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Archive-name: alt-support-depression/faq/part4
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Last-modified: 1994/08/07

See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge
Part 4 of 5

  **Self-care** (cont.)
   - How can I help myself get through depression on a day-to-day basis?

   - What are some books about depression?

Self-care (cont.)

Q. How can I help myself get through depression on a day-to-day basis?

   On a day-to-day basis, separate from, or concurrently with therapy or
   medication, we all have our own methods for getting through the worst
   times as best we can. The following comments and ideas on what to do
   during depression were solicited from people in the newsgroup. Sometimes these things work,
   sometimes they don't. Just keep trying them until you find some
   techniques that work for you.

   * Write. Keep a journal. Somehow writing everything down helps keep
     the misery from running around in circles.

   * Listen to your favorite "help" songs (a bunch of songs that have
     strong positive meaning for you) 

   * Read (anything and everything) Go to the library and check out
     fiction you've wanted to read for a long time; books about
     depression, spirituality, morality; biographies about people who
     suffered from depression but still did well with their lives
     (Winston Churchill and Martin Luther, to name two;). 

   * Sleep for a while 

   * Even when busy, remember to sleep. Notice if what you do before
     sleeping changes how you sleep.

   * If you might be a danger to yourself, don't be alone. Find people.
     If that is not practical, call them up on the phone. If there is no
     one you feel you can call, suicide hotlines can be helpful, even if
     you're not quite that badly off yet. 

   * Hug someone or have someone hug you. 

   * Remember to eat. Notice if eating certain things (e.g. sugar or
     coffee) changes how you feel. 

   * Make yourself a fancy dinner, maybe invite someone over.

   * Take a bath or a perfumed bubble bath.

   * Mess around on the computer.

   * Rent comedy videos. 

   * Go for a long walk 

   * Dancing. Alone in my house or out with a friend. 

   * Eat well. Try to alternate foods you like ( Maybe junk foods) with
     the stuff you know you should be eating.

   * Spend some time playing with a child 

   * Buy yourself a gift 

   * Phone a friend 

   * Read the newspaper comics page 

   * Do something unexpectedly nice for someone

   * Do something unexpectedly nice for yourself.

   * Go outside and look at the sky. 

   * Get some exercise while you're out, but don't take it too seriously. 

   * Pulling weeds is nice, and so is digging in the dirt. 

   * Sing. If you are worried about responses from critical neighbors,
     go for a drive and sing as loud as you want in the car. There's
     something about the physical act of singing old favorites that's
     very soothing. Maybe the rhythmic breathing that singing enforces
     does something for you too. Lullabies are especially good.

   * Pick a small easy task, like sweeping the floor, and do it. 

   * If you can meditate, it's really helpful. But when you're really
     down you may not be able to meditate. Your ability to meditate will
     return when the depression lifts. If you are unable to meditate,
     find some comforting reading and read it out loud.

   * Feed yourself nourishing food. 

   * Bring in some flowers and look at them.

   * Exercise, Sports. It is amazing how well some people can play
     sports even when feeling very miserable.

   * Pick some action that is so small and specific you know you can do
     it in the present. This helps you feel better because you actually
     accomplish something, instead of getting caught up in abstract
     worries and huge ideas for change. For example say "hi" to someone
     new if you are trying to be more sociable. Or, clean up one side of
     a room if you are trying to regain control over your home.

   * If you're anxious about something you're avoiding, try to get some
     support to face it. 

   * Getting Up. Many depressions are characterized by guilt, and lots
     of it. Many of the things that depressed people want to do because
     of their depressions (staying in bed, not going out) wind up making
     the depression worse because they end up causing depressed people
     to feel like they are screwing things up more and more. So if
     you've had six or seven hours of sleep, try to make yourself get
     out of bed the moment you wake may not always succeed,
     but when you do, it's nice to have gotten a head start on the day.

   * Cleaning the house. This worked for some people me in a big way.
     When depressions are at their worst, you may find yourself unable
     to do brain work, but you probably can do body things. One
     depressed person wrote, "So I spent two weeks cleaning my house,
     and I mean CLEANING: cupboards scrubbed, walls washed, stuff given
     away... throughout the two weeks, I kept on thinking "I'm not
     cleaning it right, this looks terrible, I don't even know how to
     clean properly", but at the end, I had this sparkling beautiful

   * Volunteer work. Doing volunteer work on a regular basis seems to
     keep the demons at bay, somewhat... it can help take the focus off
     of yourself and put it on people who may have larger problems (even
     though it doesn't always feel that way). 

   * In general, It is extremely important to try to understand if
     something you can't seem to accomplish is something you simply CAN'T
     do because you're depressed (write a computer program, be charming
     on a date), or whether its something you CAN do, but it's going to
     be hell (cleaning the house, going for a walk with a friend, getting
     out of bed). If it turns out to be something you can do, but don't
     want to, try to do it anyway. You will not always succeed, but try.
     And when you succeed, it will always amaze you to look back on it
     afterwards and say "I felt like such shit, but look how well I
     managed to...!" This last technique, by the way, usually works for
     body stuff only (cleaning, cooking, etc.). The brain stuff often
     winds up getting put off until after the depression lifts.

   * Do not set yourself difficult goals or take on a great deal of

   * Break large tasks into many smaller ones, set some priorities, and
     do what you can, as you can.

   * Do not expect too much from yourself. Unrealistic expectations will
     only increase feelings of failure, as they are impossible to meet.
     Perfectionism leads to increased depression.

   * Try to be with other people, it is usually better than being alone.

   * Participate in activities that may make you feel better. You might
     try mild exercise, going to a movie, a ball game, or participating
     in religious or social activities. Don't overdo it or get upset if
     your mood does not greatly improve right away. Feeling better takes

   * Do not make any major life decisions, such as quitting your job or
     getting married or separated while depressed. The negative thinking
     that accompanies depression may lead to horribly wrong decisions.
     If pressured to make such a decision, explain that you will make the
      decision as soon as possible after the depression lifts. Remember
     you are not seeing yourself, the world, or the future in an objective
     way when you are depressed.

   * While people may tell you to "snap out" of your depression, that is
     not possible. The recovery from depression usually requires
     antidepressant therapy and/or psychotherapy. You cannot simple make
      yourself "snap out" of the depression. Asking you to "snap out" of a
      depression makes as much sense as asking someone to "snap out" of
     diabetes or an under-active thyroid gland.

   * Remember: Depression makes you have negative thoughts about
     yourself, about the world, the people in your life, and about the
     future. Remember that your negative thoughts are not a rational way
     to think of things. It is as if you are seeing yourself, the world,
     and the future through a fog of negativity. Do not accept your
     negative thinking as being true. It is part of the depression and
     will disappear as your depression responds to treatment. If your
     negative (hopeless) view of the future leads you to seriously
     consider suicide, be sure to tell your doctor about this and ask for
     help. Suicide would be an irreversible act based on your
     unrealistically hopeless thoughts.

   * Remember that the feeling that nothing can make depression better
     is part of the illness of depression. Things are probably not
     nearly as hopeless as you think they are. 

   * If you are on medication: 
     a. Take the medication as directed. Keep taking it as directed
        for as long as directed.
     b. Discuss with the doctor ahead of time what happens in case of
        unacceptable side-effects.
     c. Don't stop taking medication or change dosage without discussing
        it with your doctor, unless you discussed it ahead of time.
     d. Remember to check about mixing other things with medication. Ask
        the prescribing doctor, and/or the pharmacist and/or look it up
        in the Physician's Desk Reference. Redundancy is good.
     e. Except in emergencies, it is a good idea to check what your
        insurance covers before receiving treatment. 

   * Do not rely on your doctor or therapist to know everything. Do some
     reading yourself. Some of what is available to read yourself may be
     wrong, but much of it will shed light on your disorder.

   * Talk to your doctor if you think your medication is giving
     undesirable side-effects. 

   * Do ask them if you think an alternative treatment might be more
     appropriate for you. 

   * Do tell them anything you think it is important to know. 

   * Do feel free to seek out a second opinion from a different
     qualified medical professional if you feel that you cannot get what you
     need from the one you have. 

   * Skipping appointments, because you are "too sick to go to the
     doctor" is generally a bad idea.. 

   * If you procrastinate, don't try to get everything done. Start by
     getting one thing done. Then get the next thing done. Handle one
     crisis at a time. 

   * If you are trying to remember too many things to do, it is okay to
     write them down. If you make lists of tasks, work on only one task
     at a time. Trying to do too many things can be too much. It can be
     helpful to have a short list of things to do "now" and a longer
     list of things you have decided not to worry about just yet. When you
     finish writing the long list, try to forget about it for a while.

   * If you have a list of things to do, also keep a list of what you
     have accomplished too, and congratulate yourself each time you get
     something done. Don't take completed tasks off your to-do list. If
     you do, you will only have a list of uncompleted tasks. It's useful
     to have the crossed-off items visible so you can see what you have  

   * In general, drinking alcohol makes depression worse. Many cold
     remedies contain alcohol. Read the label. Being on medication may
     change how alcohol affects you. 

   * Books on the topic of "What to do during Depression": "A Reason to
     Live," Melody Beattie, Tyndale House Publishers, Wheaton, IL. 167
     pages. This book focuses on reasons to choose life over suicide,
     but is still useful even if suicide isn't on your mind. In fact, it
     reads a lot like this portion of the FAQ. An excerpt:

   * Do two things each  day. In times of severe crisis, when you don't
     want to do anything, do two things each day. Depending on your physical
      and emotional condition, the two things could be taking a shower and
      making a phone call, or writing a letter and painting a room.

   * Get a cat. Cats are clean and quiet, they are often permitted by
     landlords who won't allow dogs, they are warm and furry. 


Q. What are some books about depression?

   This is an shorter version from a list of books compiled from the
   personal recommendations of the members/readers/participants of the
   Walkers-in-Darkness mailing list, the
   newsgroup, and the Mood Disorders Support Network on AOL.

   The full list is available at the Walkers ftp site (see Internet
   Resources) and at the MIT *.answers site,;

   If you have any additions, updates, corrections, etc. for this list,
   please send email to "" (Dan Ash).

   ~A Brilliant Madness: Living with Manic Depressive Illness.~ Patty
   "Anna" Duke and Gloria Hochman. Bantam Books 1992 Comments: Patty
   Duke's very personal account of her account of her struggle with

   ~The Broken Brain: The Biological Revolution in Psychiatry.~ Nancy
   Andreasen, MD, Ph.D.. Harper. Perennial. 1984 

   ~Care of the Soul.~ Thomas Moore. Harper. Perennial. 1992 

   ~The Consumers Guide to Psychotherapy.~ Jack Engler, Ph.D. and Daniel
   Goleman, Ph.D. Fireside-Simon & Schuster. 1992

   ~Cognitive Therapy & The Emotional Disorders.~ Aaron T. Beck, MD
   Penguin. Meridian. 1976 

   ~Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness.~ William Styron. Vintage. 1990.

   ~The Depression Handbook.~ Workbook. Mary Ellen Copeland

   ~Depression and it's Treatment.~ John H. Greist, MD.. and James W.
   Jefferson, MD.. Warner Books. 1992

   ~The Essential Guide to Psychiatric Drugs.~ Jack Gorman. St. Martin's
   Press. 1992

   ~Everything You Wanted to Know About Prozac.~ Jeffrey M. Jonas, MD and
   Ron Schaumburg. Bantam. 1991

   ~Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy.~ David Burns, MD. Signet. 1980
   Self-help cognitive therapy techniques for depression, anxiety, etc.

   ~The Feeling Good Handbook.~ David D. Burns, MD. Plume. 1989 

   ~Good Mood: The New Psychology of Overcoming Depression.~ Julian L.
   Simon. Open Court Press. 1993. 

   ~The Good News About Depression.~ Mark S. Gold. Bantam. 1986 

   ~Listening To Prozac.~ Peter D. Kramer, M.D. Viking. 1993 A
   psychiatrist explores some of the implications of anti- depressants,
   and especially of Prozac's unusual effects on the personality. Kramer
   also discusses the recent research on depression, as well as several
   other issues which seem linked to depression.

   ~How to Heal Depression.~ Harold H. Bloomfield, MD and Peter
   McWilliams. Prelude Press. 1994 

   ~Manic-Depressive Illness.~ Fredrick K. Goodwin, MD, & Kay Redfield
   Jamison, Ph.D.. Oxford. 1990 

   ~Munchausen's Pigtail.~ Psychotherapy and 'Reality': Essays & Lectures.
   Paul Walzlawick, Ph.D.. Norton 

   ~On The Edge Of Darkness.~ Kathy Cronkite. Doubleday. 1994 

   ~Overcoming Depression.~ Demitri F. and Janice Papolos. Harper.
   Perennial. 1992. Good basic text on the various aspects of depression
   and manic depression. Considered by some to be a "classic" in the

   ~A Primer of Drug Action: A Concise, Non technical Guide to the"
   "Actions,Uses and Side Effects of Psychoactive Drugs.~ Robert M.
   Julien. W.H. Freeman. 1992. 6 ed.

   ~Prozac: Questions and Answers for Patients, Families and Physicians.~
   Dr. Robert Fieve, MD... Avon. 1993 

   ~Questions and Answers about Depression and its Treatment.~ Dr. Ivan
   Goldberg. The Charles Press in Philadelphia. 1993. A 112-page FAQ on
   depression that has appeared in book form. Dr. Goldberg has also
   contributed to the FAQ for a.s.d. and frequently posts to

   ~A Reason to Live.~ Melody Beattie (General Editor).. Tyndale House
   Publishers, Inc.. 1992. This is a book that explores reasons to live
   and reasons not to commit suicide. It also contains suggestions for
  life-affirming actions people can take to help themselves get through
  those times when they're struggling to find a reason to live.

   ~From Sad to Glad.~ Nathan S. Kline, MD. Ballantine Books.. 1991 20th
   printing. Out of date pharmacologically "but excellent otherwise."
   Kline says: "Psychiatry has labored too long under the delusion that
   every emotional malfunction requires an endless talking out of
   everything the patient ever experienced."

   ~Season of the Mind.~ Norman Rosenthal, MD.. This book explores
   Seasonal Affective Disorder.

   ~Talking Back to Prozac.~ Peter Breggin. St. Martins Press. 1994 

   ~Touched with Fire: Manic-depressive Illness and the Artistic~
   ~Temperament.~ Kay Jamison. A look at a number of 19th century poets, 
   writers, and composers who were Bipolar. This book in quoted
   liberally in this FAQ under "Who are some famous people with

   ~Toxic Psychiatry: Why Therapy, Empathy, and Love Must Replace Drugs,~
   ~Electroshock, and the Biochemical Theories of the 'New Psychiatry'.~
   Peter Breggin. St. Martin's Press. 1991 

   ~We Heard the Angels of Madness: One Family's Struggle with Manic~
   ~Depression.~ Diane and Lisa Berger This book was written by a mother
   who had a son stricken by manic-depression at 19 and documents the
   rough road they walked to get him the help he needed. Very heartfelt
   and well written.

   ~Understanding Depression.~ Donald Klein, MD, and Paul Wender, MD
   (founders of the National Assn. for Depressive Illness). Oxford,
   1993 Melvin Sabshin, MD, Medical Director, American Psychiatric Assn.
   writes: "A very good source of information that will be
   extraordinarily useful to patients and their families."

   ~The Way Up From Down.~ Priscilla Slagle, M.D. This book stresses a
   nutritional approach heavy on the amino acid tyrosine, and a complete
   vitamin supplement program.

   ~What You Need to Know About Psychiatric Drugs.~ Stuart C. Yudofsky,
   MD; Robert E. Hales, MD; and Tom Ferguson, MD. Ballantine. 1991 
   ~When am I Going to Be Happy?~ Penelope Russianoff, Ph.D.. Bantam.

   ~When the Blues Won't Go Away.~ Robert Hirschfeld, MD... 1991 Concerns
   new approaches to Dysthymic Disorder and other forms of chronic
   low-grade depression.

   ~Winter Blues: Seasonal Affective Disorder and How to Overcome It.~
   Norman Rosenthal, MD... The Guilfold Press. 1993

   ~You Are Not Alone.~ Julia Thorne with Larry Rothstein. Harper Collins.
   1993 Comments: The writings of depressives, for both depressives and
   those who need to understand them. Shervert Frazier, MD, former
   director of    the National Institutes of Mental Health says: "A
   ground breaking book that...reveals the impact of depression on the
   lives of everyday people. This little book is must reading for
   sufferers, those associated with depression, and mental health 

   ~You Mean I Don't Have To Feel This Way?~ Collette Dowling. Bantam.
   1993 Comments: Jeffrey M. Jonas, MD writes: "An important book that
   is filled with information helpful to sufferers of mood and eating
   disorders and other illnesses. It should be read not only by lay
   people but also by professionals who deal with these illnesses."


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