A lot of the time, tips for overcoming depression tend to involve energetic things like hula hooping, Zumba classes, and tandem cycling. Sometimes this is exactly what you need, and sometimes depression makes those things sound impossible. Some people do manage to find themselves again by forcing a smile and dragging themselves outside to go flower-picking; but hearing that this is the only way to get well can be annoying for many and destructive at worst – how are you supposed to perform all of this socialising and cheerfulness when you can barely get out of bed?
My advice is to go at your own pace, and do the things you feel you want to do. Embracing your place in dark culture doesn’t mean succumbing to the black hole of depression, and you don’t have to transform into a shiny happy person to be content and complete again.
Hopefully this advice can help whether you’re way down deep in the pit, enjoying the view from the top after you’ve clawed your way out, or you’re still slogging your way to the top.
Get Outside (At Home)
The outside world can seem awful when you’re depressed. One day soon you can go back to visiting graveyards and proudly displaying your tattoos at the beach, but for now, if it’s too difficult, that’s ok.
Instead, you can take a small vacation from the comfort of your computer. Mapcrunch can transport you anywhere in the world and is as addictive as it is calming; while if you find yourself needing a retreat from an overwhelming world, The Quiet Place Project offers a simple few minutes of quiet time away from technology and distractions.
It can be so easy to withdraw from others when you’re depressed, and so difficult to connect properly when you feel you need to. Take your own time with these things, but know that you can ask for help. Telling a few chosen people you’re not feeling so great right now and would appreciate a bit of low-maintenance company can make a world of difference.
If it’s too difficult to seek people out in person, Emotional Baggage Check encourages you to anonymously share your problems with a stranger and pick up a song and a kind word in return. If you feel like it, you can give a song back to someone else in need. If talking to another person seems too overwhelming, then one-way communication can help, and sites like PostSecret might help you feel less alone.
Mindfulness is one of the current buzzwords of mental health, and can often involve such activities as counting bubbles or catching balloons in your imagination. Balloons work for me, but they can also make mindfulness sound like bullshit. It doesn’t have to be.
The essence of mindfulness is to be aware of how and where you are in the present moment. As a technique, it is essentially about grabbing some space to take inventory. This can be a thirty minute meditation or a stolen thirty seconds to just look around and ground yourself. The idea is to notice each thought, feeling, and sensation within yourself at one point in time, look at those experiences without judgement, and then let them go. I’ve practised this with people while imagining storage boxes and library books, but you could use any imagery you find helpful.
It might be useful to think of any unwelcome and overwhelming thoughts and feelings as a train. Get yourself as comfortable as you can, and imagine yourself standing (or seated, or doing a handstand, or whatever) on a train platform. As you notice what you’re thinking and feeling, imagine those experiences as a train making its way to your platform. Take a look at the train, and the feeling – anxiety, for example, or how tight your shoulders are, or “This is stupid” – and then watch the train slide past your platform and go on its merry way to some other destination. Sometimes, the same train is going to keep coming back to the station, and that’s okay. Sometimes you’re on the train, and the train is on fire. That’s okay, too. You can always get off at the next stop.
Find Comfort and Joy
It can be really, really difficult to find anything fun, interesting, or emotionally nutritious to focus on when you’re depressed.
Start small. Find a little thing you enjoy and stick with it for as long as you enjoy it. When it doesn’t feel good anymore, stop. Remember that stopping when something starts to feel bad – or the fact that it feels bad at all – is not failure on your part.
Short, relaxing games can be amazing for this. Gentle puzzle games like Windosill and the weird but wonderful Feed the Head, both by Vector Park, can help you feel settled and accomplished, and are short enough that they don’t require huge amounts of attention for a long period of time.
If you find yourself needing laughter as well as comfort, there’s something uniquely soothing about cartoons. Steven Universe is free and legal to watch online, and so is Rick and Morty if you live in the US and have cable – both are dark, silly, and excellent. If you can find them, there’s also such cartoon weirdness as Adventure Time, Over The Garden Wall, The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack, and Gravity Falls.
Another of life’s biggest comforts can be reading, but it can be difficult to concentrate on a book when you’re depressed. There are a lot of free short story podcasts and audiobooks out there. I’d recommend the Escape Artists podcasts for genre short stories – my favourites include They Go Bump (episode 382) from the sci-fi EscapePod, The Husband Stitch (episode 409) from fantasy-based PodCastle, and The Second Act (episode 491) from horror-filled PseudoPod. LibriVox is a great resource for free audiobooks by vintage genre authors, including work by H.G. Wells, Bram Stoker, and Mary Shelley.
Sometimes all you can do for a while is stay in bed; sometimes you know being overtired is messing with your head and a few hours sleep will do you some good. Either way, if you’re going to nap, doing it in style can change the landscape of the whole siesta from “Fuck my life, I’m going to bed forever,” to, “I want to do something luxurious and kind for myself today.” Snooze in style and gothic comfort with cute pyjamas and elegant sheets. If you need someone to cuddle with who understands, try Edwin Morose from Teddy Scares – he’s nostalgic, existential, and adorable.
Baths are another great way to find luxury in necessity. A bath is a magical thing. Lying back in a bath, or sitting comfortably under the stream of a warm shower, doesn’t take much effort but can do your soul a world of good. Choose a grounding scent or a comfortingly sweet one with these swirling purple bath and shower treats from Lush UK; lie back and admire some bath-time art with an opulent soap statue from Wyrdwerks; or maybe add a hint of witchy goodness from Witch Baby Soap.
How you’re feeling right now isn’t weakness, and neither is asking for help. Even if you feel you’re at absolute rock bottom, even if it feels like nothing will ever be alright again – this is not a weak time in your life, this is not a failure, and there is help out there beyond this article.
Whatever else you do, please try to be kind to yourself.
If in doubt, please check in with your doctor and tell them what’s going on. Call your local crisis team. See if you can find accessible therapy.
We know it’s a cliché, but we also know that things can get better. You can laugh with us, cry with us, nap with us, and watch weird cartoons with us – we’re with you in spirit and through your screens. Things might be incredibly shit, but we know how strong you’ve had to be to survive at all. If we carry on, we can keep adding to this list of things that might help. We can keep going and beat our personal brain problems together.