Thursday, April 7, 2011

Depression-Proofing Your Home

This is a chopped version of an article I just uploaded on mcmanweb. It's amazing I've never written on this before. Better late than never ...

Let’s start with the proposition that people with mood disorders are extremely sensitive to their environments. You may be stuck where you are, but your entire well-being is riding on making the best of what you’ve got.


Essential adjectives are vital: Cheery, bright, relaxing, calm. Your home is a key player in setting the right mood. If what comes to mind, instead, is, say, depressing, you are on the wrong adjective.

There is a direct connection between light and mood. If vast quantities of natural sunlight aren’t streaming into your place, then you need to buy stock in a lamp company and make yourself rich by purchasing their entire inventory. You may also want to consider a light box, normally used to treat seasonal affective disorder.

Meanwhile, fresh air (charged with negative ions) is linked to good health, both physical and mental. Cracking open a window is the obvious solution, but if you are you living in a sealed enclosure and inhaling central heating or air conditioning (charged with positive ions), you may need to consider investing in an ionizer.

You also need to be extremely mindful of breathing in anything toxic, from mold proliferating behind the wallboard to chemicals in the carpet to germs the central air-conditioning spits out.

The Bedroom

The basics: A comfortable bed that supports your back, good lighting (for bedtime winding down and for waking up), and as close as possible to absolute quiet.

The quiet aspect deserves special consideration. Many of us have hair-trigger stress responses that can be set off by loud noises. A lot of us also have great difficulty tuning out background noise (such as air-conditioning). These should not be regarded as inconveniences we have to get used to.

Family members: You will be doing both yourself and your entire family a favor by bending over backwards to accommodate the needs of your affected son or daughter (or other family member). If he or she sleeps peacefully, you all sleep peacefully. And daytime will be much easier on all of you, as well. Whatever it takes.

Your Own Special Room

Having your own hideaway is essential, whether in catching your breath or catching up. This is your special piece of the world. It needs to reflect you in all your quirky glory, from the First Folio Shakespeare in the bookcase to the neon Budweiser sign in the window.

However you choose to set up the room, it is giving You permission to be You, whether smoking cigars or meditating, building model airplanes or running a business.

The Kitchen

You are what you eat, but living with a mood disorder means you are often going to be too depressed to want to cook. Therefore, it’s vital to be well-stocked on healthy pre-prepared slap-together stuff. Bags of mixed greens, stir-fry, you get the picture.

The Bathroom

Think of all the stuff that goes on in this room besides the usual - uh - stuff. From looking in the mirror to all the rest of it, you are on display. The other you is evaluating, assessing, taking stock. Don’t like what you see? It’s going to be a rough day.

Likewise, there you are, in your inner sanctum, alone with your thoughts. Is the atmosphere conducive to a meditative experience, a breather, a pleasant time-out? Or is your decompression chamber a depression chamber?

Of all the rooms in the house, the bathroom is the one room where you need to walk out of it feeling much better than you went in. If this isn’t happening, you need to closely evaluate the situation - and treat it as a high priority.

Home Maintenance

Things can easily run away from us, even when we are not depressed. I know for a fact that if I go to bed with two dirty plates in the sink, I will wake up to a family of dirty little saucers. As for clothes on the floor, it’s like tumbleweed piling up against a fence. My theory on rubber bands is they morph into power cables for electronic devices that don’t exist. All my cables, incidentally, defy the law of entropy by self-organizing into gordian knots.

By now, you recognize that the front line in the battle against depression is played out literally on the home front, in our own homes. Make yourself at home and live well ...      

1 comment:

Gledwood said...

I'm not sure that sunlight doesn't actually make me depressed. I got severely manic in January and now that the spring weather is here I'm feeling dire. I took an online test this morning and came out "severely depressed". Lovely.

I noticed when I was manic on the nights when I really couldn't sleep my head was literally lit up like a television set which probably sounds cool, as my head was full of the most vivid surreal imagery, but when you just want to sleep it does get wearing... I couldn't get any sleep until daybreak and daylight drowned this inner imagery out.

I'm sure with me some reverse ligh thing is going on. Interestingly although there's no bipolar in my family my mother gets recurrent unipolar depression which she says is SAD, so maybe there's some link there, who knows?