The Battle to Beat Depression

We all fight battles – some more than others, but all of us fight and struggle through.

The Battle to Beat Depression | The Last Krystallos - black dog, depression, ways to beat depression, antidepressants, thelastkrystallos,

Fending off the black dog… © Lisa Shambrook

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle” (a quote thought to have come from Ian Maclaren but now widely misattributed to Plato – don’t you love Pinterest and its mass of misattributes?!) This quote speaks volumes.

Lara Croft, weapons, axe, arrows, bow, quiver, thelastkrystallos,

© Lisa Shambrook

Not one of us escapes these skirmishes, so we need to be well equipped.

Two things lead me to write this article: firstly I’m making weapons for Cosplay; just last week I made a quiver and arrows to go with my bow and this week I made an axe, so I have weapons on my mind. Secondly I read a post by a friend, who suffers depression, and she listed her ‘antidepressants’ over on her blog A Slice of Reality and it makes sense to know what yours and mine are too!

Back in 2013, The Guardian reported that ‘Nearly a fifth of adults in the UK experience anxiety or depression.’ That’s one in every five people you know. Simply put, we all know people who suffer with depression and/or anxiety and a whole host of other mental health problems. Thankfully, we are now becoming not only more aware, but more able to talk about mental health issues.

So go and read my friend’s post and see what her antidepressants are…see what mine are and then go and work on yours.

antidepressants, the battle to beat depression, tablets, water, thelastkrystallos,

© Lisa Shambrook

Medication is the first port of call when you go to your GP. In fact, in general, according to the British Medical Journal, antidepressants are being overprescribed. This is not to say they don’t have a place, but the most effective use of antidepressants is a short course that resets the chemical imbalance caused by depression until your body is ready to produce them again.
*Though everyone is different and Dr’s advice should be adhered to.

I’ve taken several courses of antidepressants during my life and each time they’ve helped me overcome the illness. If I need them these days I’ll take a six month course and work on lifting myself out at the same time. My family and I prefer me not to take them as I become a zombie – I want to feel alive not comatose. Antidepressants react differently with different people, but don’t expect to take them without the myriad side effects.

Lisa Shambrook, depression, pain, thelastkrystallos, the battle to beat depression,

© Lisa Shambrook

The most important intervention a GP can offer is therapy. I’ve taken courses of therapy, but only privately. The waiting lists were always too long for me. In my book ‘Beneath the Old Oak’ Meg’s mother refuses her GP’s help.  Her reaction is typical of someone suffering depression:

“I’m wasting money that could be spent on people who are really sick, and why? Because I’m sad!” She [mum] flung her arms in the air. “I’m sad, really sad, and not in the being upset terms either! Sad, weak and stupid. I’m stupid, therefore I do stupid things, therefore I should see a counsellor, but I can’t because I’m not stupid enough!”
Meg rolled her eyes.
“Maybe I should do something stupid…”
“Maybe we should get dinner, Mum. C’mon, let’s get dinner.” Meg moved towards the kitchen. “Mum? Did you put yourself on the list for counselling anyway?”
Mum shook her head. “What’s the point? I’ll be better after I take these [antidepressants]. I’ll be fine in less than a few years! The list is for people with serious problems, not bored housewives who feel sad.” She strode past her daughter. “C’mon, Meg, I’ll be fine in no time.”

If you think is that there’s always someone worse off, that it’s not so bad, that you don’t want to take up valuable NHS time, and you don’t put yourself on the list – that’s a vicious circle. You are worth it, and if you are ever offered therapy of any kind from your GP – take it!

dog paws, Roxy, GSD, german shepherd, thelastkrystallos,

© Lisa Shambrook

Exercise is, for me, the most effective antidepressant there is. Another friend once sent me an essay she’d written, for her thesis, about the effects of exercise on depression, it was an eye opener! Exercise is a natural way to increase serotonin, as is getting out in the sunshine, and it can help lift the depressive state. Almost seven years ago we got a dog, and daily walks have increased my capacity to avoid depression hugely. Then last year our family joined the local gym. A mixture of exercise and a much healthier diet have impacted greatly on our weight, which has significantly decreased, our general fitness and health, and my predisposition for depression and anxiety. I cannot recommend exercise more. If you can’t afford the gym, or a dog, then just get yourself outside, take a walk and appreciate the abundance of nature!

psalm 61 2, overwhelmed, higher rock, scripture,In her post, my friend talks about her faith and I share it. It doesn’t matter what denomination you are, or aren’t, or what spiritual beliefs you have, there are good things in life to be appreciated. Things that increase your faith, whether in humanity or deity, and these are good. Lean on your faith like I can rely on words of comfort from scripture…let it carry you.

Being creative is what keeps me going. When the chips are down, when I’m stuck in a black hole, I can escape through writing. If you’re lucky enough to have a creative talent, use it. If not, search one out, cultivate one, or find a hobby that makes you happy. I write when I need to release the pressure of anxiety, when panic threatens to overwhelm me, and when the pit of depression attempts to bind and suffocate me. Words are my world, and they save me.

Anxiety © BekahShambrook

Anxiety © BekahShambrook

Some of us are also lucky to have families who, though they can’t always stop you from slipping into that pit, they can throw down the rope to haul us out. They may not understand, I know my self-harm is way beyond my husband’s comprehension, but he will always be there. They will make sure they’re there to hug you, reassure you and work out how to tug your little boat back into their harbour.

I know that for me these antidepressants work, most of the time. You may be reading this whilst you’re cowering in the darkness and these ideas may seem as far away as the sun is, but give yourself time, depression is not always curable, but it is liveable and survivable. I live with chronic depression, of the rapid cycling variety, (You can read more about mine here) and I know I will always live fending off the black dog, but I can – I can growl and he’ll back off… Learn how to tame yours.

How do you survive? What helps you through the tough times and what tips can you offer to tame the black dog? 

Beneath_the_Old_Oak_front_cover_finalTo read more of Meg and her mum’s battles, ‘Beneath the Old Oak ‘ is available in paperback and eBook on Amazon and Etsy.

‘Turn those dreams of escape into hope…’ Meg thinks her mother is broken. Is she broken too? Meg’s life spirals out of control, and when she mirrors her Mum’s erratic behaviour, she’s terrified she’ll inherit her mother’s sins. Seeking refuge and escape, she finds solace beneath a huge, old oak. A storm descends, and Meg needs to survive devastating losses.

15 thoughts on “The Battle to Beat Depression

  1. Daniel Swensen

    I’ve given up caffeine and found that it’s helped a lot with my depression and anxiety. The rush of caffeine is nice, but the come-down is brutal, and once I started tracking it, I realized just how brutal it really was.

    I watch my diet and try to stay away from sugar and focus on fish, proteins and good fats, as well as lots of vegetables, all of which have been shown to boost and maintain mood.

    Exercise helps me a lot too.

    I try my best to track this stuff via journaling and talking to people.

    Most of all, I try to remember that whatever bleak spell I’m going through at the moment, it’s temporary and not a reflection of my character.

    1. Lisa Shambrook Post author

      I hear a lot about giving up caffeine, so your experience is interesting, Daniel, I’ve never had coffee or tea, so it’s not an issue, but I know certain foods/drinks can feed the depression and anxiety. You’re right that diet is very important in the battle too. Our family changed our entire diet last year, and it’s had very positive effects not only on weight, but on mindsets too 🙂

      Also, not blaming yourself, is vital. Depression dampens our self-worth, and I’m so glad my family is strong to counter that!

  2. ailsaabrahamwp

    I’m rapid cycling Bipolar so I’m on Depakote for life to keep me reasonably stable most of the time. If I hit a high or low for a week, I have other meds to take as a quick-fix, not long enough to get hooked on. My therapies (since my only decent therapist retired) are – walking with Lil dog Lily, talking to Nature (that is the belief part) and being creative with yarn. When I am fighting the very big black dog, I can’t write. My head goes to porridge but I can always make a soft toy which is not only creative but someone to talk to as I’m going. My husband is supportive but really doesn’t understand the condition. As he is elderly and not in good health himself, I try to shield him from the worst excesses of a down.

    1. Lisa Shambrook Post author

      I find the dog walks and fresh air stimulate enough to drown the beginnings of a down at the moment, and exercise picks me up when the dark whispers. It’s tough knowing it’s going to be lifelong, but so glad I have friends like you, Ailsa, to talk to when it gets too much x

  3. Amanda Makepeace

    I think art has become my antidepressant. I was took traditional medication for several years but it was difficult finding a combination that didn’t erase my creativity; which in turn made me even more depressed. I still go through dark phases, but they aren’t nearly has bad as they once were and usually I can pull myself out by focusing on a painting. The trouble comes when I’m held back from my art, because of the holidays or moving house, etc. Being kept from my art will slowly but surely pull me back into the darkness. I’m one of those people who would rather not have a day off. I want to keep painting! When I stop, it’s not good.

    I don’t take any medications these days for my mental health, but I understand their importance. Depression, anxiety, and bipolar are a common thread in my family. I have family members must take medication every day to function. I think it’s a good sign that more and more of are okay with being open about it.

    1. Lisa Shambrook Post author

      Totally with you in all aspects, Amanda, I have a bipolar brother and sister, so my family history is vast in mental health issues, and meds are important. I can’t find an antidepressant that doesn’t turn me into a zombie, so these days I fight without meds…because I can’t bear not ‘feeling’. I need to be alive, or I’ll give up. Writing and art are my therapies x

  4. Miranda kate (@PurpleQueenNL)

    This is a great post. I have never suffered depression in this way. I have lived with someone who did though and who medication worked for. Following on from what Daniel said, I think diet and food affect moods greatly, you see it with children from an early age. I give my eldest Magnesium and Omegas (3,6 & 9 – not just 3), as these all effect neuro processes and behaviour together. Diet and finding the right balance is essential, but also getting outside and moving around. I just started walking regularly, as I can’t do the regular aerobics I was doing due to my neck hernia. It really clears the head. I’m glad you are able to find solutions outside the medication.

    1. Lisa Shambrook Post author

      You’re right, diet can make a huge difference. Since we’ve begun eating more healthy, I’ve noticed a difference with my moods and I’m much more settled. We barely eat processed meals, cooking from scratch instead, that said, I do have a penchant for chocolate that I don’t think I’ll ever lose!

      1. ailsaabrahamwp

        Yes, I forgot that. Since I went completely vegetarian I am less prone to depression. This may be because in the past I was forcing myself to eat meat because I live with a carni. Removing that guilt could help. Cutting out any little “prompt” is a good idea. Especially running oneself down!

  5. Blue Harvest Creative

    This is such an excellent post! A lot of people have given a lot of great tips. You need to keep everything in your life balanced: lifestyle, work, stress, diet, and exercise. Take time to medidate. Yoga is wonderful, walking, massage, etc. Also consider a Paleo-type diet. It’s amazing how food can trigger depression, anxiety, and even disease. Certain vitamin deficiencies can also contribute. Eliminate all grains and dairy. Tannin (found in tea and other foods) can trigger anxiety. Eliminate as much stress as possible, And find an outlet that helps. Whether it is writing, walking, hiding under the covers for a few hours, etc. SAD can also occur so make sure you get enough sunshine depending where you live. Everyone is different so find what works for you. Again, great post and hugs to all.

    1. Lisa Shambrook Post author

      Great advice, I’ve all but elminated bread and potatoes…the other day I had a couple of white bread sandwiches, and wow, I noticed the difference, bloated, heavy and just meh. If I eat carbs I have to limit them to small amounts! And since changing our diet, the amount of cheese and milk has been drastically reduced and it’s all good!

  6. Alice

    I love this approach to thinking about the most effective “antidepressants” for you and your needs! Thank you (and your friend!) for sharing.

    Blogging/writing has turned out to be the most profound tool for me. While my primary issue is/has been PTSD rather than depression (capturing moments of trauma in narrative has been invaluable), I believe the ability to express our own truths can soothe the mind and heal the humanity, for most situations.

    1. Lisa Shambrook Post author

      Very true, Alice, sometimes escaping into my writing is so cathartic. There are so many ways writing, and being creative, can help, I often disappear into my words and they allow me to release my demons.

  7. Pingback: Anxiety Disorder – the Illness that Inhibits You and How to Beat It | The Last Krystallos

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