“I ask not for a lighter burden, but for broader shoulders,” says a Jewish proverb. A member of my online depression group, Project Beyond Blue, posted it today. I asked them for ways they cope with the limitations of depression because I needed inspiration. My kids have had maybe eight full days of school since before Christmas break. This is a big problem for a highly-sensitive manic-depressive whose desk is in her son’s bedroom. Every time I get a coherent thought—which isn’t often—I am interrupted by a yelp or some grose twerking motion, thanks to Miley Cyrus.
Even when the kids are in school, living with chronic depression demands an acceptance of one’s condition and a willingness to learn how to live around lasting symptoms. I am inspired, in this regard, by Toni Bernhard, author of How to Be Sick. She is so capable and intelligent, but has been constrained by an illness (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) that few people understand. Nevertheless, she has found a way to rise above her condition to teach others how to live fully even when you’re sick.
I hope to encourage the same kind of perseverance. Here, then, are six ways to cope with the limitations of depression.
1. Stop trying to make people understand.
This is wasted energy, and people like me who battle chronic depression must conserve all the energy they have. I love The Spoon Theory by Christine Miserandino. If you’ve never read it, you must. She tries to explain her illness to her best friend, and the analogy of spoons is perfect. The other day I tried to explain to someone why I can’t devote 20 hours a week to fundraising for my new foundation like other executive directors. It fell on deaf ears, of course. Afterward, my husband told me to stop trying to convince the world that I am a hard worker. It really doesn’t or shouldn’t matter what they think. “Until they live it, they can’t possibly understand the monkey you have on your back,” he said. “You should save your energy for writing and things that do make a difference.”