I have what would probably be considered high-functioning depression. Though it appears to the outside world that I am fine — no one would ever know unless I said something — often I’m privately struggling. The severity ebbs and flows and can be caused by a stressful situation or just daily life. The side effects for me include exhaustion, irritability, and feelings of hopelessness, powerlessness, and worthlessness. When you’re a parent, there are things that you have to do for your kids daily, and your own needs often get put on the back burner. But there are some things I’ve incorporated into my life that have helped me manage my depression over the years.
1) Spending time in nature – I once read that the farther you live away from a natural body of water, the more likely you are to be depressed. I know that I always feel better when I spend time in nature, and we’re lucky to live right by the ocean. It engages all of your senses – the visual beauty of nature, the sound of the waves, the smell of the salt water, the feeling of the sand and water on your feet and the breeze in the air. Whenever I take a walk along the shore first thing in the morning, my day always starts off much more calm and relaxing.
2) Leaning on your partner – No one in my life, including my family, is really aware of the extent of my depression other than Mr. Bee. When I’m going through a tough time, he picks up the slack. He helps out with the kids more, gives me more time to rest, and is understanding of my erratic moods. Having someone that really understands depression makes you feel not so alone in the world.
3) Cutting myself slack – Sometimes I don’t have the energy to get out of bed so the kids get themselves cereal for breakfast. When I can’t cook dinner, we get takeout. Work, family, friends, chores sometimes fall by the wayside. I try to lower my typically high standards for myself and let it go.
4) Giving back – We try to do something for local kids once a month because we are lucky to have so much in our lives. We throw parties where they eat as much as they want, play games, do arts and crafts and take home a goodie bag. We pass out gifts on special occasions like Christmas. We give away children’s picture books written in Tagalog and English. We regularly give away our clothes and toys. Despite us having so much “more” than the locals, I can honestly say that I think they’re much happier!
5) Listening to Podcasts – I’ve tried to better understand depression most of my life through reading as much as I can about it. I’ve been listening to a new podcast called The Hilarious World of Depression which features interviews with famous comedians who have clinical depression. It feels very much in line with “high functioning depression” because they are famous and successful, and yet most people have no idea that they struggle with depression. Another podcast I listen to regularly is Sleep With Me, which is silly stories tone in a monotone voice that put you to sleep. It’s awesome for drowning out the thoughts racing through my head at night, and even better for helping me go back to sleep when I wake up in the middle of the night.
6) Listening/Watching Something Funny – When I watch a movie, I usually want to watch a comedy so I can laugh and feel better. That’s also why I’ve avoided watching highly acclaimed shows like Parenthood and This is Us because I don’t want to cry! I’m a huge fan of stand-up comedy and watch Netflix comedy specials (yay for offline streaming!), as well as listen to comedy podcasts like 2 Dope Queens (which always features a stand-up comedian) and Tiger Belly hosted by Bobby Lee (gotta support my Korean peeps!).
7) Getting a dog – I started a dog shelter here and have rescued every kind of dog from puppies to seniors to severely injured and starving dogs. They have added to my life immensely because it’s enormously rewarding to nurse a dog back to health. Plus they’re just so pure and innocent. Rescue dogs are the best — they’ve been through hard times and they truly appreciate being loved. In New York, I was a dog walker for one dog for years because it forced me to take a break from work and go on a walk every day. It was one of the best things I did for my mental health, getting daily exercise, getting out in nature, and spending time at the dog park. Dogs have added so much to my life and after a hard day, cuddling and petting my lovable dog who’s always so happy to see me makes me feel better.
8) Planning something to look forward to – Whenever I have something to look forward to, like a trip or an event, it keeps my anxious mind occupied. For instance, we have a bunch of family and friends visiting next month. I’ve been busy ordering things for them to bring with them from America and fixing up and cleaning the house. It’s easy to get stuck in the monotonous routine of life, and doing things that shakes that up is always good for me.
9) Exercise – Just kidding! Intellectually I know that I should exercise and it is probably the single biggest thing I could do to feel better. But when it’s hard to find the energy just to get out of bed in the morning, working out feels like an insurmountable task. I’m also limited with what I can do on this island and in the tropical heat. Life is pretty busy and hectic now, but I’m hoping to get back into a regular exercise routine soon. The only time I’ve really been able to stick to a regimen for an extended period of time in the past was when I attended classes with a friend or had a personal trainer.
10) Medication – Antidepressants are not a panacea and you definitely need to make other changes in your life to treat depression, but they help. I’ve tried going off of them recently with horrible results, and now have no plans to go off them anytime soon.
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Therapy is not on this list because it’s not something available locally, but if it were it would definitely be at the top of my list (particularly cognitive behavioral therapy).
Do you have high functioning depression? What do you do to manage it?