Skepticism

AI: Pick Me Up

I get down in the dumps sometimes. I’ve dealt with depression and anxiety for a long time now, and have developed little ways of making myself feel better without resorting to medication (because of pregnancy and now breastfeeding – I’m not opposed to them). Some are common among other people, and I’m sure almost none of them could be proven medically. But they work for me.

Today is a down-in-the-dumps type of day. With a 6 month old in my face all day, I don’t feel like I’m allowed to sulk, so I have to make myself feel better. This means that I will spend the day doing crunches, cleaning as much as possible, possibly going for a walk and trying a new recipe tonight. I will also spend the entire day singing the Beatles in my head. By bedtime I should be right as rain.

I’ve noticed an increase in the number of people I know who run/jog to feel better psychologically. Some people meditate while some others listen to music as loud as they can. How do you make yourself feel better? Do you have any silly personal rituals?

The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 3pm ET.

Chelsea

Chelsea is the proud mama of an amazing toddler-aged girl. She works in the retail industry while vehemently disliking mankind and, every once in a while, her bottled-up emotions explode into WordPress as a lengthy, ranty, almost violent blog. These will be your favorite Chelsea moments. Follow Chelsea on Twitter: chelseaepp.

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69 Comments

  1. In all seriousness, a walk really does help me (initial obligatory snarky interwebs-style reply notwithstanding [I wanted to say it before anyone else did]).

    Music used to help, but as I age, it seems to have less and less of an emotional effect on me. I don’t have a good explanation for that.

    Actually, as I age, I find that I don’t get sulky, or angry very often. It’s not that my life has improved (it hasn’t in many respects), but rather that I think the worst that can happen has already happened, so why worry about anything less than that? You know?

  2. Usually, I try to exercise or do something nice for myself. However, when it gets bad I resort to an idea I had years ago.

    I was for many months feeling crappy. It was one of those things where you feel lousy and you know it’s all in your head, but nothing I could do was shaking it. I stopped reading the paper and watching news because it was so full of ugliness, but the feeling persisted (though lessened).

    I bought myself a cheap-as-hell camera and told myself that I would force myself to find one thing each day that was worth taking a picture of, preferably something beautiful. I expected to go through about a roll of film a month. Here’s what I found:

    – I went through 21 rolls of film in a month. Wish I’d gone digital!

    – Suddenly, everywhere I looked I saw beauty and intricacy. It became hard to dwell on anything negative with all the pretty stuff in the world.

    – I figured out just how crappy a photographer I am. But the end result didn’t matter, what mattered was the process.

  3. @Zapski. I was MUCH more frequently depressed as a young person. But I also experienced higher highs at that time in my life. Overall, age has kind of evened things out. I know that this too shall pass, for better or worse. So that helps me when I’m down.

    Also helpful:
    A talk with a trusted friend.

    A good cry.

    Time to yourself.

    Being grateful for what you do have (ugh, sounds like Oprah)

  4. I usually watch the Blues Brothers (is there any movie out there with a better soundtrack?) and try to help someone out, as to remind myself that things maybe aren’t so bad for me. Of course, every now and then, the person you’re trying to help might feel that you need a hand more than they do…

  5. A bath, a beer, and a book are usually good therapy for me. And if that doesn’t work, I just pop in “The Iron Giant” and cry my eyes out, and then I feel better. Sometimes I just need to get a good cry out of my system.

  6. I have a history of depression which is generally not fixable with a pick-me-up, but when I’m just feeling a little blue, reading a really engaging book or baking (remember, cookies = love!) usually works like a charm.

    @dmac: This too!!!

  7. I still get depressed sometimes, even with medication. Usually I dwell and it’s almost like I -want- to stay that way. But, when someone sees I’m not feeling great and wants to help I can open up a bit and let it out with talk and hugs. If I can get myself up a bike ride really helps to calm me down and cheer me up too.

  8. It depends on what kind of depression. If it is just a little down in the dumps kind of thing, then I’ll go running in the morning, try to find a recipe that interests me, and cook that with good music on the stereo and a good bottle of wine opened on the counter.
    If it is the kind of hopeless, no energy, apathetic type of depression, then I take the motorcycle for a ride, try to find some little restaurant that I haven’t tried before, and have a meal and a cocktail while reading a book. Then ride back home, settle on the couch, and read or sleep. If I’m not so apathetic or depressed that I can muster a little charm, well, getting laid really helps.

  9. I find babies and small children to be effective antidepressants, which of course is no use to anyone with the baby-blues or is a fulltime parent…

    When I’m down I like to solve problems from “Challenging Geometry Problems” to take my mind off my troubles. Or listen to music, which often helps me to express/feel emotions.

  10. I take a dance class (or host my own in the living room). Comfortable, familiar physicality can really help express things in a way muddling through it in my head can’t.

    For bigger badder things, I sleep on it. Everything seems better when you’re rested.

  11. @russellsugden: Side effects of babies and children may include insomnia, restlessness, irritability, anxiety, fatigue, headaches, and… no… you can’t have a cookie…no….because dinner’s in an ho-
    I said no…..Throwing a tantrum won’t hel-
    No… No…. Does someone need to sit in time out?

  12. I have suffered from it my entire life. And the only thing that keeps me out of the pit of despair is to keep moving. If I don’t sit down and read, watch tv, play on the internet, or do anything that is NON-productive I will stay out of the pit.
    Accomplishing something, even weeny accomplishments count. If you have any creative outlets they are great ways to feel like you accomplished something.
    Feeling productive is key. And if that involves physical activity that is better.
    I resort to “Weeny” accomplishments” when I am already in the pit of despair and need to get out. That when you tell yourself that you will get out of bed and you do. You take time to give your self a point for it and then you set the next goal. After a few minutes the minuscule goals get bigger, but the key is – don’t forget to take credit.
    Probably don’t over share about the “weeny” accomplishments. People get worried.

  13. Ironically, I’m home right now because I was having an utterly fucked up day. One of the joys of being bipolar is the occasional day where I’m just violently pissed off. Finished up my “have-to-do-today” list and went home.

    I stopped on the way home and got a cherry limeade at Sonic (half price, 2-4), then drove quickly home, windows down, roof open, and radio blasting. I’m watching bad movies and avoiding people. Music, food, and comic books also help.

  14. I have a whole playlist of pick me up music. I usually listen to that while trying to work on some jewelry or taking a ride to nowhere on the motorcycle. Or, I try to find something nice that I can do for someone else.

  15. I have an ongoing personal mission to bake a working bread ocarina…when I feel terrible the dough comes out…I also draw a face on my index finger and shout and swear at it…please don’t judge me.

  16. I’m an exercise/sports/activity junkie. I always have been and hopefully I’ll always be one. Though biking and weight training in the gym are my cornerstones of activity, give me a tennis racquet, a baseball glove, a golf club, a paddle, and on and on and I will be VERYYYYY happy.

    Fortunately, my brain is ( probably is because I’ve never had a functional MRI or been autopsied ) ridiculously rich in dopamine and serotonin because no matter how bad the stressor I’ve never been SIGNIFICANTLY depressed or anxious a day in my life.

    I’m VERY lucky. And I know it.

  17. @halincoh: oops … I take it back … I was depressed in college when my first girlfriend ended it with me. I channeled my angst into a hand puppet, who I named Carlin, because he was the foulest, most angry, most creative version of me I think I’ve ever created. So … it was more anger than depression, but it was dark.

  18. I determined (decided?) in college that my worsening bouts of depression seemed to be linked rather closely with my diet. Specifically with the amount of sugar I was consuming (and depression and I both love sugar). This discovery (scapegoating?) has given me ability to stave off depression in two ways. Way 1: eat less sugar (this part kind of sucks.) Way 2: When I do eat too much sugar (or if sugar is unrelated, when depression looms of its own accord) I am able to turn my mind to annoyance that I have let my sweet tooth get the better of me and give depression a mental middle finger. Surprisingly enough, Way 2 actually seems to work pretty well for me now. But it helps that I can recognize the signs of impending depression pretty early with experience.

  19. When I am feeling down, I talk and sing to my 6-month old. I recommend NOT internalising those Beatles songs – vocalise instead. It doesn’t matter if you can’t sing in tune, your baby will appreciate it. I find there is nothing better for the blues than hearing my little man giggle :) [Of course, we have found that he laughs his head off if we say ‘plop, plop, plop’ – the height of humour is this kind of sound – we can use plop, pop, poppa (my dad), or poopy.]

  20. on a scale of 0-10 of happy, i’d put myself at about a 3.5 on average, 2 on low days, 4 maybe 5 on good days.

    in my case, not sure if it’s something common or not, but i’ve just gotten used to it, gone through the “thinking about suicide” even during a record low did the “planning the suicide” , but i’m just too curious about what will happen in the world in 5 years time that i’d consider it a waste of knowing if i ever went through with it, so in that department i’m safe.

    so during those low moments, i isolate, not by choice mind you, distract as best as i can via reading, working and spending time at the computer, and i just wait it out, gone through it so many times it’s just a routine for me tbh.

    i dont smoke, i drink so little it’s a crime since i am a beer and whisky collector/drinker.
    i have a hard time getting interested in reading fiction, all thought i did just read the odyssey a few weeks ago, now i’m reading Karl Rove’s book, an interesting chap if nothing else :)

    but my main advice would be distraction, it blows over, or at least gets easy enough to gather enough stamina to run through the last remaining obstacle that the depression puts up for ya.

    if you’re in the deep deep end, meds and some organized chat wit ha professional is required of course.

    hopa ya feel better.

  21. @Skept-artist: fortunately I have been able to express myself creatively with photography, improv and by making the silly videos. I don’t know how to get past the THIS IS TOO PERSONAL/I CAN’T CREATE WHAT IS IN MY MIND’S EYE hurdle when I draw. It’s what stopped me in the first place. Cartooning allowed me to create with a pen and paper again , way back in grad school. Maybe I’ll have to return to cartooning.

  22. @Moose: I’m jealous. When I am down I always think of that line from 42nd st: “You’ve got all you need to cheer you up right there at the end of your ankles.” Unfortunately it is not the case for me which does nothing to improve my mood. If only I was even the slightest bit coordinated…

    Sometimes reading Skepchick helps – particularly if it is the kind of funk that comes over me when the idiocracy gets to be too much.

  23. Well, I take an SSRI antidepressant. Basically, I seem to have had dysthymia–which is chronic, low-level depression–at least since I was nine, but since I started on the meds, I’ve been, overall, less depressed and more optimistic. I do have bad days now and then, but analyzing my situation, either alone or by talking with my wife, helps get me out of it.

    (@Pfizer: Can I have my check now?)

  24. Guess I have a name for my condition now thanks to Pete Schult! I’ve experienced low level depression basically all my adult life with one bout of ”real” depression. Overall, I try to nurture good mood, so I go for long nature walks or cycling, try to socialize as much as possible and, it may sound goofy but works for me, I generally try to act happy.

    If I have to jump start a particularly gloomy day, all I have to do is think of George Carlin’s cats and dogs-routine (“ Here’s my ass, Dad! Check this ass, huh!”). Makes me chuckle every time…

  25. I either watch the Maury Show and enter into a state of stunned disbelief at the number of women who can’t figure out who fathered their sprogs, or I make lists of people I would off, should I ever be diagnosed with a fatal disease. Cheers me up immensely.

  26. Since I have bipolar, the bad times come around pretty often. I’ve tried to learn how to cope, and I spent quite a few years unmedicated (as long as I could – many of the medicines can just destroy you without really helping at all).
    I write, sometimes (badly). I read or sometimes play video games, listen to music loudly. I sleep a lot, spend time with my husband and family.

    One thing that I do to help get out of really bad ones (especially when I’m at work and don’t have much to do about it) is have a cup of tea, read Hyperbole and a Half or Questionable Content or something (sometimes even Wil Wheaton’s blog), and try to *be* positive. It’s hard though, sometimes.

  27. @Elyse: I thought the same thing after their first comment!

    @Everyone: Thank you all for sharing your coping techniques. It’s always morbidly comforting to know that so many other people have similar feelings, even when the specifics are starkly different. I decided last night, when it became obvious that my non-medicinal attempts were failing, that I would contact my doctor today about anti-depressants. We’ll see what happens! *happy thoughts*

  28. I used to get a watermelon, tape a picture of someone I don’t really like on it and start cutting away at it with a serrated, rusty knife I kept just for that purpose, but my therapist told me to stop. I don’t know if it was because I was using his picture or because I left the remains on his porch with the picture still on it. He can be a bit jumpy sometimes….

    Now I just use primal scream therapy, but sometimes the people in the waiting room ask me to leave.

    seriously… Humor! Works every time.

  29. Exercise is the number one cure for anxiety, though sometimes I get so worked up I can’t focus enough to do that.
    Really depressed? I get that, not as bad with the meds now, but I still get lethargic days. Celebrate your little successes! During a really hard time, I filled a bowl with dried beans and moved a bean to another bowl for every positive thing I could think of that I had done that day. It helped to make a visual representation of my successes, and forcing myself to think about something positive helped too.

  30. I like to exercise — rather I like the idea of exercising. I get depressed/anxiety a lot myself and it tends to manifest itself as physical ailments a lot (to the point where hypochondria develops and I think I am dying.) I have found that running is a sure fire kick in depression/anxiety’s ass.

    I can get into the zone and start running and I feel WONDERFUL, and then I occasionally hit the wall and become lazy and depressed again. The best way (aside from medication in harder circumstances) I have been able to combat this is to just start moving again.

    I have done the Couch to 5k program about three times now. I get to a point where I finish, run the 5k and then become lazy again and end up forgetting about it for months. The best way for me to get moving again is to just start the whole program over again.

    I probably don’t have to start from the beginning but I like to. I know I am more likely to finish if I start from the beginning and work my way up. It’s fun and makes me work towards a goal.

    Running is my favorite form of exercise because I can always change the music and the scenery and it’s lovely to wake up early in the morning, when the air feels fresh and crisp, and enjoy the world before everyone wakes up and fucks it all up again :-P

  31. Good luck with your doctor. I have a 5 month old and a toddler. I managed with my first daughter, but now I’ve found it much harder to cope. Seeing my doctor helped a lot and I did some research on my own as I’m breastfeeding too.

    What is helping me is the weekly Post partum mood disorder group I was referred to and the social worker/counsellor I see connected to it. I’ve also started on Zoloft/Sertraline, which seems to be the best option for breastfeeding women and helps both depression and anxiety. Music also aids in snapping me out of a funk.

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