Depression recovery "To Do" List

February 10th, 2009

I've been visiting some bipolar blogs and notice that a bunch of people are either depressed or manic right now, which is my prompt for this week's posts. The first is a Depression Recovery "To Do" List. I read Nancie's blog and started commenting about what I used to do when I was depressed to try to help it lift. My routine was too long for a comment, so I decided to post about it instead.

For those who regularly read my blog, you know my goals during my sickest years was to try and maintain normalcy for my family. What I've since realized is that this goal is helpful to people whether they are married or not. The 6 top items on my "To Do" list may not have staved off the depression, but it certainly made me feel like I was trying my very best to get well.

1. Every morning (or whenever you can), get out of bed, shower, brush your teeth, and get dressed. It's really important to do activities that are "normal" because it's a way of saying to yourself, "I will be well today." A few tips: Cold water helps reduce depression. While I could never bring myself to shower in cold water, I did buy one of the removable shower heads so that I could use cold water on my feet and head, and it does work.

2.Never remain in your pajamas. It's important to get dressed in a warm-up suit even if you plan on going back to sleep. Again, the statement you're making to yourself is: "I plan to be well sometime today."

3. Walk outside every day, even if it's just for 10 minutes. The sun on your face is very important. If it's not sunny, sitting outside is still better than sitting inside. When I was at my worst, I could use my uncle's walker to get outside, and I could lie on a lawn chair in our backyard. Even though I didn't feel better at first, doing that day after day had an impact.

4. Exercise. Again, even if you can only walk from your house or apartment into your yard or to the sidewalk on the street, movement is very important. In one of my worst depressions, I used my uncle's walker to get down our driveway. Also, I wore a hat and dark glasses in case my neighbors could see me, because my face looked so drawn (and here I was on this walker) that I figured I'd feel worse if I was the talk of the neighborhood. We have a very steep driveway, and by the time I reached the sidewalk, I was so done in, I had to sit on the sidewalk and rest.

As I sat there--almost in tears because I couldn't figure out how I was going to get back into the house--I started laughing because I felt so terrible I didn't know what else to do. And the more I laughed, the better I felt. Finally, after about 20 minutes, I summoned the strength to walk back up the driveway and into the house. As I remember, I then slept for the next four hours, but it was still a step towards recovery.

5. Eat healthy food. Whether you're nauseous, have a bad stomach, or feel just plain awful, there is always some healthy food you can eat. At my worst, I could always eat yogurt or soup. If you don't eat, you'll feel worse. Trust me, I've vomited as many times as any human on earth and I still forced myself to eat.

6. Send out an email. I always communicated with people every day--even during the worst depressions. But, even if you live alone, you need to let someone know you're alive and feeling bad. Email is a lifeline for the depressed.

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