Depressed or just moody?

The other day, I was feeling out of sorts. Nothing major, just been a week of nothing much progressing on the work front.

And for someone who still (mis)places her identity on her accomplishments, believe me, it can put a cloud over your head when you feel like you haven’t achieved anything for that day or week.

So, there I was, brooding, listless… till the clock struck 4, and it was time for tea. I pulled out my favourite brownie from Awfully Chocolate, warmed it up in the microwave, made a cup of rose tea and sat down.

And I took a bite of the brownie. I savoured the salty-sweet butterscotch and as the dense, rich brownie filled my mouth, I closed my eyes, sighed, and suddenly felt better.

Wow, is that all it takes??

Well, yes. If you’re not in a full-blown, unmanageable depression, that is.

People often let themselves get trapped in a sinking, black hole.

You’re feeling down, you don’t want to do anything, you keep sighing, you keep thinking… and it gets worse and worse.

Again, I am not talking about those with a chemical imbalance in their brain or as I said, suffering from a major depressive disorder.

I am talking about those moments or days when you just… feel… meh.

And all I have to say to that is, just snap yourself out of it.

OMG, did she just say “just snap out of it!”?

My goodness, can you be any less empathetic?

Seriously, in this time and day, to say such an unsympathetic thing?

Erm, yes, that is what I said.

Because not every situation needs a deep dive into finding a resolution. Sometimes, you just need a quick fix.

Maybe it’s doing jumping jacks for a minute. Maybe it’s blasting your favourite happy song. Maybe it’s washing your face and putting on a soothing mask. Maybe it’s heading out and buying a $5 bunch of gerberas from your neighbourhood grocery store.

Maybe it’s eating your favourite cake.

Can you drag yourself out of the funk? It’s whether you want to do it or not. If you don’t want to do that one thing that you know will make you feel better, then it’s on you.

I know I sound harsh, but I’m saying this because for those of us who have the luxury of being able to manage our mind, we should manage it.

At least, we should try. It’s all about the attitude and the effort. If we cling on to having a positive attitude, we will then at least try to do something.

And when you try to do something, you will feel like you have done something. And that something will make you feel better.

If you’re really depressed, I get it. If you just have a negative attitude towards everything, then I don’t.

I’m writing this inspired by a recent conversation with a stranger at a food tasting event for media. I had told her that I had started a blog about mental health matters.

And she asked me how I would know if someone is really depressed or just being negative. She said she has people around her who are always moody, and complaining and she feels like they are just being negative.

“I just tell them to snap out of it and look on the bright side,” she said.

Of course, I had to keep my calm and take the higher ground and tell her that you don’t always know what someone is going through. You also don’t always need to give that person solutions either as they just need a listening ear or just your presence.

But frankly, I wanted to tell her not to be so dismissive and to show more empathy.

But then, I realised that not every depressed “mood” needs to be blown up into a depression per se.

In today’s hyper-sensitive about mental health world, it might be only natural to want to “entertain” someone’s sad mood and in doing so, go down the counter-productive path of making the situation worse.

Sometimes, it would help to just help your friend have a little fun. Join them in what makes them happy, bring them a little treat, get them to “snap out of it” by engaging in something they like.

If it’s just a momentary moodiness, this will help and it will pass.

But as she asked, how do you know if someone is really depressed or just being negative?

I mean, I don’t want you to go around telling your friends who might be depressed to just snap out of it, so I think it’s better we try to answer this.

As extracted from Institute of Mental Health (IMH) website:

A person who experiences five or more of these symptoms for more than two weeks may have a depressive illness:

  • Persistent sadness; or feeling down or gloomy
  • A loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed
  • Weight loss or weight gain; or decrease or increase in appetite
  • Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep; or sleeping excessively
  • Feeling agitated or restless
  • Feeling tired and lacking the energy
  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt
  • Difficulty concentrating or having trouble thinking
  • Frequent thoughts of death or suicide

Of course, you don’t have to wait for more than 2 weeks to see if your friend might have depression or is just being negative. I like what my friend Sylvia’s cousin did.

Sylvia* said one day she just felt kind of sad. She was looking for her keys and then she just started crying. So she called her cousin (who is seeing a doctor for depression) who told her to see if over the next 7 days, does she still feel down, does she still suddenly cry for no reason, and if yes, then to go to the doctor.

The next day, Sylvia, who is an entrepreneur, decided to stay home and not work. But because she had already made plans to meet a business partner who is also a friend, she decided to go ahead with the lunch.

They had a really good lunch and since she was already out, she decided to meet another business contact. They had a good time chatting over tea and then, the contact handed her a signed contract worth a rather large sum of money.

That brightened up Sylvia considerably, and she said she felt so much better after the lunch and the tea, that the strange moment of sadness she had experienced the day before just disappeared.

She was lucky that the very next day, she had good experiences that helped her snap out of it, but I like the 7 days observation method for people who suddenly feel down.

7 days where you have to try to do things that will make you feel better before taking on any next steps.

So, yes, maybe the next time you are faced with a friend who says they are suddenly feeling down, you can help them to 1) do things to make them feel better 2) see how they feel after 7 days.

If they try to take your advice, then you know they are not just being negative.

There is a difference in not wanting to try and not being able to try.

Again, there’s no perfect answer to this. You’d really have to know what has been happening with your friend to know how to help them. If it’s just a bad mood or something more serious.

It’s a fine line and a fine art.

*Names have been changed.

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