So many good points on the topic! Thank you for tolerating me.
I read Depression – Its causes and How to Overcome It by Caroline Shreeve. (Simply because we happened to have this one in our bookshelf. There are most likely better ones out there. At least I hope so. I think the part about babies sexually dreaming of their parents was tad disturbing.)
Caroline Shreeves personal depression treatment method consisted of:
- waking up the brain (drugs if very deep down, otherwise indulging the senses),
- therapy (breaking free of the negative thought patterns, detaching yourself from the disease and not identifying with it),
- healthy lifestyle (physical positive routines, healthy food etc.) and
- learning positive ways to control stress, fears and anxiety.
She theorized that you can kick start your neural network by bombarding it with sensations. So, activating your senses (sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch) activates your brain. She suggested:
- taking cold showers,
- intensive exercise,
- listening to music,
- burning incense,
- eating (healthy and diverse) and
- looking at objects in your surrounding and trying to precisely imagine them after that.
Shreeves also stated that depression works in phases meaning that you have better days and worse days. And that you could learn to notice the early symptoms of your depression going to the worse phase and prepare for it.
I found this to be very encouraging. Detaching yourself from depression and treating depression like any other disease (like migraine) instead of identifying with it is a really big change in attitude.
Like some of the earlier replies already said: think of your depression like eating or sleeping and just plan accordingly.
These are all things that you can’t probably take in and implement when your in the worse stage of your depression. These things you incorporate when feeling more normal.
In the deeper phases of depression you need to find some thoughts to carry yourself through them. Anything that delays you from making drastic negative changes when you're in the valley of despair is useful.
I’ll list some of the thoughts that have helped me. (Successful ERE’s shouldn’t read for these are “loser talk” to you.
While you feel that you don’t deserve anything good and in particular that you don’t deserve to optimize your life for the better or be FI, remind yourself that it is only the sickness speaking. And that this feeling is temporary.
If you like people it might be helpful to tell yourself that it benefits everyone else also the more independent you are.
If you fear people think that the more things you can do with out or do yourself the less you have to annoy anyone else.
Or if you hate people it might help you to think that you are also free of people if you’re more skilled in the ways of ERE.
I also found comfort in the notion from Better than yesterdays video
that you can be productive and advance on things even when you're not doing the things you were supposed to do. Even when depressed there is probably something that you can do that’s beneficial towards your goals. Steps in the right direction are steps no matter the size.
I think that Youtube channel explained really well also the idea behind 2 minute habits. Especially when you feel you’re not able to do anything it might make all the difference when you only sign up for doing a minimal task.
(In Finnish we call this the gateway theory but in English that seems to be only applied to drugs. In Finnish the gateway theory is also the theory of loss leaders meaning while you’re at it you end up having/doing more than originally planned.)
If you’re depressed then only signing up for something minuscule (like only watering your toothbrush) might lead to you doing more positive things (actually washing your teeth and maybe your face too and combing your hair to boot!).
You don’t need to be perfect. Even slightly less bad is improvement! So just check the direction and start walking. Or only take a step. Either way that’s better than nothing.
And lastly some possible “benefits” of depression to ERE that I’ve come up with so far, no science to back these up whatsoever.
Being depressed is in it’s “best” like being in the jacob-Plato's cave and being able to see almost everything clearly. You can see the chains, you can see the people in the background messing with everyone, you can see the people leaving the cave. The difficulty is that depression makes you believe that it is your fault for being chained and that you deserve only the chains.
It might be easier to understand different frames of mind when thing in your own life look vastly different from time to time. It’s maybe easier to understand that someone thinks differently when you have so many differing thoughts yourself.
If current me is shitty it is easier to sign up for change.
When you feel really bad about your current situation it means that at least that part of the cost of change equation is pretty low. When depressed you typically contemplate on the things that are wrong in you and in your life. You should write these thoughts down. And then on the better days you can invent productive ways to change these things. So that when the next bad phase comes and you’re fed up with everything and want to give up on everything you have a plan and can “give up” and change those planned things instead of doing something with negative consequence.
If you’ve been really down it is easier to see what is actually necessary in life. If you’re too depressed to eat every day or maintain basic hygiene at least you gain a new tool against consumerism. Whenever a commercial says something is “essential” or “everyone needs this”, you know better. Even eating every day is optional.
Many of the things considered parts of the minimum of human life are actually not parts of the minimum of human existence (like wearing clothes in prolonged exposure to freezing temperatures). Some are things considered to be normal human decency towards others (like not smelling too bad in company). Some of them are only required by current social norms (like dressing certain way in certain situations).
When you’re not up to anything you can really get to the bottom of the question of what do you want and what is imposed to you from the outside.
Sometimes it is difficult to do anything because you think you’re going to fail anyway. But failing is important too. The only certain way to fail is not start at all. It is usually not necessary to be perfect or to be an expert to be able to do something.
In Finnish I’ve encountered a term called “turmaraja” (could be translated as Disaster threshold). The idea is that there is a scale for every action or performance. At the bottom is doing nothing and at the top is perfection. Disaster threshold is a line on that scale. That’s the line that when you do less it would be obvious to everyone that this is badly done. The line that when you cross it then you’ve really messed up. And when you just barely go over it you can get a way with it and no-one suffers. (So it’s like Pareto suboptimal or something? I’m sure there is a scientific term for it but I just couldn’t find it.)
And most of the time it is enough to just barely go above this line. Most of the time it actually is not worth it strive for perfection. No-one cares as long as you’re somewhere above the line.
So if you feel that you cannot succeed, remember to check if it really means that you cannot get over this line or whether that means that you cannot get over your own higher line. And if you can get over this line but not your own, just do it anyway. It’s usually better to get things done in time than to do them perfectly in some distant future scenario. And in many cases just doing it is vital to getting better at it. Having depression is as good excuse as any to only operate just above the line. Getting over turmaraja while having a bad time with depression is a success.
Under promise and over deliver. Having depression makes you acutely aware that a possibility of failure exists. So you can turn this in to a strength and promise others a bit less than you think you'll likely achieve. Everyone else is happy you’ve delivered more when you’ve just met your own quota. Enjoy the feeling of achievement.
You might also find you have more compassion towards others. Remember how well you’re hiding your own skeletons in the closet? Everyone has some kind of spook there. So people that are not meeting expectations might just be having a harder time with their own monsters at the moment. Having first hand experience on what it’s like to lose a fight with your own demons might help you go easy on others.
Being depressed is not who you are. It is a sickness that has it’s ups and downs. Use the ups to prepare for the downs. If you feel like shit, use it figure out in what way are you shit and then how be less so. Check your direction and sign up only for a step at a time. Every single step towards ERE makes you less a baggage to other people, less dependent. It is okay to not be perfect. Perfect is usually overkill anyway. Just take the one step.