. To feel like you are part of something and that you are needed boosts your self worth, which is why it’s a tricky thing to be off work on sick leave. It might feel like a relief at first and although my sick leave was indispensable in giving me the space to see clearly and have a new direction I also felt isolated and ashamed. That’s why getting involved in ‘stuff’ and keeping busy to me is so important. Every Friday I can be found digging and weeding and laughing at dogs in Battersea Park. I am a Volunteer Garden Assistant and I support other people living with mental ill-health for the brilliant charity – Thrive. By doing this I have developed confidence in the fact that I am a valued member of society and now I’m very much back on the job hunt AND I’ve applied to go back to Uni. I honestly believe that if I hadn’t started volunteering it would have taken me an awful lot longer to get where I am now, or even to develop the confidence to work out what I want to do next with my life.
If you notice a friend has gone off the radar, they may be on holiday, or having too much fun with their new boyfriend. But maybe, just maybe, they’re suffocating under a duvet tent and getting a repetitive strain industry from Candy Crush. Give them a text, eh? (Because they probably won’t answer the phone.)