It’s hard to plan for depression.
Partly because thinking about the months we’ve spent in the emotional fog is one of the best ways to ruin a perfectly good day.
But you and I both know that trying to come up with a plan while depressed is like turning on Google maps when your car is already in the tornado.
I used to think my depression came out of nowhere. A random event sent by the earth to destroy my life. Like – oh I don’t know – a tornado.
But then I started to look at when, where, why and how long I was depressed. I started to see patterns. Patterns that led to depression and patterns that led out of depression.
The unfortunate truth I came to was: when the conditions are wrong, depression will set in. So I might as well plan for it.
So I tried to made a realistic plan to get my emotional car out of the ditch before I ran out of gas. And then my friends and I did our damnedest to stick to it.
Then something changed. I didn’t cure my depression, but my depression started to feel less like a tornado, and more like getting the flu.
It still sucked but I didn’t feel like I was falling to my death.
So here are a few things to consider if you decide to start planning for depression.
1. Look back at When and Why You Got Depressed
So maybe do it in sections – like 30 minutes at a time while eating your favorite food.
When I went back and dissected my bouts with depression, I realized that there were usually 1 of 3 major events that closely preceded my depression: the end of an important relationship, a big decision coming up that I didn’t want to make, or getting exhausted from stretches of 50+ hour work weeks.
These were almost always followed by a 2 – 8 week emotional hangover.
Now you may be saying to yourself, “You can’t plan for these things!”and you would be correct. But we can plan for the depression that inevitably sets in afterwards.
I don’t know what sets you spiraling and I’m not ever going to try and guess. But I will guess that if you put in the work, you and your friends/therapist/doctor can identify a number of them.
2. Make a List of things that set your body on fire with joy
Everyone has a short list of things that send an electrical current of bliss through their body. The things that make you smile until your face hurts. The flavors that are so amazing you can taste it in your toes. Depression changes your body chemistry so often our bodies need a strong jump to get it going again.
My list is Sushi, Adventure Time, Dance Parties, Sitting in Hot Tubs, and a few more embarrassing things that I’m not quite ready to share with the internet.
So when I feel the clouds of depression come rolling in, but BEFORE I’m on the couch under a blanket, I go on a serotonin bender. Combining all our favorite joy drenched things like the Power Rangers turning into Megazord.
Now my list is probably not going to work for you. So you’re going to need to make your own list.
But if possible try to make this list WHEN YOU’RE NOT DEPRESSED! Because once the serotonin drought sets in, you’re going to have a decreased ability to think of anything you like or remembering why you liked them in the first place.
3. Start working on your Squad Goals
I need some help once the clouds of depression start rolling in. And depressed people are not the best at asking for help.
Because even our favorite activities can start to feel like a chore.
I’m not going to go deep into it here but getting through depression also means doing some activities that we don’t find fun, even when we are at 100%.
If you’ve read anything on depression before you know that any serious plan will require – let’s be honest – daily exercise, eating things that don’t come in boxes with cartoon characters on them, maybe getting on or adjusting your anti-depressants, and making an appointment with your therapist.
And YES you need a therapist. If you’re going to get serious about kicking depression’s ass, you’re going to need a personal trainer.
And DON’T WAIT UNTIL YOUR DEPRESSED TO GET A THERAPIST!
Making your first appointment feels about as dignified as going up a pants size. So you probably want to be in decent frame of mind when you do it.
Identify 3 of your least judgmental friends and tell them about your depression. Tell them when it comes, what it looks like, and what you need to do to get out of it.
Hospitals don’t expect car crash survivors to drive themselves to the ER. That’s what ambulances are for. And we need our friends to bring us to the emotional ER.
So give your friends permission to drag your ass off the couch and into a sushi happy hour. Tell they have permission to call you everyday until you make an appointment at your therapist. Give them a spare gym bag so they have a fresh pair of work-out clothes ready for you when you haven’t done laundry in a week.
Your friends care about you and they will do it. In fact, they probably sit around wondering how to get you off the couch, but don’t know how you’ll respond.
I mean does this guy look like he is up for sushi happy hour?
Now I would love to show you some kind of chip that says “I’ve been depression free for 4 years!”
But I haven’t.
But I have come a long ways. I used to be down for a month at a time – maybe 3 months a year. Now it’s around 2 weeks at stretch.
But when I stopped trying to cure my depression, and started planning for it, things did get better.