Depression can sneak up on you. It can happen so slowly, you may be unware of it approaching. Depression can also hit you like an 18-wheeler going 70mph. Today I am going to focus on the sneaky nature of depression. First, lets review some of the common symptoms.
Weight loss or gain
Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
Trouble sleeping or excessive sleeping
Loss of concentration
Some of these signs are more noticeable than others. Some, however, can occur so gradually you may not even notice. For example, I recently noticed that I have stopped doing some of the activities I enjoy. I have started watching Netflix or Youtube instead of reading. I have stopped doing yoga at night, and my cats have started to annoy me rather than invoke happiness by merely existing, like normal. I have also stopped going to bed and waking up at the same time each day, and limiting naps to not more than once a week for one hour.
This didn’t happen all at once, but rather, gradually over the course of a few weeks. I became aware of these changes when my husband commented that I had stopped with my yoga and meditation, he was concerned. He has been through many depressive episodes with me and has become rather skilled at detecting the warning signs. Once he mentioned that I had stopped with my yoga, I thought about all of the other things I had been putting aside.
Armed with my toolbox of skills learned through years in therapy, I decided to try to push away the depression rather than give in to it’s pull. I carefully thought through my options and decided that opposite action and the 5-minute rule were going to be my weapons of choice (Note: I modified the 5-minute rule to be the 15-minute rule).
So now when I find that I want to lay around and watch Netflix instead of reading, I make myself get up, and try reading and see how it goes. I look at the time and tell myself that if I’m not into the book after 15 minutes I can watch Netflix. When I see myself shying away from my yoga mat, I set a timer on my phone for 15 minutes and power through, often choosing to continue after the alarm sounds.
Treatment resistant depression is a strong, sneaky opponent. It is an opponent I will be fighting for the rest of my life in one form or the other, but it is an opponent that can be fought.
There are things you can do to catch your sneaky depression before it builds its strength. It is always helpful to tell someone who sees you regularly, such as a family member or a friend, what your behaviors of depression are. Ask that person to gently let you know if they see you exhibiting these behaviors. You can also keep a mood journal, in which each day your rate your mood and also briefly list what you did that day. If at the end of a week you see that your activities have drastically changed, you can then act accordingly. It can also be helpful to set a schedule. If your actions start to deviate from that schedule, then perhaps its because depression is sneaking up on you.
Fighting depression is hard. If you catch it early, you may be able to minimize it or stop it from arriving entirely. It is always a good idea to also make your mental health team (therapist, psychiatrist, etc.) aware that you see these early warning signs, as well as take action yourself. Although it can seem tiring to guard against depression, doing so can be effective and impowering.