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The ins and outs of depression

Community Manager

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As we face a global pandemic, an imminent winter, and the jarring realisation that Jacinda Ardern will never be our prime minister (😢) it can be hard to figure out which of our emotions are circumstantial, and which are symptoms of something more concerning.


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Every year, around 6% of adult Australians are affected by a depressive illness. That’s about 150,000 Australians currently working through symptoms like changes in sleep or appetite, feeling sad and/or hopeless more often than not, feeling guilt or worthlessness, or losing pleasure in activities that are usually enjoyable.

 

For some people, shifting this depression can be really hard work – and relapses can happen. Sometimes, finding the right medication or mental health professional can take time. If you’re in this boat, we want to reiterate that you’re not alone. We have an entire community of people supporting one another on the SANE Forums. Pour yourself a cup of joseph and crack open a pack of Tim Tams, because we’ve crafted up some insights to add to your mental health tool-box.

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1. Hire the right personal trainer for your brain

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Everyone has different advice – mindfulness, mandalas, adult colouring books, exercise, medication… Everyone has a different view of what keeps the ‘black dog’ calm.

 

It’s important that your treatment options for depression work for you. Everyone is different – we all find success in minimising symptoms through so many different means. There are almost 100 modalities of psychotherapy that can help in your recovery: CBT, DBT, solution-focused, person-centred, gestalt or existential therapy, to name a few. Many counsellors are trained in different forms of therapy and specialise in different areas of interest. Have a confidential chat to one of the counsellors in our SANE Help Centre for more info on the types of support available to you.

 

In addition to therapy, many people have found success through nutrition and exercise, yoga, tai chi, meditation, sport, or medication recommended by a health professional. If you feel your current treatment plan is not right for you, reach out to a trusted GP to explore other avenues or potential medications that may support your recovery.

2. It takes two to tango 

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It’s common for both anxiety and depression to dance with one another, when we’d rather they just both lie down and take a nap. Let’s call anxiety ‘Anita’ and depression ‘Derek’. Derek and Anita have a lot in common. And they have a real knack for disrupting your plans. Anita tends to antagonise Derek. Sometimes that’s good for him, because it motivates him to do things and gives him a spark of energy. Vice versa, Derek can occasionally bum out Anita, antagonising her to cause further emotional chaos. If the two of them hang out too often, you may want to take them to couple’s counselling to get them collaborating a little more harmoniously.


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The reality is, we can all feel some symptoms of depression and anxiety sometimes. This is not always a bad thing. Sometimes, it’s about harnessing the symptoms of each and channelling them into our lives in a positive way. Our SANE Factsheets have stacks of info on different ways you can strategise and manage your symptoms.

3. In the thick of it

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Managing a depressive episode (when your mood might be particularly low for a period of time) can be one of the hardest parts of living with complex mental health issues. It can feel like you’ll never be able to claw your way out of it. 

 

Sometimes, we need to employ different strategies to help get us through heavier days. Whether your usual coping strategies are working or not, remember that emotions and feelings change all the time. Try to honour where you’re at in the moment, and remember that the emotion you’re feeling is not permanent. Time can change everything, and it’s important to get support while you’re riding out the tough times.  Know that your mood will change, and the support will get you through.

 

4. Do these genes fit?

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“Is depression genetic?” It’s a common question – and one that can send you down a Google rabbit hole. It's true that some people who have a first-degree relative (like a parent or sibling) with depression are two to three times more likely to develop the symptoms.

 

On the other hand, many people who develop depression don’t have a family history of the disorder, and many people with an affected relative never develop it. The best place to explore this is with a trusted health practitioner, such as a counsellor, psychologist or GP.

 

It’s important to remember that no matter the cause, there are so many options for recovery. With curiosity, resilience and support, we can overcome many of the challenges relating to severe depression.

 

To chat to thousands of people just like you, connect with us in the SANE Forums. You can introduce yourself here, enjoy a morning cuppa here or start your own thread here

Let’s continue this conversation in the comments below. What's been your experience of depression? What advice would you give others struggling with depression or complex mental health?

4 Comments
New Contributor

Grief would be my biggest obstical which started my journey into depression and anxiety at 20 years old loosing my dad Suddenly to a accident while I was 6 months pregnant with my first baby he was my rock in life,

then hitting PTSD and now at unable to work due to reacuring mental heath and depression condtions 

Hi @Helloworld - Welcome to the SANE Forums. Smiley Happy Grief can be such a hollowing experience. Smiley Sad I can't imagine how difficult it would have been losing your dad and rock in life, whilst being 6 months pregnant. To lose a parent while preparing to be a parent is a heartbreaking experience. I can hear that this loss has been a catalyst for your current struggles. In this light, I am so glad you found the SANE Forums. I am under no illusion that this will take away your sense of grief or your mental health struggles but it can be comforting to feel like you are not alone in all this. We have a wonderful community here, which I hope you come to experience. Welcome again @Helloworld! Heart 

Community Guide

Hi @nashy and others here. 

My experiences of depression have been as follows:

- 1st episode happened at 19 when I was unemployed and not studying but my GP only put me on meds short term;

-2nd episode was when I was 24 and lost my mum to cancer suddenly but as I wasn't living with her, I didn't think it was depression.  I struggled to understand why I kept making mistakes at work and was crying, etc, thinking it was just grief only to get told by my GP that it was depression and was put back on meds again.

- Finally got properly diagnosed at 26 when I moved interstate to study at uni and the depression really commenced when I couldn't afford to fly home at Easter in my first year. I had strange ideas of wanting to do things but a voluntary psych ward admission finally diagnosed me with depression and was put on meds full time due to blood tests revealing a chemical imbalance in my brain that was a possible cause of the condition. It helped that I also researched my symptoms on the Internet and through books and uni resources that assisted in me linking things to depression. 
- I have had depression ever since along with 2 other mental health issues, diagnosed 2 years later but have noticed that my depression is episodic so only happens at certain times.
- I've had several voluntary psych ward admissions interstate due to depression  when I was at uni but none in my home state. I have been to PARCS here in Melbourne (a step up/step down facility for people who don't need to be in hospital but still need support in a community facility) several times and found them to be a great way of helping me learn ways to cope with my depression and other mental illnesses, like learning coping strategies and getting into a routine and taking care of myself.
- I've tried many anti depressants, therapy such as CBT, seeing psychologists, GPs, for treatment options and had a great psychiatrist for 10 years until they moved on. I had a great uni councillor who helped me get through uni when I was living interstate from first year until I graduated with them coming to my graduation ceremony, which took nearly 6 long years but I did get my uni degree which many people didn't think was possible for me to achieve. 

For me, the following things help-

- Journaling or writing things down as a way of helping me explain myself when I can't verbally speak;

- Craft things like knitting, crochet and cross stitching as I find it helps me by making me productive and keeping my bad feelings at bay as well as helping me relax;

- Listening to music on my iPods as I can put on a different playlist to suit my mood, such as happy songs, motivational music, etc;

- Drawing how I feel or things that resemble the emotions I'm feeling using colours to act as emotions/feelings;

- Taking photos of things that I like to remind me of good things that I like or finding photos on the internet that resemble emotions such as waves crashing or a storm to resemble my depression and 

- Looking at inspirational quotes from books, movies, people and reminding myself that life does get better.

 

My advice for anyone struggling with depression or other complex mental health issues is:

- Take each day as it comes and try to make the most of it by setting small goals. That may be as simple as eating breakfast or making yourself a coffee or cup of tea or even something more like going for a walk or doing something you enjoy. Little things all add up to bigger things. 
- Find something you enjoy or gives you a sense of purpose or achievement and use it to help you when things get bad. For me, when I was depressed at uni, I'd study as I loved learning and valued education and I really wanted to get my uni degree. It was a goal for me that I wanted to achieve, especially when I had lots of people from friends to doctors to members of my family telling me that this wouldn't be possible because my degree would be useless. That studying actually helped me because I learnt  how to research and find information in many different ways about depression and is still useful over 15 years later.

- Don't be scared to reach out for help if you need it. Call a friend, tell a doctor, call a helpline, visit the SANE forums, just ask for help. It's okay and there is help available. Just tell someone. 
- It's perfectly okay to cry. I struggled to let people see me cry as I thought people would see it as me being weak at first until my uni counsellor told me that crying actually helps release stress and helps your body in many ways.

- Just remember that depression is like the weather. I think of my depression as being like a storm with the rain coming down but I know that deep down, the storm and rain has to pass and that better weather does come along eventually. 
- Don't ever give up. Recovery is possible and can and does happen. You are stronger than you think and you can get through depression. Like Dory from the movie Finding Nemo says  to Nemo when Nemo is trying to find his family "Just keep on swimming". You can do this.

 

 

New Contributor

hi am struggling to cope with all this stuff and l know everyone  is in the same dam boat but it's very hard to cope 😢😢😭with all this l have depression and anxciety other issues as well 

    My Mental Health

    We acknowledge the Traditional Owners of country throughout Australia, their diversity, histories and knowledge and their continuing connections to land, waterways and culture. We pay our respect to all Australian Indigenous Peoples and their cultures, and to Elders of past, present and future generations.

    Brisbane North PHN wishes to acknowledge the experience and expertise of the My Mental Health Steering Committee, delegates of the Peer Participation in Mental Health Services (PPIMS) network and health professionals in developing the My Mental Health Website.