There comes a time for those who suffer from depression when we are looking in our threadbare cupboards for anything which helps to sustain. I personally know that during those times, I find little to nourish me. The things which used to feel enjoyable no longer hold any interest. For example I am a book lover, by nature. I have stacks of books by my bedside. I frequent both large book stores and small intimate used book stores searching for just the right book to satisfy. Yet when I am feeling very depressed, I cannot seem to muster the energy to read one page of any book. I feel too tired and apathetic.
I can remember times when I have been depressed and wandering the stacks of the public library. I even admit to sporadic crying in between the aisles, searching for some author who will ultimately save me with his or her words, and put an end to my despair. Quite often, more than not, I leave empty-handed during those spells, unable to see the hope or good in any charismatic title. I have rejected both the works of Shakespeare and the dictatorial self-help of Doctor Phil. Nothing seems to fit my state of mind at those lowest of times.
Food is another form of happiness which I have no taste for in the depths of my depression. When I am not depressed, I am a lover of all foods. I love the scent, appearance, taste, and texture of good food. I am a terrible cook but I love to watch other people create culinary masterpieces. I quite frequently put the cooking channel on just for background noise and ambience. I love to visit supermarkets just to explore the multitude of cooking possibilities. Cheesecake, a juicy pot roast, or even a seven layer salad all exist in the realm of gastric delights. Anything is possible here, in rows of gallantly displayed plums and kiwis and juicy ripe peaches. Yet when I am depressed, I feel no desire and no anticipation of looking at, much less eating food.
So what does help? In my rejection of things which usually make me feel happy when I am not depressed, I am led to discover new things which I will accept during my times of melancholy. I have been surprised by the results. I envision these objects of solace existing in what I call, “My Happiness Box.” The box can be tangible and real or it can simply be a list of those things which you know will help during the bad times. I have both.
I have a rectangular glass box by my bedside with what appears to be a fairy godmother on the lid. She is holding a wand and there are snowflakes surrounding her. When I saw it in a gift store, I had to buy it for myself. It seemed magical and full of promise. I would gradually fill the box with things which were meaningful to me such as a piece of bark of a favorite tree, a polished stone found in a creek, a four leaf clover my son found on the way home from school, a marble from childhood. When I am sad, it helps to hold something in my hands to remind me that I can still feel and that I am still alive. Holding the smooth stone in my hand, I am reminded that life will wash over me too, leaving me weathered but polished. I feel the continuance of life in the bark of the tree, the perseverance of spirit. The crisp four leaf clover reminds me that luck is fragile and I must touch it gently. The round sphere of the marble gives way to visions of play and happier times. I keep adding to my box, and each little item gives me a certain unique comfort.
Then there is the list of discoveries I have made while lingering in my deepest well. I have found that humor and music help me best. Who knew? A friend had sent me a link to a video of Louis Armstrong singing “Cheesecake.” I was told to save it for those times when I needed a lift. I did just that and by golly it helped. While I chuckled during the cheesecake song, I cried along to Anna Nalick’s “Breathe.” With each hypnotic refrain I could feel myself growing stronger, her voice reminding me to “just breathe.” I would also pull out old TV shows that I had grown to love like Will and Grace. Each silly story complete with snappy come backs and laugh track would help me to pass the time. There were even moments when I forgot my sadness and laughed out loud. During my last bout of depression I made the discovery of LOL cats, a web site dedicated to the images of ridiculous looking cats with matching captions written in a special LOL cat dialect. Absurd? Yes Yet looking at the fat cat sitting prone on the top of a door and labeled as “Monorail Cat” did it for me. It broke the rigid depression barrier and cracked it just a tiny bit. I found that I was still able to laugh despite my depression. I could still feel human.
You never know what will work for you. Sometimes it is the most inane and preposterous things which will help you get through the bad times. I know that some of you are shaking your head and declaring that nothing helps. I am hoping that you give it a try to find anything, however small, to fill up your tangible and/or virtual box of happiness.
If you can I would love to know what you would put into your happiness box. Perhaps it could help someone else going through a bad time.
I am a mother, a writer, and now an MS patient