An old friend asked me to post my tips for enduring depression. I developed these for the Depressive and Manic-Depressive Association, where they were published in various newsletters. Here goes:
1) Accept your depression. Do not fight it. Do not think of yourself as a failure but as sick. You are in the grip of a serious illness. You can only do what you can. If that means lying in bed all day, that's fine. Just because you don't have an amputated limb to show the world does not make you any less sick.
2) It's better to do something than nothing. For instance, it's better to go for a walk than sit, paralyzed, thinking about going for a walk. It's better to take a nap than blame yourself for being tired. It's better to go downstairs than stay upstairs all day long.
3) It's better to do something active than something passive. It's better to wash the dishes than watch TV. It's better to drive than sit in your car. If you can stomach it, it's better to go to work than stay home on sick leave. If you have to stay home, however, that's OK. This is a debilitating illness.
4) It's better to be with or around people than to be alone. I have found just sitting in a mall surrounded by the motion of strangers more comforting than staying home.
5) Try to set a small, achievable goal each day. Mine is, "I'm going to try not to hate myself too much today." Make sure the goal is attainable for a depressed person. Don't saddle yourself with cleaning out the entire garage--that will just bury you under a sense of hopelessness and failure. But you could consider sweeping out one corner of the garage.
Note that these principles are meant for enduring depression, not necessarily improving it. The best treatment for depression, short of ECT, is medication and cognitive/behavioral therapy.
Right now Kathleen makes up a list for me when she goes to work--simple things like wiping the refrigerator shelves. Doing the tasks enumerated doesn't necessarily make me feel better, but I do feel slightly more useful. In the worst depths of depression, I'm always amazed I can do anything. For instance, when washing dishes, it seems like each dish I wash is a miracle--I can't believe I did it! And the same reaction obtains with every dish.
For those who fear ECT but may need it, the memory loss from ECT, in my experience, is much less than the memory loss induced by a soul-destroying depression.
I hope these tips may prove useful to the afflicted.
Thine in Mood and Madness,