How can I stop the cycle of depression?

Depression is debilitating and overwhelming for many people, and when you are in the middle of it there does not seem like there is anything you can do. There are, however, a wide variety of strategies that others have found helpful.

Dear counsellor,

I am looking for some suggestions and help. I struggle with depression. I have struggled with it for years and I have sought help for it in the past.

I have been on medications for a long time and they generally help but there are times when I can feel a bout of depression coming on and I feel powerless to stop it. I lose my energy, I stay up late because I cannot fall asleep and then I sleep in and cannot get myself up and out the door.

I mope around, isolate myself and fall into a deep funk. During these times I continue to take my medications, even though they do not seem to be doing anything for me. I hate this cycle and I want it to stop. Any thoughts?

Thank you for your letter. The pattern you describe is one that will be familiar to many people.

It is debilitating and overwhelming for many people and when you are in the middle of it there does not seem like there is anything you can do. There are, however, a wide variety of strategies that others have found helpful.

The challenge is that not all strategies work all of the time nor do all strategies work the same for all people. The trick is finding some strategies that work for you in your circumstances and then remembering to use them during those times when it feels like there is no use or help for the situation you find yourself in.

The first thing you do need to do is to visit with your doctor and discuss the patterns and cycles of depression you experience. It is important for you and your doctor to regularly assess the effectiveness of your prescription and to make sure that there are not any other medical causes for these patterns and feelings.

It is important to make sure you are on the right medications at an effective dose given your circumstances and your physician is the best person to determine this in consultation with you.

Sometimes when you’re feeling that way, the last thing you want to do is go to another appointment. However, it is crucial that you go so that your doctor can assess what is happening and make any necessary adjustments.

Yet as you may already be aware, even when medical causes and issues are addressed it is possible that these feelings will come and go at times.

This is a common feature of depression and these symptoms can be quite overwhelming when they occur. It is important to remember, however, that these symptoms are also one of the ways that depression conspires to keep us stuck and maintain its hold on us.

Depression by its very nature requires inactivity and disengagement to exist. Without these features, depression’s hold is much weaker and we are more easily able to resists its advances.

The challenge is in finding the strength and internal resources to resist these features of depression during a time when it is the last thing we feel like doing.

Thankfully, there is a difference between what we feel we are able to do and what we can actually do much of the time. So, even when we feel powerless against the depression we are usually not.

It is hard but is important that you do not allow depression to get you to change the things you do when you are feeling good.

Many people stop socializing and going out with family or friends or they stop do things that they enjoy when they are depressed because they do not feel like going out or being with others. This often only makes them feel worse.

It is important to notice how your routines change as you slide into a depression and to work at finding ways to resist these changes even though you may not feel like it. You may not avoid falling into your “funk” at first. However, you will like spend less time in it if you are successful at resisting the invitations to mope around and isolate yourself during these moments.

Other strategies that increase engagement and activity in resistance to depression’s inactivity and disengagement are also helpful. Things like regular exercise, sticking to regular routines around sleeping and eating, maintaining social contacts and getting involved in a regular activity you enjoy can also help.

However, it is important that you do this in a way that works for you and to remember that there is no single solution that will work for everyone. Sometimes it takes a little while to find a combination of things that will work best for you.

Most of all try not to get discouraged. If you continue to feel stuck, reach out to others who may be able to help you.

Family and friends are sometimes great sources of support and encouragement and other times you may need to seek some professional support and advice. Again, talking with the doctor who is treating your depression may helpful in determining this when you are feeling most stuck.

If you would like to ask a question of the counsellors, for a response in future columns, e-mail them at askpacific@shaw.ca; or fax the Record at 250-338-5568 or write to them c/o the Record. Consult a Counsellor is provided by the registered clinical counsellors at Pacific Therapy & Consulting: Nancy Bock, Diane Davies, Leslie Wells, Andrew Lochhead and Karen Turner. It appears every second Friday.

 

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