Traumatic life experiences such as losing your hair due to Alopecia, or being diagnosed with cancer and having to undergo chemotherapy treatment can often result in depression. It can be difficult for sufferers to see any positives in their life when they have lost their hair, their identity, and often their dignity.
The symptoms of depression can be divided into four main areas:
•Feelings: Someone suffering from depression may be feeling low-spirited, numb, empty, isolated, helpless, and unable to find pleasure in things they used to enjoy.
•Behaviour: Avoiding social events and activities that were once enjoyed, self-harming, and becoming more isolated and introverted are all signs that someone may be depressed.
•Thoughts: When someone is depressed they may have difficulty concentrating on things, memory problems, very low self-esteem, and negative thoughts including suicide.
•Physical: A change in sleeping patterns, lack of energy, loss of appetite, weight loss or comfort eating can all be signs of depression, as can unexplained aches and pains.
If you recognise any of these symptoms in yourself and they persist for more than three weeks then it’s a fairly good indication that you are suffering from depression. After everything you’ve been through, no one can blame you for feeling this way. But don’t worry, there are a variety of things that you can do to help yourself to feel better...
Build a support network
The very nature of depression will make you want to isolate yourself from your friends and family so start by just confiding in one person. Having someone that will listen to you without judgement will provide you with the perspective and energy you need to beat your depression.
Try to keep up with social activities, even when you don’t much feel like it. Seeing other people will help to keep you grounded and you may notice that you start to find enjoyment in things once again. Things like going for lunch with a friend, joining a new club or support group, volunteering for a charity, or contacting an old friend can all help to enhance your mood and boost your self-esteem again.
Challenge your negative thoughts
Depression makes you put a negative spin on everything; thus affecting your self-esteem and making your future seem bleak. Using a cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) method you can begin to replace your negative thoughts with balanced, more positive thoughts.
Begin by making a list of all of your positive characteristics and attributes to remind yourself that you’re still a wonderful human being and this is just a temporary ‘illness’ that you WILL get over. Spend time with positive people, and if anyone pays you a compliment simply accept it and try to feel good about yourself.
Try asking yourself if you would say what you are thinking about yourself to someone else; if you wouldn’t then stop thinking it! Don’t be so hard on yourself, your friends and family don’t expect you to be perfect, they love you for you and they are there for you no matter what.
Take care of yourself
You should be doing this anyway, depression or not. Eating healthily and establishing a good sleeping pattern can help you to feel better about yourself. Fresh air and sunlight are also great depression boosters; try going for a short walk outdoors or sit in the garden for a while to allow your brain to be exposed to some natural sunlight.
Stress can prolong and worsen your depression so try to avoid stressful situations and employ some relaxation techniques. Yoga, meditation and massage are all great ways to help you to relax, de-stress and feel better about yourself.
Try to build some exercise into your daily life where possible. If you are undergoing chemotherapy treatment or recovering from cancer then obviously exercise may not be possible, but as you get your energy back it can help your mental recovery to go for a gentle walk or a swim, or do some light yoga stretches. Exercise releases your body’s endorphins, the hormone responsible for lifting your mood and making you feel good.
Know when to seek help
If you don’t feel that you’re able to ease your symptoms of depression via the various self-help methods then it’s best to seek help from your GP. There’s absolutely no shame in asking for help, that’s what your doctor is there for. Seeking help doesn’t have to mean medication; there are plenty of behavioural methods that can help, so don’t be scared. Take an understanding friend or relative with you for support and just be open and honest with your GP about how you are feeling. You’ve been through a lot, and no one can blame you for needing a little assistance at a difficult time in your life.