Going from what I discussed with you last time I had the idea that what I would like to be the outcome of writing Depressed And Well Dressed is that somebody feeling depressed or anxious can possibly relate to some of my own stories of mental illness and realise they are not alone and not the only person whose experienced it, and that it can get better. And that most importantly depression, anxiety etc are just that- illnesses. Just because a person acts a certain way or thinks certain thoughts does not mean they are inherently good or bad, it is the action which is good or bad and mental illness can sometimes have a strange effect on what we think, say or do.
Obviously there are limits to this line of thought- and if someone else’s mental health begins to affect yours then it is probably time to take a step back. Learning to live and maintain a healthy psyche is all about being kind first and foremost to yourself.
If you think of when we go abroad on holiday, when the stewards stand in the aisle and show you where the exits are, how to inflate your life jacket and start your oxygen mask, they tell you to always fit your own mask before attempting to help others. Without making too much of a leap what I’m trying to say is within day to day life we should aim for a similar perspective. How much help would you be on a plane without oxygen to anyone if you didn’t start by giving yourself a flow of oxygen? So ask yourself- how much help can you really give someone who is suffering if you yourself are fatally suffering?
Enough with the cheesy metaphors- promise~
A lesson I’ve found probably one of the hardest to learn in recent times is that if you are struggling, other people cannot always be there for you to support you. There is only so much your friends can actually do for you. Everyone has their own problems in life and what depression can do is take away the rational ability to see that just because someone has left you on read or hasn’t replied to your message but been active on social media or even cancelled plans with you doesn’t mean they don’t care. It certainly doesn’t mean that you are not worthy of love and support. You cannot be of use to help someone through mental illness if your own mental wellbeing suffers alongside. I’ve learned this lesson myself in the hardest possible way, and it goes to show that it does not matter how much you give to another person who is suffering, how much you sacrifice for them, it is not your duty to protect their mental health. You can be there for someone as a friend, family member, boyfriend/girlfriend and sharing problems is healthy but if it begins to affect you long term then you should not feel obligated to stay and let yourself be exhausted.
The Other Side
From the other side- having been both the person giving support to someone and being the person craving that constant support it is difficult from both perspectives.
You feel incredibly isolated as it is and I can recall not wanting to leave my bed to socialise or avoiding going out with friends because I felt that they did not care for me. You never know what is going on inside someone else’s life, but depression tells you that it is something you have done, and that people just tolerate you and don’t actually want to hang out with you. That just makes you isolate yourself even more, and sometimes people around you might pull away when you begin to which just perpetuates these feelings. Sometimes your friends may reach out to help you, but the way you feel can serve to push them away which in turn leads into a self perpetuating cycle of you then believing even more than people do not want to be your friend and thus you can become more depressed.
Aaron Beck, a famous psychologist in 1976 mentioned that depressed people tend to have a cognitive bias- that is a skewed opinion of themselves, the world around them and what the future entails. A few types of these cognitive biases include black and white thinking (i.e. thinking everything is either right or wrong) and over generalising such as making a sweeping statement about all occasions based on one negative outcome; For example- thinking that because one relationship ended with cheating, all future relationships will.
A third type of cognitive bias is called catastrophising. This is something which is commonly found in the build up to panic attacks where you believe almost absurdly that one setback is catastrophic to your future and everything has been ruined.
Catastrophising is a form of thinking I often recognize in my own head and it’s so frustrating to notice when you’re doing it but have absolutely no clue how to switch it off. If anyone has any suggestions please leave them below for me!!
I often turn one small minor detail into a whole shit-storm of anxiety because I over think, to the point where the feelings of dread I feel outweigh any of my rational thoughts about the unhealthy way my brain is processing things. Sometimes I’ve found this to be the beginning of a panic attack and if only I knew how to break the cycle I would.
I’ve found in the past that distracting yourself by calling a friend often helps me. However because of how depressed I’ve been feeling in the past few months I don’t a lot of the time feel that I can reach out to people by calling them. What I’d say is by talking to my friends and explaining how I’m feeling I have found people to be a lot more understanding than my mentally ill brain allows me to think!
If anyone else has any coping methods for dealing with catastrophising and overthinking please leave a comment- I often find as well that walks somewhere with nature where it is quiet, or being around animals helps to distract me.
Thanks for reading!
I hope this wasn’t too cringey to read- please let me know if there’s anything to be improved on. I’m thinking of starting a section where I’ll try out different types of mindfulness apps and reviewing how I found them- if that’s something you would be interested in me doing please leave me a comment!