How to Help Someone with Depression

Today, a friend confided in me that her son has been diagnosed with clinical depression. It is a great honor that this friend trusts me with this information. We all come to mental illness with many ideas of what such a diagnosis means, and we all have to recognize that many of our ideas are true and some are not.

This friend is doing so many good things, and it reminded me of so much I’ve been through and how far I have come in my own recovery.

The son is also doing many hard things the right way. First, he sought help from his mother. He returned home where he could be nurtured and where he can heal. Next, he actually called a doctor himself. Then he did a very hard thing by going to his appointment with the doctor. Now, he’s continuing the hard work by taking the medicine prescribed. All these steps point to one vastly important bit to know. Since he’s actively reaching out for help, he wants to recover. With this attitude, he can get better.

I made some recommendations to my friend on how she can help her son.

1. She should use physical touch to maintain contact with him. Depression makes us feel so very lonely, and touch reminds us we are not alone.

2. She should encourage her son to exercise. A walk in the sunshine and fresh air will help him very much.

3. She should use ample positive reinforcement when he does anything to aid his own recovery like keeping doctor’s appointments or taking medicine as prescribed.

4. She should tell him often that he is worthy of recovery. Depression robs us of all our good feelings of self-worth and replaces those with hopelessness.

5. She should remind him often this is a disease, and there is no reason to feel ashamed.

6. She should mention often that his current feelings are not permanent. He can and will feel better with the help of a good doctor, good medicine, and helpful people.

7. She should help her son look for a good psychologist for talk therapy where he can learn many valuable tools to help him feel better.

8. Importantly, she must not neglect herself. The caregiver needs nurturing, too.

These ideas can be used by anyone to help another hurting from the disease of depression.

Work and Life Continue

Work and life go hand in hand. Humans are constantly engaged in something. Simple activities like watching television keep us occupied. Harder ones require more energy to perform. Humans do things; we don’t simply exist.

I’m thrilled to say that two months of my three-month internship are winding down. I have spent a great deal of time teaching the Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP), and it has reinforced to me its value. I had a disappointing romantic experience recently, and negative thoughts started barreling inside my head. I talked it over thoroughly with a close friend. I checked my WRAP. I forced myself to accomplish some tasks around my house that I didn’t want to do. In the end, the thoughts subsided, and I felt calm.

The client I mentioned previously who had a combative session with me keeps returning to his appointments. I am really happy about that. He’s finding some value in our time and work together. He’s reaching out. I would like to think he’s expanding his ideas of what might work in his own life. He still likes to debate, but the combative tone was limited to the one time only.

I continually mention to all my clients that I’m a person with a mental illness, too. I’m not a doctor or any other kind of clinician.

Recently, I drove thirty minutes to a rural clinic to meet with a young man and do WRAP with him. He entered the room and sat stiffly with his arms crossed tightly guarding his chest. He was uncomfortable. I have to add I was just as nervous.

Why? Traveling gives me anxiety. Driving worries me. I have a real phobia of parking lots. The morning of my thirty-minute trip, I was simply scared. I spoke long and honestly about my fears to a close friend, and she asked what my WRAP would have me do? I thought about the Daily Maintenance List in the front of my WRAP, and I determined that I had not meditated that morning or for many days actually.

I went to my room and moved my meditation stool into the place I like. I sat and closed my eyes and concentrated on getting to my happy place. There I released my worry. I breathed deeply and calmly. It was not a long time nor did I reach any epiphanies, but I came out of the meditation with my spirits restored. It worked. I felt better.

My job at the rural clinic was to teach WRAP to this one young man who was obviously as fearful as I had been earlier. I did not let his emotions distract me. I launched into my opening introduction about me and the Plan. His arms dropped, and his face relaxed. When he knew I was there for his benefit without an agenda, he became an eager participant. Lo and behold, we finished his WRAP in one sitting. It was amazing and energized me. His case worker was similarly astounded.

I have finished Plans with three individuals now. One woman was so grateful to get her Certificate of Achievement after finishing she nearly cried. It was the only such certificate she had ever received. It is a privilege for me to work with these peers. I grow, too.

I have only about one more month before my internship is finished, and then I will be a fully certified Peer Specialist. My life is utterly different than three years ago when I wrote about my pain. I am working, and I’m happy about that. What a change!

Recovery works. It really works.

The Good News

Followers of this blog will know that I have spent some time in mourning recently for a former lover who took his own life. I can report that I’m well on the way to healing. The initial shock was tremendous, but as with all things, time heals. There will be a memorial gathering for him in a week, and I will attend. I doubt I’ll share anything, but I will be there supporting my other friends.

On the job front, I can happily and loudly report that I passed my written and oral exams, and I am now a Certified Peer Specialist Intern in mental health. I can also shout out that I will start my internship at a local mental health clinic in early June.

I am going to a family reunion at the end of May, and I’m taking the opportunity by stretching my stay to have a nice long visit with my parents and family. When I get back from that trip, I’ll walk straight into my internship.

Things are really moving along quickly.

Things are not moving quickly in my romantic life. My beau lives two hours away, and I haven’t seen him since January. I was traveling too much for job training, and his job schedule keeps him very busy. We’ve spoken on the phone a number of times, and we’re still interested in each other. However, being apart does not make this easy. There’s no cuddling, and that makes me sad. At the same time, it makes for wonderful dreams of reuniting.

Through the statistics of this blog, I can view how people find me. One of the highest ranking terms is bipolar dating. To those searching for love and acceptance as a person with bipolar disorder or with a person who has it, I can safely assure you that it is possible to find a partner.

There is no magic pill to swallow that will make your perfect match appear, but then that’s true for everyone and not simply those with mental illness. While having a disability can add a layer of difficulty to the mixture, it’s not necessarily the defining factor. No person is solely defined by any one particular point, and we with mental illness are not either.

I truly believe in the tried and true formula of finding a mate the old-fashioned way. There are people in clubs who have similar interests and are also looking for companionship. Volunteering is a great way to meet others. The secret – and it’s no secret – is finding a way to get outside one’s head and open up to the possibilities  that abound all around us.

Opening up is easier said than done for some of us. I had my own long, dark period. It lasted for years, and every aspect of life was a chore or nearly impossible. I have been in that deep despair when simple acts of self-care like brushing my teeth were close to impossible. I clawed my way out with the help of loving caregivers, medication, and therapy. I did not do it alone.

All the time, I wondered where the right man for me was. It’s just a thought, but now I believe my focus should have been on being the right man for someone else.

When I take the focus off me, I win.

It is paradoxical, but it starts with loving me and spreading that. I give love more freely when I love me. I give more of me when I take care of my simple daily needs.

I no longer believe in countering negative self-talk with positive affirmations that I find unconvincing. I have no evidence from my past that looking at my reflection in the mirror and reciting clichés ever made me feel better. What worked? A lot of time and effort put into finding the right combination of medicine, meditation, exercise, and therapy from many loving caregivers.

This thought that I start from a place where I love me first is new. I was taught long ago that I had to ignore my inner voice and my feelings and only concentrate on the needs of others. I have no evidence that action ever helped me.

Today, I have abundant evidence that loving me allows me to then reach out and give. I struggled with guilt and shame for decades. Today, I live openly and honestly.

Today, I live in truth.