The Battle for the Mind

I’m in a street fight with Depression and it fights dirty, using all the sneaky tricks it can. It knows they work – they’re tried and tested on millions of people daily. I’m going to need a strategy, a battle plan to defeat Depression or at least push it back from its control of my mind.

Here are some of Depression’s favourite tactics:

  1. Isolate – Depression loves you to be alone, to think you’re the only one in the world who’s suffering, so it persuades you to withdraw, cutting you off from your vital support network. Texts from friends and family remain unopened, calls unanswered, get-togethers cancelled. You find yourself gagged and silenced by shame.
  2. Ruminate – Depression wants you selfishly all to itself so you can spend hours upon hours reliving ‘mistakes’ you’ve made, swallowed up in negative thoughts that churn in your head, looking for solutions that are always out of reach and ungraspable.
  3. Deflate – Depression wants you to remain stuck, immobile, joyless. There’s no way it wants you to do anything that could possibly help you lift yourself out of the rut. Exercise? Meditate? Cook? No chance. ‘You’re too tired,’ Depression slyly tells you. It loves to disrupt and create chaos so any form of routine or structure is a big ‘no-no’. Depression hates order and ideally wants you up all night and in bed all day. It loves it when you’re tired – so much easier to keep a hold of your mind in its vice-like grip. It will disrupt your sleep and enter your dreams.
  4. Self-hate – Depression drips poison into your ear, fueling self-critical thoughts: “You’re weak,” it whispers, “You’re useless, you can’t do it, you can’t cope”. Drip, drip, drip constantly until you believe the incessant lies.

Well, f*** you, Depression! I’ve got a plan – a counter-attack – and these are just some of the weapons I will use to defeat you:

  1. Staying connected – I’ll not hide away as you want me to, I’m going to keep in touch with and family, join peer support groups, be open about you and my fight against you. I’ll not be silenced.
  2. Being mindful – I know how helpful it is to practice being in the present moment, catching my thoughts when they veer into the past or future and gently bringing them back to the present without judgment. I’ll even try sitting with difficult thoughts and accepting you and your sidekick Anxiety, rather than constantly trying to push you both away – you’ll really hate that as it’ll rob you of your destructive power.
  3. Re-introducing helpful, enjoyable activities – I’ll walk the dog, do some gardening, have a bath, watch a comedy, play with my daughter, go for that run – even if it’s only for five minutes. I’ll move again, sing again, laugh again. I’ll find joy and light to defy your Darkness.
  4. Practicing self-compassion – I’ll speak to myself with kindness and understanding, as I would to a good friend. I’ll not compare myself with others (either positively or negatively) knowing that ‘Comparison is the Thief of Joy’. This will in turn help me to be compassionate to others – the many others – who are also struggling in this uncertain world. Because we have strength in numbers and the more we shed light on you and your underhand tactics, the weaker you will become.

You want a fight, Depression? Well, bring it on!

Fabian Devlin is co-author of men’s mental health book Big Boys Don’t Cry? with Patrick Addis, which has 60 stories and over 200 tips on how to stay mentally healthy from men with lived experience of mental illness. Order a limited paperback copy by emailing (£10 + £2 postage). 10% of proceeds will go to mental health charities CALM and Sport in Mind.