Q: “How does one navigate the many good days and the sudden, abrupt, not so great days?”
A: When you’re on your good days, use the time and energy to keep on building and developing you. You can build up resistance, resilience or work on your lifestyle and routine. You can keep on building coping skills and strategies to target your not so great days. It’s not easy, but it is possible.
For example, a bad day you could start to feel very tired and your sleep cycle can start to become disruptive. I am always struck by how a lack of sleep affects our whole system; e.g. often people experience insomnia and then the whole system is deprived. You then lose your appetite, ruminating thoughts set in and you’re perhaps unable to switch off those negative thoughts and they keep you up at night even more- and the cycle just starts to get worse. So my recommendation for bad days is to work towards small goals that meet you one step ahead of where you are now. Read more about this and Behavioural Activation here.
Q: “Might be fun to discuss Dan Stein’s work on the role of endorphins vs. neurotransmitters”
A: At this stage of the blog, I’m not going to get too into the biological and neurological evidence, although completely valid – it isn’t my expertise or my strong point. Perhaps I will revisit this at a later stage or get a colleague to join me, thank you for the suggestion!
Q: “How do you differentiate between chronic depression and just constant sadness, or feeling of failure?”
A: I touched on the issue of how MDD is different to sadness in the blog (Let’s talk – Depression). A main difference is the impact depression has on functioning. MDD is also different to chronic depression which is differentiated by time periods. A 2 week period is used for MDD and a 2 year period for Persistent Depressive Disorder (Dysthymia). Again, diagnoses need not be finality. People can recover and build up increased resilience and strategies of understanding in targeting their main difficulty.
Q: “How do I support someone close to me who suffers from depression and is going through a dip?”
A: Great question!
- Be present and available, even if your loved one may not reach out or engage much. Don’t leave and don’t give up on them.
- Encourage your loved one to try small achievable goals (or big, if they wish), with or without your support.
- Show them that you are there to meet them where they are at.
- Check in with them.
- Tell them to snap out of it.
- Don’t forcefully tell them X will fix it if X worked for you when you were sad or depressed. Remember it may not be the same and the same solutions do not work equally for us all.
- Assume you understand exactly what they feel, but rather ask how they feel.
- Take it personally if your loved one isn’t ready to open up to you.
- Don’t patronize people with depression as if they lose their adult autonomy and agency when experiencing an episode.
Amy Glover is a practicing Clinical Psychologist based in Cape Town. She has her masters degree in Clinical Psychology and Community Counselling (cum laude) from the University of Stellenbosch. She divides her time between a private practice in Vredehoek, Cape Town and developing practitioner-led resources to equip professionals to navigate online platforms for mental health services. She is passionate about preventative mental health and works with individuals and couples. Amy Glover is available to see clients online for therapy. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or contact here.