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3 Tips for Managing Depression from a Peer Support Specialist

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I have worked for the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services for almost 20 years as a mental health assistant and peer support specialist.  I was diagnosed with a mental health condition (bipolar disorder) at age 29.  Since then, I have been managing it with the help of psychiatrists and therapists and have been able to work and function steadily, except for a time in the hospital a year ago. The hospitalization turned out to be very beneficial as my meds needed adjusting, so I didn’t mind being there.

Lately, I have learned how to manage my symptoms myself.  That is the topic of this blog post.  There are three ways I helped myself get out of a severe depression recently without having to go to the hospital.  I don’t know how the idea came into my head to help myself with my symptoms, but it did.  I did all three things every day during my depression and continue to, as they have helped me so much.

The depression came entirely out of the blue, which is a symptom of the form of my illness.  The thoughts that came into my mind were saying that I was worthless, had never done anything worthwhile, and questioned why I was alive.  Some part of me was alarmed enough that I called my therapist, even though I had just had my regular session with him the day before.  He was also alarmed and kept close tabs on me during this period.

I will recount the tools I used that helped me.

First, I listened to a short meditation app.  The app begins by having you seated and feeling the weight of your body against the chair and the floor.  Next, you are to pay attention to your breath going in and out of your body.  On about the fourth exhale, you close your eyes.  You let your mind focus on the breath and the weight of your body.  Most importantly, if your mind wanders off, that’s okay, but then return to focus on your breath.  You can stop after about five minutes.

It was a short and easy exercise, but it helped me see that my negative thoughts don’t control me.

Second, I journaled my thoughts every day during this time.  You can do this on a computer, or if you don’t have a computer, just write your thoughts down on a pad of paper.  By doing this, I was able to see how destructive and untrue my thoughts were.  I told myself, I have done many good things and helped a lot of people at work!

Third, I am a big fan of exercise.  Exercise forces me to concentrate on what I’m doing in the moment, which makes it kind of like meditation.  One big difference is that you’re moving a lot rather than sitting still.

During my recent depression, I forced myself to go to the gym and go on the treadmill.  I found that I was panting so hard while working out that I couldn’t think of being depressed.  So, I found that I was distracted from my destructive depressive thoughts.  I realize that I am lucky that I have a gym membership.  However, even walking outside helps me, even in bad weather.  When I look at the changing seasons, I get distracted from my thoughts.

Using these three self-help tools enabled me to see that my seriously depressive thoughts were just that, thoughts, and would go away in time.  I actually saved myself from having to go to the emergency room to be checked out.

I would like to end with some things that helped me when I was in the hospital last year.  The hospital has a very good recreational therapist who supplied us with coloring books and word puzzles to work on whenever we wanted to.  I found coloring to be very relaxing, and I also journaled during my time there. Our unit also offered a yoga class.  I did not participate in that, but many other people found it helpful.

When I got out of the hospital, I did Tai Chi exercises that I found on YouTube for free.  I also did stretching exercises that we had done in the hospital.  These were also helpful.

So, in summary, thoughts do not control us.  The tools I used and will continue to use helped me to understand otherwise.



About the Author: K.F. has been working with the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services for almost 20 years as a Mental Health Assistant/Peer Support Specialist.  She enjoys writing, reading, hiking, playing the piano, and playing with her cat.

Mental Health Month 2021

Access for All

May is Mental Health Month, a time to spread public awareness and education about mental health disorders and reflect on the impact of mental illness on individuals and their families.

It is also a time to recognize and commit to changing the racial and economic inequities in our health care system, particularly with respect to mental health.

www.rtor.org and Laurel House are committed to the advancement of racial equity and social justice, and to making mental health services accessible to all.

Photo by andrew dinh on Unsplash

The opinions and views expressed in any guest blog post do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in the article or linked to therein. Guest Authors may have affiliations to products mentioned or linked to in their author bios only.

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