The Dos And Do Nots Of Depression

The Dos And Do Nots Of Depression

What you should and shouldn't do in managing your depression.
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As a young woman who has struggled with depression for many years, I've discovered many different ways to handle (and NOT handle) depression.

DON'T stay in bed all day.

Depression's favorite thing to do is tempt you to stay in bed all day. Everything feels pointless anyway, right? Wrong.

While there's no shame in taking a personal, lazy day as a break from your busy life once in a while, laying around doing nothing all day only feeds into your depression- even though it's the only thing you want to do. The more time you spend alone with your thoughts, the more depressed you will feel. The unoccupied mind overthinks. Avoid it.

DO surround yourself with friends and family.

Ask your closest family members, friends, or co-workers to go out and do something fun together- even if that's exactly what you DON'T want to do. It will distract your mind, and a change of scenery is always beneficial to the brain.

Call up your best friend and go out to your favorite restaurant together, or to do your favorite activity: shopping, going to the beach, hiking, etc. Force yourself to go out. You'll feel better because of it.

DON'T drink alcohol.

Alcohol is a depressant, meaning that it will only bring you down more.

Turning to alcohol as a way to deal with depression is not only unhealthy physically, mentally, and emotionally, it can also lead to alcoholism, which is an easy way to ruin your life and possibly die.

DO drink water.

The human body is 80% water, so your body needs a lot of it! Drinking a lot of water each day not only keeps you healthy and hydrated, but keeps you feeling good- compared to sugary fruit juices, coffees, and sodas, which can make you feel bloated and overall blah.

DON'T use unhealthy coping mechanisms.

Drinking alcohol is not the only unhealthy coping mechanism people turn to, although it may be one of the most common or obvious. Others may seem harmless, like sleeping much more than usual, or overeating. Eating and sleeping too much or too little are big symptoms of depression. Any sudden changes in your sleeping or eating habits are not a good sign. As long as you continue these habits, you will feel depressed. More extreme unhealthy coping mechanisms include drug use or even suicide attempts.

If you experience any suicidal thoughts or actions, please seek help or call this hotline: 1-800-273-8255.

DO use healthy coping mechanisms.

A very healthy coping mechanism is exercising (but not over exercising!) because it releases "feel good" hormones into the brain, which counteracts the physiological aspect of depression.

If you're a beginner, go for a walk around the block or on a hike with a friend. If you're a go-getter, join a local gym and talk to a physical fitness instructor there. Even though depression makes it seem impossible some days to get out of bed, and even more impossible to be physically active, the adrenaline you get from exercising will make you feel much better.

Another helpful coping mechanism involves finding an outlet for your emotions, whether it be creative: writing, taking pictures, painting, scrapbooking, or otherwise: using a punching bag or a stress ball, will help you release pent-up emotions. Channel your energy creatively. It's fun, productive, and will occupy your mind.

DON'T keep it inside.

If you're suffering from depression, it's easy to feel like you're all alone and that no one understands how you feel. But trust me, you're not alone. The World Health Organization has found that 350 million people worldwide suffer from depression. That's 5% of the global population.

Not to say that your case isn't unique. Everyone feels emotions differently, and everyone deals with them differently. My advice is to confide how you're feeling in a parent, sibling, or other close family member or best friend. The first step to solving any problem is admitting the problem exists. Speaking your feelings aloud helps you accept and work on them.

DO seek help.

Once you have confided in at least one person you trust how you are feeling, the next step may be to seek professional help. Keep in mind this isn't for everyone. But if you're feeling depressed and want to get better, talk to your primary care physician, and if they deem it necessary, they will refer you to a therapist or psychiatrist. (Therapists cannot administer medication; psychiatrists can.)

I'm not saying everyone who is depressed should go get on anti-depressants. But when you talk to your doctor about your symptoms, they will be able to officially diagnose you with depression, or may say that's not what it is at all. Other physical and physiological factors can go into giving you similar symptoms to depression, and your doctor will be able to identify that.

Cover Image Credit: Pexels

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Yes, I Had A Stroke And I'm Only 20

Sometimes bad things happen to good people.
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Recently, I read an article on Cosmo that was written by a woman that had a stroke at the ripe old age of 23. For those of you who don't know, that really doesn't happen. Young people don't have strokes. Some do, but it's so incredibly uncommon that it rarely crosses most people's minds. Her piece was really moving, and I related a lot -- because I had a stroke at 20.

It started as a simple headache. I didn't think much of it because I get headaches pretty often. At the time, I worked for my parents, and I texted my mom to tell her that I'd be late to work because of the pain. I had never experienced a headache like that, but I figured it still wasn't something to worry about. I went about my normal routine, and it steadily got worse. It got to the point that I literally threw up from the pain. My mom told me to take some Tylenol, but I couldn't get to our kitchen. I figured that since I was already in the bathroom, I would just take a shower and hope that the hot steam would relax my muscles, and get rid of my headache. So I turned the water on in the shower, and I waited for it to get hot.

At this point, I was sweating. I've never been that warm in my life. My head was still killing me. I was sitting on the floor of the bathroom, trying to at least cope with the pain. Finally, I decided that I needed to go to the hospital. I picked up my phone to call 911, but I couldn't see the screen. I couldn't read anything. I laid down on the floor and tried to swipe from the lock screen to the emergency call screen, but I couldn't even manage that. My fine motor skills were completely gone. My fingers wouldn't cooperate, even though I knew what buttons needed to be pressed. Instead of swiping to the emergency call screen, I threw my phone across the room. "Okay," I thought, "Large muscle groups are working. Small ones are not".

I tried getting up. That also wasn't happening. I was so unstable that I couldn't stay standing. I tried turning off the running water of the shower, but couldn't move the faucet. Eventually, I gave up on trying to move anywhere. "At what point do I just give up and lie on the floor until someone finds me?" That was the point. I ended up lying on the floor for two hours until my dad came home and found me.

During that two hours, I couldn't hear. My ears were roaring, not even ringing. I tried to yell, but I couldn't form a sentence. I was simply stuck, and couldn't do anything about it. I still had no idea what was going on.

When the ambulance finally got there, they put me on a stretcher and loaded me into the back. "Are you afraid of needles or anything?" asked one EMT. "Terrified," I responded, and she started an IV without hesitation. To this day, I don't know if that word actually came out of my mouth, but I'm so glad she started the IV. She started pumping pain medicine, but it didn't seem to be doing anything.

We got to the hospital, and the doctors there were going to treat me for a migraine and send me on my merry way. This was obviously not a migraine. When I could finally speak again, they kept asking if I was prone to migraines. "I've never had a migraine in my whole life," I would say. "Do you do any drugs?" they would ask. "No," I repeated over and over. At this point, I was fading in and out of consciousness, probably from the pain or the pain medicine.

At one point, I heard the doctors say that they couldn't handle whatever was wrong with me at our local hospital and that I would need to be flown somewhere. They decided on University of Maryland in Baltimore. My parents asked if I wanted them to wait with me or start driving, so I had them leave.

The helicopter arrived soon after, and I was loaded into it. 45 minutes later, I was in Baltimore. That was the last thing I remember. The next thing I remember was being in the hospital two weeks later. I had a drain in my head, a central port, and an IV. I honestly didn't know what had happened to me.

As it turns out, I was born with a blood vessel malformation called an AVM. Blood vessels and arteries are supposed to pass blood to one another smoothly, and mine simply weren't. I basically had a knot of blood vessels in my brain that had swelled and almost burst. There was fluid in my brain that wouldn't drain, which was why my head still hurt so bad. The doctors couldn't see through the blood and fluid to operate, so they were simply monitoring me at that point.

When they could finally see, they went in to embolize my aneurysm and try to kill the AVM. After a successful procedure, my headache was finally starting to subside. It had gone from a 10 on the pain scale (which I don't remember), to a 6 (which was when I had started to be conscious), and then down to a 2.

I went to rehab after I was discharged from the hospital, I went to rehab. There, I learned simple things like how to walk and balance, and we tested my fine motor skills to make sure that I could still play the flute. Rehab was both physically and emotionally difficult. I was constantly exhausted.

I still have a few lingering issues from the whole ordeal. I have a tremor in one hand, and I'm mostly deaf in one ear. I still get headaches sometimes, but that's just my brain getting used to regular blood flow. I sleep a lot and slur my words as I get tired. While I still have a few deficits, I'm lucky to even be alive.

Cover Image Credit: Neve McClymont

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I'll Always Be An Organ Donor

I mean, outside of the cute little heart I get to have on my state ID.

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Check yes, nod at the clerk, give them a big thumbs up... It's really not hard to sign up as an organ donor. For me, it looks less than five seconds when buying a state ID to tell my clerk that yes, I did want to donate my organs to anyone in need after I died.

Organ donors like myself are always in high demand, especially because only 3 in 1,000 people die in ways that allow for an organ transplant. That wouldn't be too bad if the vast majority of people were organ donors, but only 54% of Americans are signed up to be donors.

Unsplash- Thoracic cavity

But why aren't people donors?

One word: religion.

While most all major religions are not in opposition of organ donation, studies have found that people will cite their religious beliefs are why they're opposed to donating their organs. Many people believe that they may not have access to the afterlife if their bodies aren't fully intact, but I have a problem with this logic.

"God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them." Hebrews 6:10.

"None of you truly believes until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself." Saheeh Al-Bukarhi.

Most large religions have this reoccurring theme of altruism, and that's what organ donation is all about: sharing something you have with someone less fortunate. Giving them a body part that I'll no longer be using won't harm me, it will help them, and it will hopefully look good if there's a Big Guy Upstairs.

Unsplash- heart made from neon lights

So go watch an episode of "The Bachelor." In those 60 minutes, 6 people have been added to the organ transplant list.

Go spend a relaxing weekend at the beach. In those two days, 40 people died waiting for an organ transplant.

Go to the DMV. Check that box. Save a life. Save eight lives, even. Be that person's shot at a second life.

It's not like anything is stopping you.

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