Going through a depressive episode is one of the worst things I’ve experienced.When I was younger, I’d go through them without knowing what exactly was wrong with me and why I felt how I did. As a Muslim woman, I found it hard to speak up about my mental health due to the stigma against it. I was told that I needed to pray to feel better and that this was simply just a phase I was going through. It took me quite a long time to realize that my religion, whilst important to me, would not fix my mental health nor help me get out of a depressive episode. At the time I could’ve used something that explained why I felt so down, and why I did not want to do anything whatsoever. So, I’ve devised a guide to helping those who suffer from depression or may be suffering without even knowing they have it.
So, what is depression? In simple terms, depression is a mood disorder. The symptoms include depressed mood, lack of interest or pleasure in all activities, significant weight loss or weight gain, insomnia, psychomotor agitation, loss of energy, feelings of worthlessness, diminished ability to think or concentrate and recurrent thoughts of death. In order to be diagnosed with depression you have to display at least five of these symptoms for two weeks straight. Now, not everyone can be diagnosed as mental health services aren’t the greatest here in the UK so it’s understandable that you do not clearly know whether you suffer or not. Either way this is here to help you and your struggle.
A depressive episode usually goes on for about two weeks or more. I’ve experienced episodes that have gone on for a month which was the hellscape of 2017. When these moods hit you, you start to become displeased in everyday activities and it’s joined by feelings of hopelessness, anxiety, worthlessness, changes in appetite, problems concentrating, and thoughts of or attempts at suicide.
So here’s an example:
You’ve been in bed all day, you check your messages for the 100th time and there is nobody checking up on you. Lying in bed, you think about your life. What you’ve done, what you could’ve changed and what could be. The future is something you don’t like imagining because there’s always that part of you that wonders if you’ll even live that long.
How can I get better?
There is no magic pill to getting better. I’ve been there a million times and it sucks; you feel like nothing in the world is going to make the feelings vanish in an instant but what you can do, however, is try to help yourself get out of that funk. It’s not easy living with a mental illness and there are days where you will not want to do anything at all. But this is for the days where you do have that glimmer of hope left. As bleak as it looks, today isn’t lost, even if you do something small, it matters and it will help.
First of all, have you had a drink? Anything at all?
No? Well then go and grab a glass of water. It’s not a magic pill but it’ll help you feel refreshed and replenish your body. I would suggest adding lemon to help with the flavor as when I’m in a depressive episode food all tastes the same sometimes.
Now you’ve had your water think about the last time you brushed your teeth, washed your hair or put on deodorant. A shower will make you feel better, it won’t make the numbness fade away but it’ll help with the “three day old hoodie sweat” smell and the tangles in your hair. Have a shower, lotion your body, put on deodorant and grab some fresh clothes. They can still be sweats, don’t worry, but try to put on something clean.
Before you retreat back to your bed as we all do, have a think about the last time you ate. You don’t need to cook yourself a full course meal; make yourself a bowl of cereal, have some oatmeal or make some eggs. Just make sure you’re well fed enough to keep your energy up. If you can’t face cooking anything a smoothie is also another option to get all those nutrients without the fuss needed.
So you’re hydrated, showered, clothed and fed. Your body is feeling better but you still aren’t and that’s okay. This isn’t an instant cure nor should you feel bad for not being happy right after. Now do something that brings you a bit of joy. This might sound weird but it’s a really small step that could help. Put on a film that makes you laugh, play that album you love, read the book that makes your heart swell up. Do something that makes you feel.
Now whilst my previous tips may have helped you on a day where you’re simply at home, not everyone can stay home all day and everyday. If you’re a student like I am, you have to study but when you’re in a depressive episode, it is literally one of the hardest things you can do. You have absolutely no willpower whatsoever and everything seems like the hardest chore in the world.
What I do to help myself get focused on studying, even when I feel like it’s the last thing in the world I want to do, is that I keep goals. You can either buy a calendar and write out the goals on different dates, or you could keep a little jar on your desk with notes containing your educational goals for that week, or you can set reminders on your phone to remind you of studying. I can’t force you to study, but these little things will help you to remember, and will at least give you some encouragement when you need it the most.
I’ve mentioned this a bunch of times so far, but this isn’t something that’ll get rid of your depression. I’m not saying this is a magic trick or that it works every time, but if you have a part of you that feels as if you want to do something today, I hope this helps you. If you are a Muslim woman reading this, please know that your mental health is nothing to be ashamed of. You deserve to have people who support you and that want to help you get better, instead of hiding you away. I know what it’s like to have the people you love look at you differently because of something you can’t help, but you should not beat yourself up over their outdated views. You deserve nothing but the best. You matter and you are loved.
Here are some organizations you can contact to help whenever you need it:
Tel: 116 123
Tel: 0300 123 3393
Tel: 0800 068 41 41
Tel: 020 7263 7070
Written by Han Angus