Throwing the book at depression

About five years ago my doctor told me I had depression.

On hindsight, the symptoms painted a pretty obvious picture. My head hurt every day. I’d been stressed out for months and was permanently tense and irritable. I was susceptible to every minor illness that was doing the rounds. I had no energy or enthusiasm, and had trouble sleeping. I couldn’t look forward to anything – instead, everything made me anxious and worried. My confidence and self-esteem seeped away, as did my memory.

From there came the antidepressants, the counselling and the realisation that many, many other people go through this same thing. I’ve learned a lot from depression, and have become wise to its tricks and traps. Recovery isn’t about being miraculously cured and leaping with joy every moment of every day. It’s about feeling better, staying well and finding ways to cope if I feel depression’s malevolent presence  – and, ideally, heading it off before it manages to get a hold.

All kinds of things can help in some small way, but one thing I’ve stuck with ever since my first round of counselling is my book. You could call it a ‘positivity diary’ if you like. To me it’s just ‘my book’. It’s a notebook that I write positive things in every day (or most days – the odd one gets missed out and I don’t berate myself for that, otherwise my perfectionist gremlins might come out and bash me over the head).

I use the book to keep a record of good things that happen to me – things I’ve enjoyed, kind words people have said to me or about me, small successes… When I started it, I believed I wasn’t good enough and was finding little pleasure in anything. The idea of the book was to tackle those two perspectives one day at a time.

If you can find something positive in each day, however small, it starts a positive cycle. It gradually builds up so that you’re encouraged and reminded to keep looking – and when times are particularly hard, the stuff you’ve written down is your evidence against the accusing voice telling you you’re not good enough and that nothing good ever happens. It also helps you to appreciate and savour good things as they’re happening to you. It can be incredibly easy to forget them all. Even if writing in the book doesn’t seem to make any difference at the time, it might be just what you need some time in the future.

Remembering to read the diary from time to time is an important part of making it work for you. I was feeling a bit battered and low on confidence recently so decided to read through my diaries, right from the very start (not all in one go – there are five full books to get through).

I’m finding it a genuinely uplifting and humbling experience, reliving forgotten moments and recalling achievements and happy times, whether I was on great form at the time or just trying to find a gap in the clouds.

I used to also keep a record of things I’d found difficult or stressful, to try and learn from them, and I wrote those down in the back of my books. It’s been interesting to look back on those too, but they can also take me back to things I don’t want to remember. Writing them down served a purpose at the time, but I’m glad I stopped doing so. I’ve learned just as much by refreshing my memory about good things I’ve done.

My first diary pre-dated my first foray into blogging, so I’ve also been following the history of Dippyman from its origins to the present day. If you’ve ever read, liked, shared or commented on one of my blog posts, thank you – you’ve played a part in my book and, in turn, in my recovery.

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8 Comments on “Throwing the book at depression”

  1. Amy Viets says:

    I’m glad your book has been so helpful for you. My friend/neighbor/co-author and I suggest the same thing for people who live with / are in a close relationshipo with a depressed person, as well. It can be just about impossible to remember that there are positives to be found in life when you live in close quarters with depression.

  2. […] Throwing the book at depression → […]

  3. […] going walking and birdwatching, watching terrible-quality disaster movies, drawing, writing in my diary and trying to keep up with some meditation to help me relax and live in the […]

  4. […] a bit grating but one thing I’ve done consistently since I had counselling is to keep a daily diary of positive things. It could be something kind someone has said, or something I’ve enjoyed doing. […]

  5. […] do have plenty of imaginary arguments and inner rants. I annoy myself all the time. I grapple with my demons more often than I ever let on, but I know those demons and their games, and I give them a good […]

  6. […] taken my own advice at times. I’ve stuck with my diary of positive things, and made sure I plan things to look forward to – like my trip out to sea (pictures below), […]

  7. […] lot from depression and arm myself with a set of coping strategies that include talking, writing a daily diary of positive things, getting outside and enjoying nature, and creating time to do the things I like doing – not just […]


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