When I look at my blog stats, I find it amazing that the #1 search terms for my blog are people actually searching for my name. (Does this mean I’m famous?) The #2 search, however, is for people searching combinations of “depression” with things like “grad student” or “grad school”.
So another post about my experience as a chronically depressive grad student.
First, let me say that I wanted to write this post a couple of weeks ago, except that, well, I was too depressed. I was so deep in my blue funk that I’m amazed I’ve been able to post anything at all. My townhouse got messier and messier, I ate cereal for dinner because I had no energy to cook, and I walked around like a zombie.
If you are suffering from depression, whether it be chronic like mine or just a one-time thing, what should you do? How do you bring yourself around again?
As I’ve said before, I can’t stop myself from getting depressed, but I can control (to a certain extent) how bad it gets. When in geek mode, I generally say that I can’t control the frequency but I can control the amplitude. I didn’t do too well at that this time around, but after a couple of weeks I remembered my coping strategies and gradually pulled myself out. This is what I do.
- Exercise, of the aerobic sort. There’s something about getting that blood pumping that helps the brain function more normally.
- Listen to uplifting music. I have to be very, very careful in my choice of what I listen to when depressed. Peppy music is good; music in minor keys is bad. Folk songs are generally fine; rock music with lyrics about how bad life is are not.
- Hold to a tight schedule. Wake up at the same time every day, go through a morning routine. I take tips from FlyLady though I don’t follow her routine exactly. I can’t leave at the same time every day (some experiments take longer than others) but I do follow a pre-bed routine as well.
- Make a to-do list. When I’m depressed I can’t make lists with only the big things; I have to put every tiny thing on there. For example, instead of “work on seminar” I have to write “seminar–section on ROS; seminar–section on chemiluminescence; etc.” I find it much more heartening to cross off many small things than one large thing. Besides, when I’m depressed, sometimes I can only do one small thing per day. Being able to cross something off the list makes me feel like I haven’t totally wasted my time. (Even if most of my time has been wasted, feeling at least somewhat useful helps me keep from feeding the downward spiral.)
- Think about the right things. When depressed, I generally end up thinking about the stuff I don’t get done, about how bad I am for not working hard. I try to think–at least occasionally–about things I have done right, about projects that turned out well, about compliments people have given me, so that I know I’m not a total waste of time.
For me, one of the hardest parts of dealing with chronic depression is figuring out when I am starting to slide down again. If I figure this out early on, I can keep myself from falling in too deeply. But alas, I seem spectacularly bad at diagnosing myself. My husband is getting better at noticing; he’s much better than I am, nowadays. But I don’t live with my husband full-time right now, which makes things kinda hard.
I can do this.