I’ve dealt with severe depression all of my life, as well as PTSD stemming from being raised in an abusive single-parent household as an only child. I’d experienced just about every kind of abuse from a young age well into adulthood, and it’s negatively impacted my psyche.
Once I left that environment, I found that because I was unaware of my own mental states, I had been retraumatizing myself through repeating patterns of the abuse I’d faced, through unhealthy relationships and friendships, and even jobs - until I decided to seek professional help, many years later. I’m still on the mend, as you don’t undo a lifetime of trauma in months, but I’ve become more aware of my needs, in terms of mental health and self-care.
Of course, everybody will have different needs. Personally, I don’t think there is a substitute for professional therapy, although I know not everyone is comfortable or has access to it. But there's still other ways to deal.
These are some things that help me when the depression hits.
1. Assessing my thoughts and feelings.
If my internal monologue is negative and I’m realizing it’s headed towards a downward spiral, I question the thoughts to stop it in its tracks. Is what I’m feeling based in reality, or is it just the trauma talking? If it is indeed based in reality, I try to think of how I can solve that problem. If it’s the trauma talking, and more often than not, it is, I remind myself that that’s what it is. And then I allow myself to feel sad, low, etc. so I can move on from it. And if I’m not in immediate danger or anything, I make sure to assure myself that I’m safe, things are okay; I’m just sad, and that’s perfectly fine.
Externalizing my thoughts and feelings is very important to me. I’m a musician and songwriting has usually been my tool to do so, and it’s very cathartic. But also, having very close friends with whom I feel safe to be vulnerable, and being able to be honest with them about how I feel and where I’m at, has helped me just as much. I make sure I’m aware of what I need from them and communicate that as much as possible: like, I’m not looking to be helped or fixed, or cheered up; I need the company and to talk.
This is another big one for me. I usually find a movie or music or a book that helps me feel better. For some people, happy movies or music helps. For me, finding things that are more in line with how I’m feeling helps the most. It relates to me, it understands where I’m at, and feels like a hug. I’m careful to choose sad movies, music, or books that heal me, rather than those that pick at the wounds. The latter can be harmful, as it encourages wallowing rather than letting you work through your emotions. Horror movies are great for me; there’s actually a study about how people find catharsis through horror because they can experience fear in a safe way, and see that fear come to an end. Then on less intense days, sitcoms also help me, because they’re sitcoms. Golden Girls, Full House, etc. I actually find comfort in live audience laugh tracks, helps me feel a little less alone.
I’ve been in a very dark place in recent months due to some rough things that partially involve the aforementioned trauma. I haven’t felt very much like myself, and I’ve been feeling too weak most of the time to try to process my feelings and thoughts as I usually do. During times like these, I find distraction helps me a lot. Getting lost in video games helps, particularly immersive games and open-world games where I can get lost in another life for a little while.
Touch is a big thing for me, and I hug my pillows when I feel alone or lonely. Being under a blanket helps, as well. I would much rather be hugging friends and animals, though.
6. Going outside.
I used to like just going around my city and take walks, people watch, and see the sights. I haven’t gotten out much since the pandemic, and going out right now isn’t particularly helpful for me. But in general, it does help lift my mood to change my environment and take in some sun and fresh air.
When I’d be at my darkest before I could afford therapy, I would call a mental health support hotline to talk through what happened or what I’m dealing with. There’s a limit to what the people who work at the hotlines can say to you, but they have helped me, at least in the beginning.
Though, like I said, everyone’s needs are different and it’s ultimately important to find things that are helpful for you. Read Less