– by Wendy Morley, Publisher –
Please share. It’s good karma 🙂
My grandmother breaking her hip probably saved my life.
I was 17 years old. I’d just swallowed an entire container of antidepressants (I know, ironic), plus ibuprofen or aspirins or whatever we had in the house. My antidepressants had a list of foods and drinks I was not supposed to have with them, and I searched the kitchen in order to consume as many of them as I could. Alcohol was prohibited, and I broke into my parents’ liquor cabinet and consumed that too.
Just after I’d passed out, however, my mother came looking for me to help her, because my grandmother had fallen and broken her hip and needed help.
I forced myself out of bed and immediately went to the bathroom and threw up. We drove to my grandmother’s place and I threw up a couple of times more. We got my grandmother to the hospital and yup, I headed for the toilet. And that, I absolutely believe, saved my life.
I’d suffered from depression for most of my life. You might be thinking, you were 17! How long had you been suffering, a year? But I clearly remember contemplating suicide at the age of eight. Did it start younger than that? Maybe.
Depression was a constant in my life. It cast a grey pall over the sunniest of days, and a heavy bleak oppression over others. I had always felt different from the other kids. Always felt I had to hide myself inside and put a mask on to face the world. The small town I grew up in was confining, the acceptable personalities limited.
I’m not sure if people in my life knew this about me. People describe me as being a happy child, but by the age of 17 I’d been hospitalized twice for depression. (This isn’t surprising; part of depression is hiding it from the world.) I think it was the seeming futility that made me take what I thought would be the final step. I wanted to not feel this way; I just had no idea how to accomplish that.
As it turned out, my grandmother broke her hip.
I vomited numerous times and instead of dying, I lay for about three days in abject misery. It was agony. My mother did not know what was going on – she thought I had a bad flu and would periodically check on me to make sure I was ok and get me a glass of ginger ale. By the time I started to feel like I was coming out of the hell I’d put myself in, I knew one thing for sure: I had to figure out how not to be depressed anymore. I couldn’t possibly go on feeling depressed as I had, but I also couldn’t put myself through that horrible agony again should I fail. (As I write this I fully recognize how selfish it sounds in comparison to the pain I’d put my family through had I succeeded, but I will soon get to talking about how depression completely warps your sense of such things. I absolutely believed with all my heart that while my family would immediately be sad, they would soon come to understand how much better life was without me. )
So now, here I was, recovering from a massive drug overdose and realizing I needed desperately to figure this out, but how? And all of a sudden, it came to me. The theory has been refined slightly over the years, but I can say with a couple of reasonable exceptions (after marriage breakup and job loss, for example), I have lived a life since then not only not depressed, but my guess is consistently happier and more content than the average person.
I’m not claiming that this system will work for everyone. But it works for me and has for many, many years, and I believe if you are one of the many millions of people who secretly suffer with depression it might work for you too. I call this system: “Fighting the Nazis.”
Here is the basic idea. Your depression is the Nazis, and you are Europe. The Nazis want to take you over and have total control over you. They force their way in past your borders and you don’t want them there. You want to go on with your regular daily life, but you can’t. They are there.
Now you have two choices. You either give in, let the Nazis take over with their dangerous propaganda and ultimately lose everything, or you join the resistance and fight. Joining the resistance and fighting can be tough. It can even be scary. It can be easier to just give in to the Nazis and let them take over, but where will that get you? Fight the Nazis! You know they are evil and you do not want them controlling you!
Ok, so now you’re ready to fight the Nazis, but how? There are three actions you must take.
- You Must Take Part in Activities With Other People
Depression makes you not want to see other people. It makes you want to hide away in what you feel is the safety of your own environment. The trouble is, that environment is where the Nazis are strongest. Their propaganda machine is in full swing. They convince you that no one wants you. They make you think of everything wrong you’ve ever done, and they hold up a magnifying glass to it. They tell you you’re ugly and they tell you you’re too fat or too skinny or too unlovable or too different, or all of the above. Once they have extreme power, they will even convince you that the people in your life are better off without you, as they did with me. It’s really important for you to recognize that this is absolutely false. This is not you; it’s not reality; it is this evil empire that’s taken over your mind. Even now, if you’re depressed, they are arguing with me, aren’t they? You are hearing this voice in your head saying “but it’s true; I really am [fill in the blank] and people really are better off without me.” You absolutely must recognize that this is untrue propaganda.
As you stay in the place that the evil empire has convinced you is safe but in fact is not (being alone), their propaganda gets more and more believable to you. You begin to accept it as fact. And now comes the spiral down. The more you stay alone the more you think, and the more you think the unhappier you get, which makes you stay home alone, and this continues.
A very, very important way to join the resistance and fight the Nazis is to get out of this environment and join in with other people. And don’t limit yourself. Here are just a few ideas to help get you out of your Nazi-invaded head (all of these work even better if you do them with friends):
– Go to a farmer’s market
– Go dancing
– Call up some friends for a get-together
– Go to the community center and see what’s going on there
– Look on Meetups for something that sounds interesting
– Join any kind of club, team etc. You think this isn’t for you, but you’d be surprised. If you live in an area with even a moderate population there are groups for everything from dinosaur lovers to amateur astronomers to writers’ groups, in addition to all the stereotypical sports teams and chess clubs.
– Volunteer, either on a formal or informal basis (this one actually has bonus Nazi-fighting ability, because helping others is extremely beneficial in your fight). Visit people in senior’s homes. Help the abused. Feed the hungry or homeless. Volunteer at running races. Plant trees. There are endless opportunities to help.
- You Must Have a Challenge or Goal You Are Working Toward
Having a goal keeps you thinking about the goal and stops you from thinking about yourself (which is what the Nazis want you to do!) I always have a million things I’m working toward, whether that’s a triathlon or getting some sort of education or a project around the house.
Doing this serves so many purposes:
– Stops you from looking inward
– Gives you something to get excited about and plan for
– Gives you constant feelings of success as you get closer and closer to your goal (even with the inevitable setbacks and mistakes to fix)
– Constantly and consistently proves that you can accomplish more than you’d ever dreamed possible.
There is an important point to make here, however, and that is not to expect too much of yourself too soon. Accepting occasional setbacks and tough days is part of fighting the Nazis. You won’t start running after years of inactivity, for example, and suddenly run an easy 5k. Understand that every step in the right direction is a step in the right direction, even with setbacks and with days that are harder than others. The Nazis want you to give up. Remember you are part of the resistance!
- You Must Take Part in Physical Activity, Preferably Outside
This does not have to be the aforementioned running, but any exercise does make you feel good, even if it feels bad when you start. It releases all the feel-good hormones, which stay higher for a considerable amount of time after you stop exercising. Getting outside offers similar benefits. Combine the two, and you’ll have delivered a huge blow against the Nazi forces. Combine the two on a regular basis, and you’ll be even further ahead.
Here are some things that give the Nazis strength and intensify your depression. These can be hard to stop doing, because they might be pretty solidly ingrained. But success comes in increments. If you are focused on fighting against these, it will become easier and easier.
– Alcohol and drugs
– Staying inside
– Thinking about yourself
– Avoiding others
– Not getting enough sleep (I know, this is a tough one because depression can really hurt sleep. I had insomnia for so many years. What is VERY beneficial to good sleep is staying busy and getting plenty of exercise and fresh air.)
– A poor diet (again, it can be difficult to eat properly. Find a few nutritious meals you like and make them a staple)
Lastly, I’m going to tell you that whether or not you believe it, you are far from alone. Depression is very common, and there are millions of people fighting this battle. I’m not meaning to imply that your situation is not unique; of course it is. But depression affects far more people than you realize. Just think of all of you as being part of the resistance, and know that even when you are having a hard time fighting, we all have your back.
Wendy has spent much of her life writing about things that improve readers’ health and well being. She has no patience for negativity, shaming or dictating how others “should” be, but rather aims to help people become both true to themselves and happy to be alive.