Recently I invited an old friend to come and visit me. My roommate is traveling and the second bedroom is open for visitors. This friend, let's call him Pal Joey, has a long commute to a job he only marginally likes. He lives so far away so that he can take care of a family member. This, and some health issues, have put him in a place to be really depressed.
Another friend of mine is finding it hard to find work, another friend feels that he is too old to find a suitable partner and yet another friend wants to leave the scramble of New York but has no family, no car and can't imagine living anywhere but the big metropolis of New York because a hundred miles outside of the city limits it starts to feel (at times) like Deliverance country. (This last one is of course ridiculous but we become quite insular here in the city.. maybe too much so).
After the death of Arpad a couple weeks ago, I have run into industry friends who are not just hand wringing about what to do about the health and safety of our colleagues but are visibly shaken about the solidity of their own lives. I worry for them. I worry for me. And lately, I just plain ol' worry.
Unfortunately I am not Glinda the good witch and cannot, as much as I want to, wave a magic wand and make a job appear (if I could, I'd do it for myself) or a boyfriend show up or ones health to be better.
But I do have a few suggestions, from my own experience that might help at least start on the road to recovery - or at least clear away some of the debris.
1. Get up at the same time every morning and get fucking DRESSED. If it's noon and you're still in your jammies, there is something wrong (unless of course you're on an actual vacation, then carry on, please). This getting up and getting dressed is essential to finding your way out of depression. It's the lingering in bed that keeps us ill.
2. Decide what's important to you. For me, I bought notecards and wrote down what's important to me, no matter how seemingly trivial - one thing on each card. I then taped them to my kitchen cabinets and put them in various types of orders (for example, I arranged them in ascending order of importance and then arranged them in two groups - what is essential for me and what is an 'extra'... and so on. After three or four arrangements, you start seeing a pattern). It helps to do this with another person but in lieu of that, you can do it yourself.
3. Once you're really honest with yourself what's important, you get rid of everything that didnt make the cut. Jobs, boyfriends, places to live, habits, etc. For example, I have had continued relationship with stuff in my apartment - I've lived here for nearly 9 years and of course things get broken, chipped, etc. At one point last year I couldn't go into a room without seeing something broken or chipped. And I realized one day that if I see things that are broken and chipped, I feel broken and chipped. And so I started a long process of getting rid of and replacing everything that couldn't be fixed. 99% of the time the expense was minimal (like the twenty dollars it cost to replace the chipped ceramic 'jar' on my kitchen countertop that holds all the knives, spatulas, etc). There are a couple of 'big' expenses - the kitchen counter is a disaster (chipped, broken and ugly) and the landlord refuses to replace it - so at some point, I will have to... and my TV is a Daewoo with a tube.. need I say anything more? LOL
4. Do stuff out of your comfort zone - this might look like helping out at a soup kitchen or reading the newspaper to blind people or even deciding to direct a show or volunteering somehwhere - anything to get out of the house (and psst don't post it on Facebook.. just do it for YOU).
5. Back 20 years ago I was pursuing an acting career and the best piece of advice that I got was to only hang around working actors. It wasn't that I would get a job, but my mood would be great if those around me were working. So, today, don't dump the friends who are also depressed but start introducing yourself to happy people. This will make you happy too - and you may have to "fake it til you make it" but I think some fake happiness as opposed to real depression is good any day.
6. Exercise. Working out several times a week isn't about getting a better sex life (although that's a probable by-product) but you'll feel better about yourself and you'll get the fuck out of your home! And if you don't belong to or can't afford a gym, dammit, spend a half hour walking every day no matter where you live!
7. Find Small Victories and Celebrate Them. OK so you got an interview but not the job, well, jump for joy anyway. OK so you ended up taking a McJob to hold you over til the Better One comes along, raise the roof! I know it sounds all glass fully, but honest to God it's better than feeding that depression.
8. Know that there is always someone who loves you.
9. Don't listen to the television. Don't listen to the gloomy jobs report. Don't listen to 'experts' on talk shows (who just happen to have a book to sell you on how they and they alone can fix your life). And by all that's holy, don't get within 500 miles of FOX News, they will just bum you out further. For me, I'm starting to ween myself off of Facebook - so much of what people posted is really negative, cruel and bitchy. I, for one, am tired of it. I've also stopped participating in on online forum for those of us who love soaps... because it's always negative, even if the show is awesome (and by the way, General Hospital IS awesome these days).
10. Therapy and Anti -Depressants. Well, I'm a fan of therapy, not so much of anti-depressants but both have worked for me over the years. But PLEASE REALLY HEAR THIS: Anti-Depressants are not the cure for the problem - at best, they give you the energy/strength to get out of bed in the morning and focus on the job at hand - which is to take steps that will improve your life. And that IS valuable ... but it is up to you to do the work at fixing yourself and your life.
Finally, the best advice that anyone ever gave me is that people who commit suicide want to kill their LIFE but they mistake that for wanting to kill THEMSELF. Killing the life you're leading is totally OK - obviously your mind, body, soul is giving you a message through the sadness and depression that what you're doing isn't working /making you happy.
I truly TRULY believe that each of us can achieve more than just a modicum of happiness - that life is to be lived well, not endured.
But I also believe that there is no such thing as "too much pizza" so, you know, take what I have to say with that grain of salt. <wink> :)