01 September 2008

Things that Help Me

I got an email yesterday from someone who had read "My Journey" with depression and found that it had helped them a lot.
It made me really glad that I had taken the step (the risk) of sharing such a personal thing with you on my blog.

It has also been on my mind to share some of the things that help me cope - my "medicine for the soul". Hopefully you may find some of these things give you strength on days when you need it! Even if you don't have depression, some of these things will probably still be helpful on the crazy days.

I find beauty soothes me, calms my ragged nerves and is like a kind of tonic. By that I mean, sitting in a sunny corner with a cup of tea, looking out at the trees waving; or some fresh flowers put on my windowsill (I love the freesias that are out at the moment, they smell so delicious).

Last week I was having a rough one, pretty much all week. Monday morning started badly, I was tired, baby was unsettled. All my nerves were jangling as I tried to chase the kids into the car. They had disappeared into the front garden and then came around the corner holding out handfuls of... my daffodils! My first thought was irritation, but that was quickly replaced with a little warm glow as I looked at their cheeky grins, and heard their self-satisfied chorus of, "For you Mum!"

By Thursday I was still struggling, and was due to host a coffee group at my house. I needed help quick, I was in no fit state emotionally to be the happy hostess. So I went into my garden and picked myself some more flowers, lovely sweet freesias. And I made a pot of tea in my pretty teapot, put out my tiered cake plate (for the Farmbake cookies) and turned on my "Jesus" music... the CD I made with all my favourite encouraging songs.
Then I rang my friend Margs and let her know I was struggling and asked for her help.

As it turned out it was a lovely morning, I avoided having any panicky moments and everyone said how pretty the table looked. I told them, "I just really needed to surround myself with beauty this morning!"

Calming music is something that I have turned to many times. For a long time I couldn't pray or read my Bible; the best I could do was to fill my house with music that would lift me up when I was down. I would just put on one of my mix CDs (all my current favourites) and sit with a cuppa and let the songs wash over me. Music helps set the tone. I can't stand loud hyper music, or screaming ads. I start to feel overwhelmed and swamped with all that noise. I have to either turn it off or get out. Sometimes all I need is "the sound of silence" (rare as that may be).

There's no point faking it; if you're struggling, people can see right through the plastic smile and calm veneer. Hopefully you have got at least one friend that will stick with you and accept you and love you even if they don't really "get" what you are going through.

One of my best friends did this for me. I've known her for years, we did youth work together, were bridesmaids for each other, had kids together... when she saw me struggling in the early days with depression she later told me she really didn't understand and couldn't relate at that time. But she stuck by me, she accepted me and loved me. She is one amazing girl, and I thank God for a friend like her. Later on she found herself struggling with depression herself, and then I got to be there for her too.

Other friends that I didn't get to share with, wondered, "Gee what has happened to Simone? She has really gone off the boil! She used to be into everything and now where is she?" I felt really hurt when some seemed to misjudge me. Fear of being judged just added to my misery!

But then I became a mum, and it seemed like every second person I spoke to had battled this at some time! Now I know that letting people know what you are struggling with is the best way. It gives people the chance to be there for you. You can ask for help on days you are not coping. They may not "get it" totally, unless they've been there, but if they really are your friends they will stick by you.

It's hard to be creative when you are battling depression, but if you can find some time and space for something creative, it's amazing how it will energise you. This blog is part of my creative outlet. My kids parties are part of my creative outlet.

Sometimes I paint.

I have a Visual Journal, which works like a written one but with colours and paints instead of words.
My counsellor taught me this technique as a way to connect with God and also to work through things. When our minds are all frazzled and our thoughts tangled, it's next to impossible to write in a journal. It was definitely in my "too hard" basket. But painting by-passes our brain, and comes out of our spirit. It's been amazing sometimes the things that have come out when I have painted.

Once I painted a forest, black trees with a path and a glimmer of light starting to show through. In my mind it was the Forest of Depression, which I was starting to see a way through at the time. After I had done it, I realised it was actually the Forest of Unforgiveness! There were five big trees in the front of the picture. My counsellor asked, who are those five people? She told me, nothing is insignificant in what you paint. You paint things you didn't even realise you knew. Out of that painting I started the process to work through a whole lot of stuff to do with the past. It was amazing.

I also love to paint canvases, in acrylic; mainly seascapes. I find it very calming, mixing colours right on the canvas and seeing where it takes me.

Winston Churchill (that great man) battled depression; he called it his "black dog". When he was feeling low with it he would paint, or garden, or make things. Creativity is a great antidote.

I am not an outdoorsy person at all, but I have to say there is something very healing about getting outside into nature. I have discovered that gardening really refreshes me!

On Friday it was a lovely day, and I just felt like getting dirt under my fingernails. (My week had improved a little but was still on thin ice). After kindy I put the baby in his pram, set my daughter up with her easel and paints in the front garden, and started attacking the weeds. I felt so energised and revitalised by the end of it - and the garden was much improved.

My other favourite thing is going for a walk on the beach. I like the west coast surf beaches like Karekare for this. The wildness really appeals to me.

Ask for time for yourself...
Guys are really good at taking time for themselves; Mr G plays indoor soccer and sometimes goes out to play golf or other sporting outlets.
Like many other mothers, I forget to ask for time for myself! I'm trying to get better at it; time with other grown-ups, uninterrupted conversation, coffee, movies, whatever. It's energising, revitalising and necessary if I want to have gas in the tank for my family.

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Valzy said...

Hey that was really touching!! me looking 4ward to tonight too!!yay xx

Rebecca said...

Hi Simone..snap! I jst wrote an entry on how god and people have helped me thru this crazy time too!

Eddie Baker said...

Hi my name is Eddie and i find i am going through shall i say a bit of a dark time but i find listening to music really helps me,it transports me where i want to be.And for a little while you are in a special place-where the cares of the day have evaporated.
I also find that talking to a good friend who does not judge you really helps

Brigitte said...

Hi Simone, just found your blogs about depression - very timely for me at the moment! I have PND & have been on meds for the past few months, but still have really low days... so it was great to read about things that help! Thanks for your honesty in your writing, I like the idea of painting to help sort through the jumble in the mind. I can totally relate with the music therapy as well, worship music brings me such peace when I can hardly even utter a prayer.
I find getting out in nature and running/exercising is a massive help for me, also because of those good-feeling endorphines that are released with exercise. Love them!
Anyway, thanks again for your posts about this, I am working my way through reading them and it's good to know you can be a Christian and have Jesus living in you and yet still get depression!... xx

Karyn Climans said...

A friend said the following to me: "I need to worry about you when I don't hear from you ..." How wise she is because when I'm feeling low, I retreat even though that's when I need my friends the most.
Thanks for sharing your story.

Cat said...

I doubt any of my 'friends' can tell when I'm low .. .. .. I don't have 'friends' I hold that close other than my Mr B . . . and well if he comes home and the kitchen is covered with baking he knows life is not good for me . . . but he is great - it's been 11 years now since my break down - since the only light at the end of the tunnel was an oncoming train!
Nature and baking and music and pampering are what get me through .. .. ..

Sarah Gauntlett said...

Thank you for this, i really needed it ;)

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