I just walked out of a session with a teenaged client who cycles in and out of depression. Over the past 2 years, we’ve managed to even out her roller-coaster existence into a series of shallow dips. Without the drama of violent mood swings, however, she’s now being expected to perform at a higher level. This, she complains, is annoying. She no longer receives special treatment when she’s feeling this way.
I counter her frustration with a bulleted list (of course). After all — we’ve been all over the psycho-socio-emotional reasons behind her depression. Big insight wasn’t the ticket tonight. She and her parents have made immense progress already and I felt that all she needed was a little fine tuning.
I explain that when she slides into the now-shallow valley of her mood cycle, she needs to rally the troops and do extra things in order to take care of herself. She has to fortify her defenses against the gravity of her depression to keep from sliding further down — to put extra effort into treading water so she doesn’t sink. The list of reminders that we develop together is so basic, so obvious, and motivational that I have sat at my desk for 15 minutes, reading and re-reading it.
Riding out the dip
- Watch for signs and take action ASAP.
- Sleep as much as possible.
- Eat well.
- Communicate and express in healthy ways.
- Talk to friends and family.
- Ask for what you need.
- Don’t be afraid of the hard questions.
- Write in your journal.
- Be creative and make things.
The curse of being a therapist: it’s really hard to take your own advice. The blessing: you get slapped upside the head with it over and over and over again.