‘Just go for a run’: testing everyday advice for my depression | Martha Mills

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If you say youre depressed, people are quick to dispense wise on how to deal with it. Martha Mills decided to take them literally, and try them out for herself

So, it turns out Im getting better at depression. That isnt to mention Ive stopped suffering it, or that it is any less debilitating when it sneaks up after a two-year hiatus and pile-drives me into a blister agony of mental carpet ignites topped with a patronising tousle of the bed-hair, like a nostalgic school bully. No, whats better about me is spotting it and moving quicker through the self-blame technique of diagnosis.

We all have down days, and thats what you hope these are. Merely they stopped being a day or two of feeling blue that can be whiled away with the distraction of a conspiratorial sofa and questionable DVD collection, and have merged into weeks since you were last able to feel anything but disappointment on waking up, and the choice between showering or only reeking like a tramps undercarriage has run beyond conflict into pure resignation.

Being specially practised at denial, I decided that I, a mere mortal with a solid history of depressive episodes since childhood, could fake my way out of this oncoming tsunami of debilitating black cloud utilizing the advice that people who have never experienced depression trot out an experiment that could surely only succeed[ sidelong glance to camera ]. I would improve my diet and exercising, force myself to take up hobbies, I would soldier on until it passed and thrust myself( reluctantly) into social situations. I even tried appearing on the bright side but it turned out to just be glare on my TV.

Woman
For some people, diet and exercise and sensation happier are not compatible. Photograph: Rex/ Shutterstock

Diet and exercising, thats all you need

I ran. I strolled and ran and dragged my posterior off my perch of pity and pounded the pavements daily belly full of broccoli and wine politely declined. They say that a good stroll does ponders for the brain, and the evidence largely points to workout has become a good thing for depression. But with a dirge of self-loathing eating away at me, moving my little legs just churns my brain into hardship butter. My rump has ended less plump, but I returned home every time bearing a greater weight of anguish than the one Id left farting on the sofa.

Tapdancing
Depression and jazz hands rarely appear in the same context. Photo: Teri Pengilley for the Guardian

Why not take up some new pastimes? Thatll keep the blues away

I took up tap dancing and pottery, because those are fun and creative and sociable and oh-just-pass-the-sick-bucket. Decided to make most of these fantastic opportunities( translation: Id paid in advance and I was brought up tight) I committed to attending every class, even on days when you couldnt drag a coherent convict out of me if you rammed a dictionary up my hoop and shook me upside down. Have you ever tried to Shirley Temple while your face is Squidwards and your being yelps like a pup being kicked with every hoppity-skippity? Its less fun than it sounds. But, yknow, less plump rump and all that, plus I have some genuinely diabolical wonky pots to inflict on anyone who irks me in the runup to Christmas.

Runners
It is feasible to power through depression. It may also be possible to run a marathon with a shattered leg. Doesnt intended its a good mind. Photograph: Ben Birchall/ PA

Just soldier on, itll pass eventually

I made myself continue with the routine of turning up for work, in body at least, but I looked blankly out at the world, hollow-eyed, bracing myself for the inevitability that someone would try to engage me and expect more than a whimper, in the same pained lane you brace yourself against a well-intentioned back pat on fresh sunburn. You would think they had have been happy for the reprieve from my shrill cackle of a giggle, but clearly the stillnes fazed them like it does the cinema audience in the run up to the generic knife-wielding-psycho-jumping-out-of-the-closet moment.

Glasses
Youre depressed? Lets go for a booze. I can tell you how to fix based on my own gut feelings. Likewise, alcohol is a depressant. Photo: Alamy Stock Photo

Get out there and mingle, thatll applaud you up

I tried to stay social. I managed to drag myself to Soho to enjoy a decadent free lunch( discount your mom, they do exist) with free champagne and exquisite corporation. It was an occasion Id been dreading the one diary enter I couldnt wriggle out of in favour of weeping into the feline but it was all going well until my dear friend whisked me off my seat to dance in the street. All sounds very bohemian, doesnt it? Like actual fun. Except the dam transgressed, my facade crumpled and the poor dear mans shoulder was stifled with the unending sobbing of a shattered girl not blessed with waterproof mascara.

Whats incorrect ?, he prayed. Tell me what happened so we can fixing it, he cajoled. But thats merely it not a damn thing. “Peoples lives”, to all intents and purposes is more than tickety-boo: stellar undertaking, sparkling pals, loyal cat( I know, thats something of an oxymoron ), all my own extremities and a pretty penny in the bank.

He couldnt understand why I wasnt telling him who or what had upset me, he insisted I confess. So I did. I told him the truth, bluntly: I only dont want to exist any more. This was met with the usual fright of one whose mental health had recently ever been in fine fettle: Dont say that !. But I did, because, well, he had asked. There it was, the ghastly ugly brutality of depression in one simple unwelcome answer. I would quite like it if the universe could excuse me from the table now pleases , not for any tangible reason other than, yknow, the constant crush torture of existing.

So Id acknowledged it. Tearfully. In the centre of Soho. It was out there now and I would deal with it utilizing the only method that has worked in the past, I would call the GP After a few more days of denial for good measurement, of course, because I hadnt exhaustively wearied the maybe youre simply not trying hard enough method. Still, this time round, I descended through mere weeks of near-catatonic dysfunction instead of months, and thats truly something. So yes, Im getting better at depression, at to determine when to acknowledge I necessity the help of dear Mr Pharmaceutical and his little capsule pals to function, knowing I did try hard enough and that I just cant sets it on my own.

While some of these alternative methods work for many people, they didnt work for me. But if the most difficult you end up with is a few wonky pots and toned thighs while finding that out, what have you got to lose?

Martha Mills is a novelist and social media meddler, likewise the sidekick to an internet famous feline. Tweet her @mittendamour .

  • In the UK, the Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is on 13 11 14.
  • This article was revised on 30 June to clarify that this is an opinion part and not a scientific assessment, and to highlight the scientific proof base for using exert to treat depression.

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