Half a year ago my doctor diagnosed me with a moderate case of depression and anxiety. This wasn’t great news, but it wasn’t a surprise either. After months of feeling mostly like shit for no apparent reason I’d pretty much figured it out through extensive Internet research and talks with my mom. (She’s a nurse, and both mental maladies run in my family.)
Doc told me that of course medication was an option, but also that making small efforts to slightly change my daily routine could lift my mood, at least for some of the time.
I reasoned that if I could be fooled into despondency without warrant – when my life is essentially tits – on account of some internal chemical mix-up, then I should be able to fool myself back out of it.
Here are a few other things I’ve been trying out. Maybe they can help you, if you’re feeling sad, and not only if you’re clinically depressed. You can never be too happy, right?
1. I printed out a sign that reads “Fight Off Your Demons.” It’s a slogan used occasionally by Brand New, my favorite band since eighth grade. (This is also tattooed on my older brother’s arm. The Muska boys are plagued by malignant spirits.)
I took it to my apartment and pasted it to the wall above my front door so I could slap it every morning when I walked out into the world. Like the “Clear Eyes, Full Hearts” sign hanging in the Friday Night Lights locker room.
This is the tiniest thing, and I usually smirk a little bit when I do it but I think it’s working. I believe in it. (This makes me wonder what would have happened if in college I habitually slapped a sign that said “Have sex with Jenny Edwards.”)
2. I’ve been running outside before I go to work, because exercise and sunlight are supposed to counteract depression. I am not now, and probably never will be, a morning person, but there is something about voluntarily being awake earlier than you have to be – and doing something healthy – that makes you feel better than you would if you stayed in bed ‘til the last responsible moment. This seems odd to me, but I try not to question physically and mentally harmless things that make me feel good.
3. Once I’m up, I’m up, but the getting-out-of-bed part is difficult. So every morning at 7:45 my phone alarm goes off, but instead of that soul-crushing continuous beeping, it’s “You Only Get What You Give” by the New Radicals. Then I frolic around my bedroom while I brush my teeth and croon through a mouth full of foam about how I’ve got the dreamer’s disease. (I change the song on the alarm periodically.)
4. I’ve altered my diet in an extreme way: I recently stopped eating meat, just to see what it would be like, and it feels kind of good and clean. Like every other thing I’m doing, this may be placebo, but I don’t give a shit.
When I tell people I’m not eating meat for a while, the most common reaction from dudes is something about how I’ll lose my manhood. But then I explain to them that a few months ago I was spending a lot of time weeping in my bed, and being super manly was lower on my list of priorities than lots of things, like happiness, for instance.
5. I try for little victories, like accomplishing things I put on a to-do list for the day, abstaining from stuff I enjoy that may have ill effects (see: porn), and not finishing dead last in my office’s weekly Pictionary game.
6. I keep my personal space cleaner and more organized. I decided I should do this one day when I was purchasing a package of boxer briefs because I’d run out of clean ones. It occurred to me that I was still living like I had in college, which is to say not cleaning as often as I should, or doing my laundry more than once a month. It was fine back then, but depressed or not, life is just not as carefree for most people after school.
7. I make sure I talk regularly to the people in my life who are important to me, but I also try to worry less about the way I’m perceived. I’ve found that most close to me don’t care as much about my shortcomings and quirks as they do about my happiness, and that random strangers don’t give a fuck what I’m doing as long as I’m not trying to murder them.
8. I’ve cut back on Facebook and other social networks, which has helped me stop being so comparative. With current technology, it’s much easier now than in any other time in history to keep up with what is going on in others’ lives. This can be very positive for sure, but keeping up with the Jones’s can be depressing in and of itself, especially if you’re a very competitive person.
There are always going to be people doing better than you are in some respect of life, and that it doesn’t really matter too much that they are when it concerns my own well-being.
Also, people have a tendency only to post the things that seem positive. Like that they got engaged or landed a dream job, not that they came down with chlamydia (again!) or were fired for spending too much time on Facebook.
9. I try to joke and laugh as often as I used to before I became depressed (whenever this actually was). This is tough to do on the rough days, but for me, getting a chuckle out of somebody else makes me feel better than pretty much anything else. Also, it makes you much more tolerable to be around than if you’re emo-ing out all of the time.
Note: Scott wrote more about depression for Cartel II. You can buy that here.
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