Hope and the Other Tools to Fight Depression


On the combox of my post, “Suffering: the Irritant That Produces the Pearl,” a reader wrote:

In you I see a woman who runs and kayaks and all the things that exhaust me just to read.

As a read about your finding the tools/kits, I want tot say, PLEASE tell me what the tools are? Please share the key and those things that should be in my kit. I keep trying, hold down a full time job, have kids and am married. But I feel the struggle and those that have been wrapped around my poor family.

Please share all the tools in your kit.

Okay. First of all, I told that reader that she is in my prayers. Because for me, it starts there. Two weeks ago, a friend of mine was suicidal. He sent me a scary email that said taking his life was the rational thing to do. I called him and begged him to surround him with people until he could think straight or to go to the hospital. I felt very helpless, because I don’t know his family or his good friends, and I was hours away from him. So I went to God and lit many candles for him at church, and tried to put it in God’s hands as best I could.

Yesterday I finally heard from him, and he sounded like his old self. He did call his daughter, and she immediately called 911 and had him admitted to the hospital, where the doctors gave him a series of ECT treatments.

I believe that was a God thing, that my prayer was heard.

So, I start there. Pray. Even if you’re not a believer, try to connect in some way with a higher power or a consciousness in the universe that can somehow give you hope.

Hope is the most powerful instrument in my tool box. Without it, I’m in deep trouble. Yesterday I came across a quote by Martin Luther King that I love and that I will remember: “We must accept finite disappointment, but we must never lose infinite hope.”

So grab on to hope … in any and all ways you can.

Roses, for me, are a powerful symbol of hope. It never fails that when I have plummeted to a low point, a friend or a reader or someone out of the blue will send me roses.

Three or four weeks ago, I had one of those days where I could not stop crying—and although I write about running and kayaking, I do have days where I can’t do anything but cry … please know that … I am no superwoman, just another person with bipolar that struggles to get through many days—in the mail came a beautiful rose box filled with rose petals and potpourri. I don’t think this person had any idea of my disposition that day. But there they were – rose petals that supplied me with an extra ounce of hope that I surely needed.

I keep symbols of hope all around me: on my desk, in my purse, as jewelry, key chains. I need reminders all around me that those feelings of despair and hopelessness are just that … feelings … and that they are NOT accurate translators of reality.

Besides symbols of hope, there are the other tools that I often talk about: sleep hygiene (going to bed at the same time each night, waking up at the same time in the morning, sleeping between seven and nine hours of sleep, consistently). I believe that sleep is just as crucial, maybe more, than medication. Your body can’t heal if you’re not sleeping. Your brain needs that time to do all the processing that it can’t while you are awake.

I’m religious about sleep hygiene.

Medication. It could be that you are not on the right drug or not at the therapeutic level. I didn’t begin to get well until I found the right doctor. So I am adamant that people do the homework to get the right fit. These professionals can make the different in your life from trudging through every day to actually having moments of joy, where you completely enjoy the kid in front of you who is doing something obnoxious. Okay, maybe not ENJOY, but tolerate without undue amounts of pain.

Diet. Another important tool. Be careful of alcohol. It’s a depressant. Stay away from too many processed foods. I know I sound like a crazy health nut, but I can immediately see the change in my mood after eating too many simple carbs. Try to eat sugar in moderation. I’m not great at this one, but at least I know that, after eating a huge piece of cake, my hyperactive behavior isn’t mania. It’s the cake.

Therapy is wonderful tool. I don’t enjoy it. I mean, I love my therapist, but I look forward to therapy about as much as I do a dentist appointment, because it can be painful. I cry a lot there. I say things that I wish I didn’t have to. I’m afraid she’s going to think I’m a psycho. But every time I leave, I feel a hell of a lot better.

Friends. When I’m depressed, I isolate. It can be very difficult to make myself be around people. But even if it is forced and not at all fun, it usually gets tolerable and even pleasurable at some point – like after the third invitation. What usually happens is someone makes a sarcastic remark that makes me smile, which reminds me that my funny bone is broken and needs to be fixed. Because humor is a very powerful tool, as well. If you can find any occasion where there is a strong likelihood of your laughing – take advantage of that! Maybe even rent some comedy flicks.

What else? Helping other people … preferably who are depressed. That pulls me out of myself faster than anything else. Writing Beyond Blue is a commitment that, I believe, has kept me out of the Black Hole for years. When I get notes that say that a post helped a person to have a better day, that is medicine to my emotional health. If there is any way you can give back and help, I think you will experience the same.

So those are just a few of my tools. I’d love to hear what you all have to say about getting through the day, or the things you do to stay out of the Black.

Originally published on Beyond Blue at Beliefnet.com

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Therese Borchard
I am a writer and chaplain trying to live a simple life in Annapolis, Maryland.

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