In an effort to open up about my journey with mental illness, I asked you what you would like to know. Here are my honest, unfiltered answers. I hope it provides some insight into what it’s like living with depression and ways that you can help someone in that situation.
How Do You Cope?
What do you do to turn a “bad” day into a “good” day?
It’s different every time
Circumstances are always different and that has an impact on how I respond to situations and which things I try to turn my day around.
Changing anything – my environment, what I’m doing, who I’m with. I like the quote “If nothing changes, nothing changes” and have found it so true, so I try to change at least one thing and it often makes a difference.
Take a nap
Sometimes I have a nap, and that helps me restart/reset and gets me out of a funk. It allows me to leave the negativity behind and to move forward without getting hung up on whatever triggered the bad day.
Do something relaxing
Instead of taking a nap, I will do something relaxing in order to reset – for me this looks like taking a bath, watching something on netflix or taking a walk.
Achieve one thing
This is the hardest & I don’t do it often but… doing one thing to help me feel like I’ve achieved something can really make me feel better. I like to go rock climbing – finishing a route gives a huge sense of accomplishment. I also find it really important to celebrate those achievements – even if it’s something “small” like getting dressed.
How do you deal with the not-so-good days?
Try to turn a bad day into a good day
I try some of the things to turn a “bad” day into a “good” day as above
Accept it as it is without trying to change it
Sometimes I just accept that it’s a not-so-good day and so I will do “nothing” – nap, watch netflix, eat comfort foods, get a hot-water-bottle, watch some more netflix & just spend the day curled up in bed. Tomorrow is a new day and we will try again then.
Spend the day with someone else
This is really important for me because negative thoughts can escalate quickly and so I like to have someone else around to help support me if I need it.
How do you manage the health of your body while your mental health is really bad?
I struggle with this one
This one can be so difficult. When my mental health is at its lowest, physical health and care really just isn’t a priority!
Practice “boring self care”
When my mental health is really bad, I struggle with hygiene. Simple tasks like brushing my teeth or having a shower are not what I feel like doing! But it is still really important to continue to do these mundane tasks to take care of your body. I wrote a whole article about “boring self-care” here.
Don’t forget to eat
Remember to eat & make that a priority. On days when I have the energy, I will make lots of bulk meals, and freeze them. This meant that on the low days, I could grab a meal and chuck it in the microwave when I wasn’t feeling up to cooking. If you can’t do this, reach out to someone else and ask them to cook for you – or order takeaways.
Do something active that you also enjoy – it doesn’t have to be the gym, or running – perhaps you can do casual team sports. There’s so many other things that are active – surfing, climbing, windsurfing, cycling, gymnastics, swimming, dance , so get creative! Set aside time each week to do this & find a partner with similar interests if you need extra motivation. Rock climbing was such a critical part of my recovery (when I was at rock bottom, haha) and I still keep up with climbing 1-2 times a week.
What Do You Struggle with?
What are some of the uncomfortable thoughts you deal with in low times?
I’m a burden
I often feel like my illness is taking such a toll on everyone else and that I’m the biggest burden. I also feel like no one would miss me or care if I was to die.
Fear of the future
I feel like nothing I have done, am doing or will do has any purpose or impact in the world. I fear that the future will continue to be unfulfilling and I feel worthless and hopeless.
It’s too much
I’m trying and trying, I’m treading water, trying to swim, trying to get somewhere, but failing and it’s all too much, I want to give up. It feels like the sadness will never lift and there is no hope for me.
At times, I feel nothing at all. When I’ve been struggling for a while and the thoughts keep circling around and around, I feel exhausted, overwhelmed and utterly empty.
Are uncomfortable thoughts triggered by specific feelings or fears?
Grief and loss
I think that a large part of my struggle is due to the loss of India. Leaving behind the country I grew up in and love has taken a huge toll on me (even if I didn’t realise it at first). I didn’t get the chance to process the loss and I think I still carry the weight of grief with me.
Failing to achieve
I am a natural achiever and I struggle when I’m not challenged or I don’t have goals to work towards. I hate when it feels like I’m not getting anywhere or I’m not succeeding.
Fear of judgement and failure
Similarly, I have anxiety about the future and fear of other people’s judgements on my decisions. I want to take risks and I want to chase my (crazy) dreams, but I am terrified that it will fall apart and that others will judge me harshly for it.
What Is Most Helpful?
What form of support from people is most effective for you when you are struggling?
Check in on me
It is so so hard to ask for help (something that I need to get better at doing)! Instead, it helps if you ask how I’m doing, otherwise I feel like I’m burdening you with my struggles and it’s difficult to reach out.
Just be there to listen! Say, “let me know if there is anything I can do to help, I’m here to listen and support you,” and really mean that. I really appreciate when I’m given extra space to just BE, to feel my emotions and voice them, instead of having my feelings suppressed or belittled. Don’t try to “fix” the situation (spoiler alert: you can’t fix it). Also, please don’t say “think positive” or “get over it” or “snap out of it,” – that really doesn’t help. Would you tell someone with a broken arm to “get over it”?
When I’m struggling, sometimes I just need practical help. I don’t have the energy to do the laundry or wash the dishes. I can’t cook for myself or go grocery shopping or water my plants. I just need a little bit of extra help to operate as a normal human being.
Make decisions for me
A lot of the time, I don’t know what I need to get out of a funk. It helps if you’re proactive and can make decisions for me. Maybe you could do some of the things to turn a bad day into a good day. For example, take me out of the house, run a bath, get me comfort food.
Do you feel like being married has helped or worsened it?
Lots has changed
It’s really hard to say, because we went through so many other changes at the same time. We transitioned from university to full/part time work, we moved house (new neighbourhood), we moved churches, our families returned overseas… There were so many factors that could have an impact on my mental health, that it’s hard to say whether marriage has had an impact.
On the whole, marriage has helped!
Overall, my mental health has been better since we’ve been married & I’m definitely in a better place this year than I was last year. It probably makes a difference that the stress of planning a wedding isn’t looming over!
It’s special to live with your partner
It’s really special to be living with family. With boarding school and flatting in university, it’s been a while since I’ve lived with family. It’s made a world of difference having support available right there at home, instead of the absence of a support network. I love that Isaac is right there and we don’t have to travel across the city for a hug.
How does your husband support you in the hard times and the lows?
As a patient listener
He is patient and so good at listening. He always encourages me to share the way I’m feeling, even when I’m struggling to put it into words. He accepts that I’m struggling and doesn’t try to “fix” it.
With practical help
He provides practical help – mainly with hugs and a tissue supply. He will also cook meals when I can’t, does chores and even helps me get dressed in the morning.
With kind words and hope
He’s been consistent and persistent in affirming me, reminding me of my worth and always speaking kindly. No matter how much I disagree or reject what he says, he continues to affirm me. He always has so much hope for the future and reminds me of this. He’ll tell me that this won’t last forever, that good things are coming and his words mean so much.
Do you have any advice for spouses or partners?
The most important thing is to know and understand that I am not choosing this. I am not choosing a mental illness and it cannot be fixed overnight. Healing and recovery take time and the journey is not as easy one. Continue to treat me with respect.
Know that you don’t have to be perfect
As a spouse or partner, you don’t have to be perfect to be able to help me. Whatever you do, whether you speak kind words or provide practical help, I don’t expect you to have everything sorted out either. I just want someone to journey with me.
You are one of the closest people in my life and I would love some extra guidance, or a new perspective. When I get “stuck,” you are the one I turn to for help. Click here to read Isaac’s article about offering beta.
Be my biggest cheerleader. Even if all I do today is get out of bed and shower, celebrate it with me! If I go to work, run errands, hit the gym, meet a uni deadline and cook dinner, celebrate it!
Don’t give up on them
Believe that this will pass
I hope that this has given you some insight into what it’s like to be struggling with depression. Chances are that you know someone who is struggling too and I hope that you will be encouraged to reach out to them. It goes such a long way. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you would like a listening ear, or reach out on one of the hotlines below.
Stay strong and be kind,
Need to talk? Free call or text 1737 any time for support from a trained counsellor
Lifeline – 0800 543 354 (0800 LIFELINE) or free text 4357 (HELP)
Suicide Crisis Helpline – 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
Healthline – 0800 611 116
Samaritans – 0800 726 666