Tag Archives: top ten list

Top Ten Principles for Depression Recovery

“Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day.” — Henri Nouwen

For depression levels: All

These Principles form a strong foundation for health and everyday happiness.

There’s been one positive, unintended side effect of having recurrent debilitating depression over the last several years: It’s given me time to think. In between depressive episodes, I have pondered what it really takes to get well and be well on an ongoing basis.

I came up with 10 foundational Principles that have helped me to keep moving in the direction of wellness. I can’t say as I’ve mastered them all; far from it. As I’ve mentioned before, having depression and choosing to undertake the journey to recovery is an ongoing hero’s journey (see Hitting the Trail–Part 3). However, keeping these Principles in mind helps me to bridge the gaps between despair and hope, passivity and activity, and disempowerment and empowerment. More importantly, practicing these Principles makes the essential difference between remaining ill with depression and recovering from it fully.

As an example, here’s Principle #5: “I am not a victim. Even though depression has taken away my motivation, there are still some things I can do to help myself. Therefore, I do one thing right now to feel better.” One of the ways I live this Principle is by belonging to a wellness center operated by the local hospital. The monthly, no-contract fee is very reasonable; it’s near my house; and I can go to as many yoga, water aerobics, and studio classes as I want. Because the classes are on a regular schedule, and because the instructors and other members know me and remark if I don’t show up, it’s relatively easy for me to grab my gear and just go. I seldom actually feel like going, but I know I will feel so much better afterward; conversely, I know I am inviting depression if I don’t exercise.

The Principles

1.     I am not my depression. Depression is an illness I experience. Therefore, I quit saying, “I’m depressed,” and look for ways to treat the illness.

2.     No matter what diagnosis I received, it is not definitive. Remission and even complete healing are possible. Therefore, I choose to believe that I can become completely well and go on to live a rewarding life.

3.     My feelings are not facts. They are real only if I let them be. Therefore, I make choices based on what I know and not on what I feel.

4.     I am not alone. It may feel that way most of the time, but there are lots of people who are willing and able to help me. Therefore, I reach out for support daily.

5.     I am not a victim. Even though depression has taken away my motivation, there are still some things I can do to help myself. Therefore, I do one thing right now to feel better.

6.     I am not my past. While understanding how past experiences contributed to my depression can be useful, ultimately, this will not heal me. Therefore, I forgive the past to the best of my ability, see the good in my present, and project hope into the future.

7.     I am responsible for improving my state of health and state of mind. No one can heal me, rescue me, or make my life better but me. Therefore, I stop waiting and start acting.

8.     The Universe is on my side, even though it might not seem like it. The more aware I become of Divine forces working on my behalf and call upon them to help me, the more they will do so. Therefore, I develop a simple daily practice of prayer and meditation.

9.     Although depression affects every aspect of my life, it isn’t personal. Life isn’t out to get me. Therefore, I choose to stop feeling persecuted and start looking for the deeper meaning of my illness.

10.  My experience of depression is unique to me. Although friends, loved ones, and colleagues care about me, they will never “get it.” Therefore, I stop demanding that others understand me and make specific, practical requests for help instead.

Working with these Principles invites beauty, order, and wellness into your life.

Working with the Principles

Rather than seeing these Principles for depression recovery as “to-do’s” or “shoulds” that you have to memorize and act on immediately, I invite you to simply write down in your journal or on a scrap of paper that you post in a visible location the Principle that speaks to you the most right now. Just read it aloud a couple of times a day and ponder the possibilities that Principle could open up for you.

Say to yourself, “If this were true, I could… .” Or, “If this were true, it might mean… .” Do some journaling in response to these springboards. Discuss the Principle with a friend or therapist. Introduce it at a support group meeting. See what opens up! You may find that you are inspired to take certain actions. Write down these inspirations so can keep track of them; select one to follow through on, asking for help from your support team if you need it.

When you feel that you’ve got this one embedded in your consciousness, pick another one and go through the same process. You might wish to rotate the Principles once a month, coming back to the first one you selected in the rotation after 10 months. Each Principle informs all the others, and you’ll be able to look at the older ones with fresh eyes and a heightened consciousness.

Share Your Experiences

I invite you to share your experiences in working with these Principles by leaving a comment below. I hope they make as much difference for you as they have for me.

(c) 2011 by Patricia R. Henschen, M.A.

1 Comment

Filed under Finding Your Way Home, Principles, Top Ten Lists

Top Ten Remedies for Depression Emergencies — Part 2

“The mind is its own place, and in itself, can make a heaven of Hell, and a hell of Heaven.” — by John Milton

Where there is life, there is hope.

For depression level(s):  Severe.

Before continuing with the last five of my top ten remedies for depression emergencies (for the first five, see Top Ten Remedies for Depression Emergencies — Part 1), I want to focus on what you should not do if you are experiencing a depression emergency. The emotional pain of severe depression can be acute, making us want to do anything to make it stop. However, any self-destructive or acting-out behavior might alleviate that pain for all of five minutes, after which you will feel much worse. I have been there, more times than I can count. Trust me, it doesn’t help.

Here’s what doesn‘t work:

  • Overeating;
  • Eating neurotoxic foods, such as wheat, refined sugar, artificial sweeteners, and processed foods;
  • Drinking and drugging;
  • Excessive smoking;
  • Spending sprees;
  • Isolating;
  • Cutting (self-mutilation);
  • Putting in motion plans to commit suicide.

If you are seriously contemplating suicide, call 911 or 1-800-273-TALK (8255). If you need to go to the hospital, ask a family member or friend to take you, or call 911 for an ambulance. You are too precious to take your own life. Don’t do it. The world needs your unique gifts and talents, and you deserve to get well and enjoy your life. It can happen, but only if you give yourself a chance.

With that said, here are the last five remedies for depression emergencies:

5.    Increase your dosage of Omega-3’s. If you’re currently taking 1000 mg. of fish oil, take 2000. If you’re currently taking 2000 mg., take 3000. If you aren’t currently taking any at all, get some high-quality, mercury-free fish oil as soon as you can and start with 1000 mg. A “normal” dose (for folks without depression) is 1000 mg.; a therapeutic dose starts at 3000 mg. As with any supplement, you are responsible for determining whether this is the right thing for you.

4.     Call your therapist. Try to get in to see her immediately for an emergency session. She can talk you out of the really scary place you’re in, give you some additional coping strategies, and determine whether you need to be admitted to a hospital on an inpatient basis.

3.     Go to a support group meeting. I recommend you go to a face-to-face 12-Step meeting. If you are not in 12-Step recovery, that’s okay; you can still attend an open meeting of almost any fellowship. The important thing is not that you share the outward manifestation of addiction, whether it be alcoholism, compulsive overeating, drug addiction, codependence, or what-have-you; but that you connect with people who have experienced many of the same struggles you have and who understand what it’s like to be in emotional pain. Their experience, strength, and hope can get you over this rough patch and help you to feel connected and empowered.

The following fellowships are the most likely to have open meetings in your area:

Your town may also have a depression support group. Chances are, however, that they don’t meet very often and may not meet soon enough to help you through your current depressive crisis. To find a depression support group near you, contact your local hospital; they frequently sponsor these groups. You can also go to the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance’s (DBSA’s) website.

2.     Get a massage or other bodywork and/or energy work. Getting some type of body work done, such as massage, craniosacral, or reflexology and/or some energy work, such as Reiki or Therapeutic Touch, will not only be healing for you but will also help you to feel connected and nurtured. To find a practitioner in any of these modalities (and many others) visit massagetherapy.com’s referral page.

You have the option to activate your very own spiritual "SWAT team."

1.     Call in the spiritual SWAT team. That’s right. It’s time to bring in the big guns. Connecting to your Higher Power accomplishes three things: a) It allows you to surrender and let go of your fear and anxiety and turn them over to something bigger than yourself, b) it helps you to feel supported and connected, and c) it activates spiritual healing forces on your behalf.

Here are just a few suggestions on how to activate your own spiritual “SWAT team”:

  • Ask a friend, loved one, or your spiritual community to activate a prayer chain on your behalf. Family members and friends of people with cancer and other serious illnesses do this all the time. You are just as sick and just as in need of the loving care of other people and of your Higher Power. This has the added benefit of allowing people to actively care for you instead of just wondering how they can help you.
  • Work the first three Steps of 12-Step recovery around your depression; discuss them with another person. You don’t even have to be in a 12-Step program to do this. The Steps go like this:
    Step 1: I admit I am powerless over depression; it is making my life unmanageable.
    Step 2: I believe that a power greater than myself can restore me to sanity.
    Step 3: I turn my will and my life over to the care of God as I understand God.
  • Call upon the Archangel Raphael and his team of healing angels. Ask them to surround you and send the healing white light of God’s presence and love into your brain to heal it. This technique can be especially powerful and effective if you ask some friends to join you in “seeing” the angels doing their healing work.

You do not have to suffer. Do what it takes to stabilize yourself at this time, and then start taking proactive steps to rescue yourself and live well in spite of having depression. Whoever you are, wherever you are, my prayers are with you.

(c) 2011 by Patricia R. Henschen, M.A.

Do you know anyone who is in a depressive crisis? If so, please share this with them! It may help.

2 Comments

Filed under Making Tracks, Survival Toolkit, Top Ten Lists

Top Ten Remedies for Depression Emergencies — Part 1

“A life of reaction is a life of slavery, intellectually and spiritually. One must fight for a life of action, not reaction.” — by Rita Mae Brown

We might not be as peaceful as this butterfly, but we have to at least try.

For depression level(s): Severe.

Unlike the ironically funny Top Ten list I wrote a few weeks ago, “Top Ten Things NOT to Do When You’re Depressed,” this article is as serious as, well — depression.

I wasn’t planning to write on this topic today. In fact, I was going to supply you with my original recipe for gluten-free pot roast, as a follow-on to last week’s “Eating Wheat Can Cause Depression.” (Check this blog over the next week or two; I’ll share the recipe soon.)

But the fact is, it’s hot here in central Texas. I don’t mean just fan-your-face warm. I mean searing. We’re in a drought here, folks: Ten inches of rain below the average for this year already, and a ten-inch deficit left over from last year. And we’re already in triple-digit temperatures. What does this have to do with depression, you ask?

Heat + Glaring sun + Drought + Being cooped inside + Isolation = Depression

People tend to think of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) as applying only to cold, rainy, cloudy climes in the wintertime, places like Seattle, Milwaukee, Helsinki, or London. But the fact is, SAD can occur in the summertime, too, due to too much of a good thing: Sun. The primary reason I moved away from southern Arizona was because I became increasingly suicidal with each summer that passed. The summers there are absolutely brutal. I moved here because I have family here; it never occurred to me that it could get as miserably hot and dry and glaring as it does in Arizona. BIG miscalculation.

So, yes, my depression has kicked up in a big way, and I am in a bad way. Fortunately, I have friends and family who love me and who are willing and able to be there for me when I need them. (God bless them, because for sure I’m not pleasant to be around when I get like this.) My mother suggested I write up the most important things a depressive can do to help herself when the depression gets really, really bad.

Since in helping others I tend to help myself, I’ve taken an imperfect stab at the top ten things in our survival toolkit. The first five (nos. 10-6) are listed below; the second five (nos. 5-1) can be found in a separate posting: Top Ten Remedies for Depression Emergencies — Part 2.

10.    Call someone. Immediately. Don’t wait. Better yet, call several someones and ask one of them to come over. Right now. This is not a good time for you to be alone. So what if you haven’t showered in two days and dirty dishes litter your kitchen counters. The folks who really love you won’t care. (Yes, there are people who love you, even if your depression brain says otherwise.)

You are not alone.

9.     Don’t listen to anything your depression brain says. It is lying. Anything your mind comes up with at this point is suspect; don’t give it any credence whatsoever. Just this morning, my mind told me that I am a complete loser, a waste of space on the planet, that I’m unloved and unwanted, and that I should never have been born. Instead, replace all that ugliness with a positive affirmation and keep saying it over and over again, like a mantra. One of my favorite ones is, “I’m lovable, worthy, wanted, and good enough just as I am.”

8.     Take a walk. Seriously. Put on your raggedy old t-shirt and shorts and ask a friend or family member to drag you outside. You have to get moving. Getting the oxygen and the endorphins flowing is imperative.

7.     Give your brain something else to do. Distract it by going to the movies, sitting at a cafe and reading, talking with a friend over lunch — anything so you don’t have to think. Ruinous rumination is to be avoided at all costs. See “When the Going Gets Tough…” for more distraction techniques.

6.     Do some EFT. Emotional Freedom Techniques, that is. This can bring your mind and body out of a state of emergency and give you the ability to make better choices. If you already know EFT, great; you’re in business. If not, at some point in the future when you’re feeling better, you can teach yourself how to do it by downloading the free manual from EFT Universe or by watching videos on YouTube. Right now, this is probably beyond you, so here’s something very simple you can do:

  • On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being “suicidal” and 1 being “barely noticeable,” note the intensity level of your depression.
  • With the middle and ring fingers of your right hand, tap on the “karate chop point” of your left hand (the bottom edge of your hand when your thumb is pointing up toward the ceiling).
  • As you tap, say to yourself, “Even though my depression is bad today, I deeply and completely love and accept myself anyway.” Do this several times.
  • Switch hands, so that now you are tapping on your right hand’s karate chop point with the middle and ring fingers of your left hand. Continue saying the affirmation.
  • Take note of your intensity level now. It should have gone down by several points.

Take good care of yourself. You’re worth it (as am I). Remember: This, too, shall pass.

(c) 2011 by Patricia R. Henschen, M.A.

Do you know anyone who is in a depressive crisis? If so, please share this with them! It may help.

Keep striving towards peace, one baby step at a time. You're worth it!

4 Comments

Filed under Making Tracks, Survival Toolkit, Top Ten Lists

Top Ten Things NOT To Do When You’re Depressed

Indulge in gallows (or guillotine) humor! It's good for you.

“Laughter rises out of tragedy, when you need it the most, and rewards you for your courage.” – Erma Bombeck

In the life of every person with chronic depression comes a time when you are so miserable, all you can do is laugh at yourself. This laughter is not a funny, light-hearted kind of laughter, like that of a delighted child opening her birthday presents (wouldn’t that be nice). It is more a gallows humor, a grim yet wry acknowledgment of how absurd our plight is and how powerless we are to rise above it in any given moment. Marie Antoinette must have felt just so on her way to the guillotine.

The paradox, however, is that in acknowledging our powerlessness by laughing about it, we can then begin to take constructive action on our own behalf; soon, we feel better. (This assumes your hands are not handcuffed behind your back.) In the name of feeling better, faster, here is an ironic list of the top ten things you should not do if you have depression:

#10:             Do NOT invite friends or relatives over for dinner. See, the thing about your friends and relatives is that they tend to expect little things like clean dishes, cooked food on the table, an absence of dirty-kitty litter odor, and a roll of toilet paper on the holder in the bathroom. A selfish lot, to be sure. On top of that, they may distract you from your ruinous ruminations and make you think of something besides your own misery. Having company over is to be avoided at all costs.

Stay out of the kitchen!

#9:               Do NOT go anywhere near the kitchen. Kitchens demand healthy sorts of behavior, such as thinking about nutrition, recipes, and grocery lists; taking food out of the fridge and cooking it; sitting down to enjoy a tasty meal; and—worst of all—cleaning up afterwards. Shudder. Piles of dirty dishes overflowing the sink and the cardboard relics of takeout dinners and UFOs (unidentified frozen objects) are familiar and therefore comforting. They are to be protected and savored.

#8:               Do NOT get out in the yard to plant flowers or take any walks. The fresh air, sunshine, chirping birds, and cute squirrels are irritating in the extreme and may well incite a desire to rent a paintball gun and take out any small creatures you encounter. As satisfying as yellow cardinals and blue squirrels might be, it’s better to resist the temptation and stay indoors. A side benefit of refraining from any outdoor excursions is that you remain lethargic and couch-bound, and thus within reach of the chips and salsa. Much more satisfying.

#7:               Do NOT take any supplements that may help ease your depression, especially fish oils with omega-3’s and St. John’s wort. I mean, can we really trust what the alternative health industry is saying about these things? After all, they’re not regulated by the FDA, and you know how above-board and diligent they are. Those fish—who knows where they’ve been? And St. John’s wort?? Do you truly want to ingest worts? Do you even know what they are? Better to keep your money out of the pockets of those mega-health companies and spend it on more chips and salsa.

An unmade bed is much more conducive to hiding from the world!

#6:               Do NOT make your bed. Ever. For starters, you’ll be spending most of the day and all of the night in it, so why bother? Secondly, it’s so much more uplifting to walk into your bedroom and see the mounded covers, wrinkled sheets, and punched-up pillows than it is to espy a smooth, characterless expanse. The shed hairs, dead skin cells, and nose boogers that cling to your sheets only enrich the time spent in bed. Finally, this will give you added incentive to leave the dirty laundry in its hamper as you’ll have nowhere to dump the clean clothes when it’s time to fold them. What a relief!

#5:               Do NOT change your sheets every week. Maybe not even once a month. This is a corollary to #6. You’ll be spending most of your time in bed, so why bother, etc. etc. As an added bonus, by not changing your sheets you are doing your part to save the planet. Less laundry means less water, gas, and electricity used; less toxic laundry detergent sent into the groundwater; and less wear-and-tear on the sheets themselves. You’ll need to buy fewer sets of sheets and, therefore, those polluting factories will lower their output. You’ll be a hero!

#4:               Do NOT talk to your friends—not on the phone and especially not in person. The reasons for this should be obvious. Your friends have this obnoxious habit of caring for you. They ask questions like, “How are you? No, how are you, really?” and “Did you eat today?” and “When’s the last time you showered?” As if it’s any of their business! They might try to tell a stupid joke just to make you laugh. And—horrors—they may invite you to join them in some fun activity. Ugh! Unplug the phone. Better yet, cancel your phone services altogether and take your phones to your town’s hazardous waste drop-off site.

#3:               Do NOT watch or read anything funny. It’s very important that your mind be freed up to focus on how crappy life is and what a terrible person you are. This is important work. There is far too much goodness and light in the world. It is imperative that you act as a counterbalance by remaining as depressed as you possibly can. After all, we’ve heard all our lives how important balance is to a well-rounded life. Keep up the good work!

Stay out of the office, too!

#2:               Do NOT do your job. Whether you work for someone else or for yourself, stop it. What were you thinking? By working, you achieve three undesirable results: a) You reduce the amount of time available for staying in bed and being miserable; b) you help people, thus adding to the amount of goodness and light in the world; and c) you bring in an income, which allows you to pay your bills and seek help for your depression, such as beer spas and bee sting therapy. Do yourself and the world a favor by joining the ranks of the unemployed.

#1:               Do NOT take a shower. Indulging in diligent hygiene habits might make you fit for company and inspire you to do something. Are you nuts?! Being proactive is the last thing you want to do. If you smelled better, you might actually begin to have some positive self-esteem. If you removed the grease from your hair and the grime from under your nails, you might feel compelled to participate in life. If you shaved in all the appropriate spots, you just might want to get close to somebody else. All of these behaviors will bring you out of your comfort zone, thus defeating the point of depression in the first place. Stay comfortable by remaining unwashed.

(c) 2011 by Patricia R. Henschen, M.A.

Many thanks to wellness coach Caitlyn V. Johnston for her inspirations for this article!

Note: Did this article tickle your funny bone? If so, tickle others’ funny bones by sharing it via Facebook, Twitter, or other social media outlets. You may also copy and paste the article into an email and share it with your friends and colleagues, provided: a) You copy the entire article, b) you include my copyright statement and this paragraph, and c) you include a link to this blog. Thanks! And keep laughing!

4 Comments

Filed under Humor, Top Ten Lists