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People have often looked at me like I am ‘mental as anything’. They are not far wrong. After my third serious stoush with depression (of the clinical, ‘can’t get off the horizontal plane’ type) this year I was diagnosed with Bi-Polar Disorder – Type II.
When I returned to work – not wanting to be dead any more – my 15 year career as an executive and corporate coach no longer held the same appeal that it had for so long. That mythical ‘mission and purpose’ voice started calling and when I didn’t recognise it initially, it started shouting the chant: “Play Create Elevate Play Create Elevate Play Create Elevate”.
So Five Steps to Survive and Then Thrive in, through and beyond the big black dog kind of depression I experience evolved.
Step 1. Awareness and Acceptance
Know that having a mood disorder is the equivalent of having diabetes or heart disease. Depression is an illness, not a weakness. With the awareness of depression as an illness it is often easier for people to move to acceptance of their mood disorder. A great thing about acceptance is that you don’t have to like something to be able to accept it. The best thing about acceptance is that it allows for forward movement and action.
Step 2. Medical Advice and Guidance
Given depression’s illness status, more often than not means it requires medical intervention. General Practitioners (GP’s) are a great first point of call in relation to accessing and developing personalised ‘mental health plans’. Then there is the medication option, where appropriate. Psychiatrists may have much greater expertise with medication recommendations, so forget the ‘head shrinking’ stories, find one that suits you and get moving down the road to a speedier recovery.
Step 3. Therapeutic Conversation
Getting to understand the contributing triggers and factors associated with the arrival of depression is more easily done in conversation with a psychologist, counsellor, therapist, social or mental health worker. The most important element of therapeutic conversation is finding someone that ‘fits’, ‘gets you’ and understands that depression is an illness that is best supported through wise questioning, exploration and acceptance.
Step 4. Support of Family and Friends
“The more the merrier” is an apt cliché here. However, if there is one person that can be counted on to provide unconditional love and support through depression it makes all the difference to a speedier recovery. One of the big, hairy challenges of depression is that when life from the outside looks pretty good it can be extraordinarily difficult for a loved one to make sense of, or understand, that a person experiencing depression would prefer to be dead. It is truly something that has to be experienced to be understood (without wishing depression on anyone).
Step 5. Play & Creativity with Purpose
On a weekly basis more research is being offered on the importance of play and creativity. Arianna Huffington, of Huffington Post renown, offers getting ‘reacquainted with sleep’ as an important career move. I agree and add play and creativity. Purposeful play and creativity at work or at home adds laughter and joy to your day. It acts as a wonderful release to the build-up of living in the ever-greater expectations of the post-Noughties. Play and creativity take many forms from needle point to riding down the banks of the local creek just to see if you can make it up the other side. Watch out for the false impression that riding your bike for exercise or playing golf is what is being talked about here. Adults, to release the valve, get acquainted with playing in child-like ways… grab a hula hoop, learn how to make a chatterbox or play a game of pin the tail on the donkey and see how you feel…
Tell me if you are happier and more productive at work and home when you are having fun, being creative and playing in child-like ways. If the answer is ‘no’ do it differently! You can even ask me how!
Because your Mind Health Matters…