This is the season for depression blues. Most people are not shielded from a state of feeling sad. It affects the way you feel about yourself, others, and things. These winter months have shorter days and longer nights, and some people become depressed because of it. It is called seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. The upcoming December holidays can bring about the holiday blues, and suicides seem to be highest at this time. It is the time people seek help for depression.

Some are referred to psychiatrists, and put on drugs to combat the depression. Some are referred to depression self help groups and depression self help books. These are all forms of self help for the problem. Even seeing a psychiatrist and taking meds are forms of self help because you actually make the visits, buy the drugs, and take them. At least there is the beginning of getting help for depression, and that is courageous.

Alternative methods, without drugs, are available. It is best to know your own self so you can research the different choices available in the light that you are having a problem - snapping out of it, or it is just a seasonal disorder. Also, you should read and understand the considerable research about types of depression to better know what self helpers would work for you.

There was a tragic time in my life when I suffered from depression. Initially I was referred to a shrink from an M.D. I had seen for a physical problem (evidently my complaint wasn't evident, thus the referral). So, I went to the shrink, I don't recall if he suggested meds or not, but the first visit was okay. During the second visit he asked me if I had any recent dreams that I recalled. I did and I shared it with him. He proceeded to analyze it, telling me what it meant. I was horrified and angry at his interpretation. I never returned, and learned that absolutely no one can interpret my dreams but me. I hadn't asked for his psychoanalysis. Eventually I turned to self help without any meds or shrinks. Please know that this was back in 1972, and doesn't mean anything negative towards professional help. If you need it - definitely get it. This is an experience I had that I am sharing about depression and self help.

So, I was really hurting in every way (physical, mental, spiritual, emotional), and eventually this is what I did. I went away for a weekend to a friend's cabin in the woods. I brought a very old hardcover book, "Alice's Adventures In Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass," with me, and I read it. Strangely enough Lewis Carroll's stories made sense to me. I decided that I would memorize the poem that was in a Looking Glass Book, Jabberwocky:

'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
'All mimsy were the borogroves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

"Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun Alice, by John Tenniel
The frumious Bandersnatch!"

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought-
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood a while in thought.

And as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

"And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!"
He chortled in his joy.

'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogroves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

I told myself that if I could always repeat the poem that I would be okay, that I would never ever allow myself to go to that deep dark space again. That was my anchor, my secret self help that kept me getting better. I grew to love the poem, and recite it out-loud, and use a dramatic voice and physical gestures to entertain myself and others. Of course no one knew that it was my secret weapon against depression!

Granted, this may be an unusual form of self help, but it worked for me, and to this day I check in with myself to make sure I can repeat Jabberwocky. Once I found that I stumbled a bit with the memory of it, but I was well enough to forgive myself, and know that I was okay. I didn't freak out because I knew I had a higher spiritual energy to draw from.

More common forms of self help for depression are:

  • Exercise - Don't over do it at first, but do something you enjoy, preferably outside ( more exposure to sunlight) and with a friend. Hiking, biking, skiing, walking, anything that keeps you moving will be beneficial.
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol - The caffeine may interrupt your much needed rest, and alcohol is a depressant anyhow. Both might be a bit toxic when depression hits.
  • Share with a trusted friend - You are not alone: many people suffer from depression. Sharing leads to support and solutions.
  • If on meds be sure to see if they stimulate appetite. If so, don't ad weight gain to the depression. Instead, get a different med, and drink water when feeling hungry. Sometimes dehydration is the problem.
  • Stop reinforcing demeaning remarks about self. For example, " I'm always late, blah, blah." Instead, say "In the past I was late, but now I am on time." That is a form of self-hypnosis which is a great tool to learn for self improvement.
  • Make a gratitude list - jot something down daily. It really makes everything a little bit better. This reminds of a great childrens book, It Could Always Be Worse . I used to read that to my kids, and I think that I got more out of it then they did. It's a great source of finding gratitude.

Last of all, don't overcommit because it contributes to feelings of unfulfillment. When we do overcommit and can't keep our commitments we are merely performing self sabotage.