Guest Blogger Erica Chau writes with clarity about what it truly feels like to try and cope with the depths of depression and the simple things you can do to help yourself cope when you’re going through it to survive.
Look, I get it. People who give advice are just trying to help — especially if they’re friends and family. It’s important to note they are usually doing it out of love and they only want you to feel better. But if they don’t understand what it’s like, what it’s really like, to be so depressed that you can’t get out of bed, their advice is useless. There. I said it.
I have depression. It sucks and manifests itself in different ways on different days. Some days are bearable, and I can somewhat function like a regular member of society. On other days, I am so depressed that I can’t get out of bed.
Self-care is different for everyone, but a lot of the “self-care tips” that we see online are not designed for those with illnesses, especially targeted with those who have depression. And as someone with depression, I get it. And on bad days, during a particularly rough episode, these are the things that have helped me. I hope these can help you too.
1. Wipe yourself down with a hand towel.
“Take a shower; you’ll feel better.” You don’t get it. I can’t take a shower, I can’t get out of bed, let alone drag myself into the shower. But it’s true, feeling clean does help. If you can, grab a towel, run it under warm water and wipe your face, your arms, your legs, your armpits. Wiping away the grime and sleepiness of being in bed for days really does make you feel better. Even if you can’t hop in the shower.
2. Drink water.
Sometimes, eating can be a struggle. I get it. As someone with an eating disorder, I find that this compounds when I have a depressive episode. To survive, you can live a week without food, but only three days without water. Seriously. You will literally die without water. I try to keep a habit of having a full water bottle or at least a glass of water by my bed every night, so if I wake up depressed and can’t get out of bed, at least I have water within reach.
This is also something that can be done when you’re not in an episode. I try to leave a little crack in my window shades, so at least a little sunlight gets in. It’s important to see some sunlight, even if you don’t think there’s value in it. And especially if you can’t get outside, you just have to work with what you’ve got.
4. Be gentle with yourself.
Everyone has good days and bad days. When you’re dealing with mental illness, sometimes the bad days are really bad. And that’s OK. It can do more harm than good if you’re trying to force yourself to do things that you’re not truly ready to do. It’s hard and it’s a process, but try and be accepting of where you are, be present and focus on recovery, one breath at a time. You can do it!