Depression and guilt go hand in hand for many people. Let’s get one thing straight; you’re not to blame for your mental illness! Just like you wouldn’t be to blame if you contracted pneumonia or developed arthritis. The mind and body are open to injury and it’s nothing to feel guilty about, but I know from experience it’s not that easy. Here are some things you definitely need to think about…
I was thinking recently about how painful it was for me to receive birthday and Christmas gifts just after I was diagnosed with depression. Being unable to work meant I couldn’t really afford to buy for others, and I felt like I hadn’t earned the right to be given gifts or celebrate at all. My friends and family wanted to do anything to make me feel better, and giving me presents was their way of showing that. I know it’s really hard but try and accept any gifts you are given and see it as a symbol of support from those who care. If you’re someone who is struggling to buy gifts for someone check out my recent gift guide.
Taking time off
One of the main reasons I took almost 4 years to recover from mental health problems is that I struggled on at work for months without taking any time off. I didn’t realise just how serious my condition was – or that it existed at all – and so I continued to put myself under immense stress during a time when I should have been resting and allowing my mind to recover. It wasn’t until I finally did get signed off work that I realised how bad my symptoms were and that I would need months to recover. It’s natural to feel incredibly guilty about this but unfortunately it’s the only way for many people to recover.
Being seen ‘out’ when you’re unable to work
I was talking to a friend recently who has been signed off work with anxiety, and she was expressing concern about visiting the hairdresser whilst on sick leave. Essentially she was worried that she didn’t have the right to be out doing things in case it got back to her employers. Remember this; the reason you’re off sick is because you are unable to work. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re unable to get on a bus, go to the supermarket or go to the hairdressers. For me, work was actually contributing to my illness so it was essential that I stop doing it immediately. Going to the gym on the other hand, was easing some of the symptoms, lifted my mood and helped me get to sleep at night. Going out and doing the things you’re comfortable with is so extremely important to your recovery and should not be avoided for fear of ‘being spotted’.
Forgetting important dates
Did you know that depression is linked to short term memory loss? Don’t feel bad if you forget that you made plans with someone yesterday or you can’t remember what time your doctors appointment is. Before I was diagnosed with depression I was finding it really hard to remember what I’d done from one day to the next, especially at work. I ended up relying on a stupid amount of ‘to-do’ lists which were synced up to my calender and my phone and it all got very overwhelming. It’s totally normal to forget things and it doesn’t make you a bad person.
Eating convenience foods
Whilst living on Pringles and Pop Tarts isn’t the best advice I can offer you, there’s certainly a bit of wiggle room when it comes to eating the perfect diet when you suffer from depression. If like me, you’ve struggled mentally with dieting for most of your life then the will power to resist eating processed foods whilst fighting a depressive episode will be non-existent. There is a lot of great information out there on what foods are helpful in terms of brain chemicals and blood sugars, but don’t put too pressure on yourself to eat well all of the time. That just comes with a whole other bag of problems that you don’t need, so eat as often as you need to satisfy your hunger and try to incorporate fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats as much as possible.
Not convinced? Check out this helpful post I found called 5 ways to overcome guilt in depression.