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 Marcia Purse

Do Something Unusual to Help With Depression

By December 16, 2012

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I received a message from someone named John that I find really fascinating. It's the story of how, while in a black depression, he was able to revive his brain by doing something very much out of the ordinary.

The lower I go, the less I want or can do without severe struggle. The most mundane and simple tasks become brutal murder to accomplish, including but not limited to getting out of bed. I was close to suicide ideation once, very very low. I thought that I should try to eat something, make something to eat; I looked at a brand new 2 pack of Jiffy peanut butter jars shrink wrapped in plastic on the shelf in the cupboard, and just started crying thinking about how incredibly impossible it was going to be for me to open it. It seemed that difficult.

Lighted reindeerI've found that doing something completely odd and unusual was easier than doing something routine. One Christmas season, when ultra-depressed, routine things were, of course, a struggle - but I was able to repair and restore three of those white, wire-form Xmas-light lawn reindeer figures and set them up out in the lawn.

I was also able to do some other very nice outdoor Xmas decorating that year - slowly, but it worked for me. I remember thinking how odd it was. It took hours and hours of playing with 100's of little lights to get them working properly and reattached properly to the wire frames, and looking nice. I couldn't do laundry worth a damn, but restoring light up Xmas reindeer I could accomplish without wanting to blow my brains out.

I believe whatever is going on with our brain materials and chemistry, the brain goes looking for stimulation not in the routine things we do everyday, but in the odd, unique things that get its attention, that stimulate it, that wakes it up - maybe to help keep it from completely shutting down.
I want to try this technique! Focus can be extremely difficult for me during depressive episodes, and the idea of doing something off-the-wall intrigues me no end. I think I'd have to come up with the idea at the time: if I planned out some unusual activities beforehand, they wouldn't seem unique when I needed them.

What do you think about this? One thing I'm sure of is that I want to remember it so I can give it a try when I need to break out of a serious depression.

Learn more or join the conversation!
December 16, 2012 at 5:46 pm
(1) Liz says:

I learned how to make simple jewelry during a bout when I couldn’t concentrate. I was in recovery from a manic episode and my memory was terrible. It gave me something to do, a little bit of a challenge, and I could be creative. I give these as gifts to family and friends.

December 16, 2012 at 7:58 pm
(2) Barbara says:

I like it. I hope I can find some things to do the same for me as it is unbearable just to sit there all depressed and just try to breathe. Thanks, everyone!! Merry Christmas, John!

December 16, 2012 at 10:13 pm
(3) Dr. Blair Masters says:

Focus can be extremely helpful or detrimental during depressive episodes. Most people do not have an awareness of their focus on a regular basis. Breaking your focus when it is on something negative can be very helpful when having depression. Unusual activites is one effectvie way to do it. If you find yourself in a funk, make a change! Go outside, go iceskating, bake something to give away. Anything out of the ordinary can be effective. But the most important thing is to be aware of your focus.

December 17, 2012 at 6:14 am
(4) Diane says:

I absolutely agree. This has been a very rough period for me. Last weekend when I could barely stay awake or function in any responsible capacity I drug myself out of bed and for some reason I had to bake a cake. I don’t remember much of that weekend except baking the cake. To be truthful the cake was far from the best cake I ever made. None the less it did lift my mood, at least for a couple hours.

December 17, 2012 at 12:25 pm
(5) Lela says:

I’ve been there. Heck, I -am- there. It seems like the ‘default’ setting for my mind right now is dark, black, inky depression, and there is very little I can accomplish. However, when in this place, I’ve found things that I can focus on that can be somewhat surprising.

I call these things “distractons”, but in truth, it’s about the only coping mechanism I have left that is working right now. (Been off my meds for a while now after coming to rely on them and count on them, so everything seems more severe lately.)

It’s not often the same thing twice either, and often, it’s not even intentional. Sometimes, it’s a creative activity that has somehow caught my eye or come to my attention, and sometimes, it’s something as mundane as a strategy/board game app on my cell phone.

In any case, it kills some time and (as I describe it) gets me out of my head for a little while when focus is usually hard to come by.

December 17, 2012 at 12:52 pm
(6) andy says:

As in the case with many bipolar individuals, my depression is especially harsh during the holidays. I had a major argument with my family and thus missed our Christmas celebration. Now I feel bad about it and can’t help but ruminate. Just getting out of bed is a major task and since I’m unemployed I can’t fill my days and have a very low self-esteem. I would welcome any input. The medications just don’t appear to be working.

December 17, 2012 at 3:30 pm
(7) Rabbit says:

I like the theory, but mostly his example reminds me of an incident from the year of my own worst depression. The frustration of trying to put lights on a 4′ Christmas tree caused a total meltdown. I never did put the tree up. :-(

December 18, 2012 at 12:10 pm
(8) Nancy Bee says:


My adult daughter has been struggling with bipolar depression recently and she got in touch with her psychiatrist because she knew she was going downhill. Alas, she can’t be on any anti-depressants because she has a tendency to rapid cycle. However, they were able to tweak her mood stabilizer and Abilify and she’s doing a bit better.

She had a meltdown at our family Thanksgiving gathering (probably because she was depressed and feeling very down about herself) . She felt guilty and ashamed but she apologized and with the medication tweaking, she’s in a better place. The hardest thing for her is to “forgive” herself! It’s very tough having this medical disorder and living in her brain. Sometimes the pain & depression comes out as anger because let’s face it, many people just don’t get it….

If you have a doctor and/or therapist, please call them to tell them that you’re struggling. Also, do you have a friend who will just listen? I’m so sorry you’re not feeling well. Please know that we’re here for you, Andy.

December 18, 2012 at 12:42 pm
(9) susan says:

I too find that getting out and doing something for someone else helps my depression- especially here at the holidays- I was a walk- in volunteer for a Childrens Hospital Christmas party and for the Special Need Adults Christmas Dance- it is amazing how you can forget your own problems when you see the joy of children and the young at heart. I changed what could have been two very sad and perhaps dangerous weekend for me.

December 18, 2012 at 1:38 pm
(10) Philly says:

Hey Andy,
Think of all the people who don’t have family. Some families don’t get it either, even if you do talk to them. I will be alone. Ive gotten used to it.
If you muster the courage to go to a free community Christmas meal where there are others, you’ll see people a lot more alone than you, and some worse off – in your mind than you

Merry Christmas & Happy Hanukkah!

December 18, 2012 at 6:31 pm
(11) kathy says:

Thank you for you story. I guess I’m not so alone in this disease. Yes I too have so much trouble focusing on household chores. I just sit and stare at it, pick up a few things then I just can’t do it anymore because my thoughts are racing and I go back to bed. BUT the other night I started fiddeling around with my old Christmas decorations and before I knew it I had a whole display done and cleaned the area I was working in. I was totally focused on what I was doing with no other thoughts in mind. It was like a mental vacation I desperately needed. WOW and I didnt even know what I was doing and that somebody else can relate. Again, I thank you for sharing your story. One more thing, I had no plans at all ahead of time to make my display, just started it up and wahlah!!!!

December 19, 2012 at 11:46 pm
(12) Tia says:

I’ve been pretty bad lately. Most days I stay in bed. My mom nagging me to get up and eat so I can take my meds. I read John’s post and decided to try it. My sister is in charge of putting up the Christmas tree and since I moved back home with my cat she stopped putting up the tree for fear the cat would destroy it. I could care less about Christmas so I didn’t care if we didn’t have a tree. Tonight I put up the tree, It’s got lights on it on it then I gave up and the candles are in the windows. Only one works, but I at least I got them up. Have family coming tomorrow so Friday I will try finish it.

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