Apps I Use to Help Manage My Depression and Treatment

Hello again! I’m back… for now!

Today I was answering some MDD discussion questions for the benefit of a research organization that is trying to come up with a new treatment option for major depressive disorder. I thought my fellow depressed people of the internet might be interested in my response — I know I would be if I were less experienced in my illness, so to speak, and in what works for me. So the following is my list of apps (in no particular order) that I use to help manage my depression and depression treatment. They’re probably not quite what you would expect, but that goes to show that depression is very complex and many factors contribute to both its presence and one’s recovery. Let me know if this list helps you in any way! Enjoy!

1. Inner Balance by HeartMath (free to download). I just downloaded this today and I look forward to trying it and hopefully making it a part of my daily routine. I learned about it from my bf’s friend who is a hypnotist (not in the traditional sense of the word, but more cognitive-behavioral) and gave me a free therapy session and had me try it out. You attach a pulse sensor to your earlobe and breathe in sync to a sort of pulsating mandala, trying to enhance coherence between your mind and heart rhythm. Termed HRV (heart rate variability) coherence training. It’s a biofeedback therapy which is great because you can actually see whether you’re doing it right and measure your progress. It’s like meditation, but more awesome, and you don’t have to continually pay someone in order to do it. I don’t have the sensor ($120+) yet but it’s on my Christmas wishlist.

2. Day One Journal by Bloom Built Inc (was $3 to download). The best journaling app out there. If you want, you can have multiple journals for different purposes in the same app. With premium (which I don’t have yet but might eventually have – $25-35 yearly) you get unlimited cloud storage and can sync across all devices. The designers have thought of pretty much everything. I have my main journal plus one titled Gratitude Journal, another called CBT for making myself aware of my thought patterns, one called Law of Attraction for visualizing what I want in life (difficult when depressed), “Dear Nikita” which is just me writing to my past, present, or future self, and a couple others for fun. I’ve journaled all my life but because I live with my boyfriend now and everything is more phone-centric these days I find it more convenient to have this app to get my reflective thoughts down and remove the possibility of anyone else being able to read through it (it’s password-protected).

3. Instagram (free). Sort of like a public journal. I can say as little or as much as I want, portray myself in whatever way makes me feel good, share my progress/recovery/inner thoughts with friends and anyone who happens to care, rant to whoever will listen, make an impact however small. I like that it acts as a record of myself, like “Nikita was here”. And as long as I remain honest, I can direct any new acquaintance to my account to get a better idea of who I am and what I uniquely (or not so uniquely) struggle with as a chronic depressive. That way I don’t have to tire myself out explaining everything. And the thought of being able to do this if I ever need to helps relieve my anxiety of being unknown, lonely, and useless.

4. Insight Timer (free): I learned about this from my bf who learned about it through a friend. Huge community of meditators. Free to use. You can rack up hours and get stars for progress. You can ‘friend’ others and also access guided meditations. My bf uses this multiple times a day but I fell off the wagon quite early. But I still think it’s cool. Some of the guided meditations are specific to depression and anxiety.

5. Shopping apps (Poshmark, eBay, Mercari, Depop, Amazon) (free to download): One of the ways I cope with depression lately is with shopping. Gives me a little high especially when I get a good deal. It’s like in that show “Extreme Couponing”. Been doing this for the last 4 years, or since the start of my current depressive episode. When I run out of money, I sell my old stuff. The cycle repeats!

6. Nike+ Run Club by Nike (free). I prefer this app over Under Armour’s MapMyRun because it’s more aesthetically pleasing to me and has less of a crowded feel. It also does everything I want it to, which is to map my run, record my time, distance, and pace, and log the miles run in any pairs of Nikes I own. You can also link with Spotify and have a customized playlist that (closely) matches your run tempo. I’ve always hated running but this app makes me want to improve my running. I can compete against myself or a friend who also has the app. I can share my results to social networks. This app is important to me because exercise, especially running, helps clear my head and relieve my depression symptoms. With it I successfully trained for and ran a 10k a year ago.

7. CVS Pharmacy (free). I use it to refill prescriptions. I love it for the convenience, and it also acts as a log of all the medications and dosages I’ve taken in the past.

8. Healthgrades (free). I use this when I’m looking for a new doctor. Because I’ve had bad experiences in the past, I make sure to only go with a clinician who has an average of at least 4 stars. This has worked out well for me so far and helped me avoid huge disappointments.

I’ve tried looking for a CBT app that can work as a digital workbook for self-therapy, but none of the free ones were helpful and I didn’t feel like paying. In the end my sister bought me a paperback workbook and I’ve been using that. Works for me.

 

Are there any apps that you love that work well for you? Help someone out; leave a comment.

Amends 2

Today I responded to A regarding her apology from last week.

 

Hey A,

I appreciate your message, and it’s ok. You didn’t know any better, and neither did anyone else, really, including me–fortunately studying neuroscience helped to answer a lot of the questions my doctors couldn’t or didn’t have time to answer… Mental illness, especially chronic and recurring mental illness, is surrounded by misunderstanding on all sides. I remain hopeful though that we’ll find some permanently effective treatments in the future.

I’m not yet finished with my degree, but because of the pictures I posted and being back in LA and all I’ve been getting congratulated. 🙂 DOK and the academic review board permitted me to march at the graduation ceremony because I had completed 30 of my 32 units. I had taken two years off in 2013-2015 to recover from another severe depression, only I didn’t recover, and I essentially lied saying I was healthy again so I could come back in 2015 and finish my degree. So unsurprisingly I wasn’t able to finish my senior year without dropping a couple courses, and now I need to make up those units elsewhere. But I don’t ever have to set foot on the Wellesley campus again, so that’s good. 😉

Your Facebook timeline tells me you’re having a good time, and I’m glad to see that. I hope it reflects truth. 🙂 First year I remember was also a very difficult time for you, and we hadn’t talked much after that. For the most part I have created distance between myself and many people, including people from high school, people from Wellesley, and my parents. Some of this was to avoid negativity or people around whom I feel sad, and the rest was because I just can’t relate to certain people anymore because I’ve changed so much. I have tested my emotions by occasionally socializing with some of these people, to try to make myself adapt and be less sensitive. I have found this to not work very well and after so much testing of the waters outside my comfort zone and becoming more anxious as a result, I have learned that taking cover and accepting one’s vulnerability can in some cases be better than facing fears. I hope you can understand if I keep my distance from you. I begrudgingly respect my limitations.

Thank you for reaching out, A. It is a reminder of the fact that you have always cared. 🙂

Take care,
Nikita

 

 

Amends

A week ago I received this message from someone I hadn’t spoken to in years. We’ll call her A. We were acquaintances in high school and when we found out we were both going to Wellesley, we tried our best to bond so we could support each other once over there. Long story short, things just didn’t work out.

 

Hey Nikita,
Just saw your graduation post. Congratulations!

I’ve been thinking about you lately , like when I went home and reverted to becoming a teenager and when I got together with S.K. on Saturday and thought about high school and even yesterday when I was listening to a podcast about “solving the problem” and frames of reference. You’ve been on my mind and I would like to apologize for not being a good friend to you during college.

I didn’t understand depression and still have a lot to learn about it. I remember our last phone call and regret how I handled the way you expressed how you felt. I shouldn’t have diminished you and what you were going through because it was big. And when you came back to Wellesley, I figured you didn’t want to be friends and I kept my distance.

So, a long overdue apology. I am sorry for not being there for you when we spent so much time together. Our minds were in different places and spaces. I regret not stepping out of my tunnel and seeing you.

I hope you’re well and congratulations again.

Repost: Cells carry ‘memory’ of injury, which could reveal why chronic pain persists

A new study from King’s College London offers clues as to why chronic pain can persist, even when the injury that caused it has gone. Although still in its infancy, this research could explain how small and seemingly innocuous injuries leave molecular ‘footprints’ which add up to more lasting damage, and ultimately chronic pain. All […]

http://biotechin.asia/2016/05/18/cells-carry-memory-of-injury-which-could-reveal-why-chronic-pain-persists/

A Haiku for You

Strip me of my meds

and I will resemble more

the dead girl I am.

  • I like haikus because they’re so simple. Even I can do them and I’m not a poet.
  • These days, the average amount of sleep I need in order to not feel like I slept too much or too little is 11 hours. I think I am developing a tolerance to Fetzima. So that’s two meds now: bupropion and Fetzima. I wonder now and then how I’ll ever get off them.
  • Finals are over!!!

Playing God’s Advocate

I’ve been noticing my brain’s been trying to give religious perspective more air time. “How would one interpret my situation within a spiritual context?”

The better I feel, the easier it is for me to believe in God. The doubt is still strong, and I remember knowing when I was at my lowest that if I ever got better, it would be like this. I had even hoped for it; spirituality is great medicine. But the part of me that wants to be true to myself, be consistent, and respect my depressed self as much as my healthier self is resisting. I’m fine with that, too. My beliefs carry a lot of weight, and they’re not easily changed.

I like being an agnostic materialist, because that’s my truth. Science is my truth. It’s what I know will never cave for however long I stand on it. If I have any faith in God, it’s the size of a mustard seed at best…

A perk of severe depression

*Trigger warning: death/loss/suicide*

When my grandfather died about 2 1/2 years ago, it was due to a heart attack he had had while we were walking in the park together. Right after I saw he had fallen, I watched as his chest quickly deflated and didn’t rise again. I shouted for help as I didn’t have my phone on me to call 911, then folded up my sweatshirt to put under his head. There was a small pool of blood under it. I thought to myself that this was probably his last day of life or close to it, and I felt a tiny bit envious. A retired pastor, he was now on the fast track to heaven, if we are to assume there is a heaven. He was also getting a ticket out of this dreadful world, as I saw it. I took note of my reaction as just another interesting thing about my depression. Later on at the funeral a couple weeks later, people I talked to thought that seeing him fall, etc. must have been traumatic. Nope. It was more of a peaceful experience than traumatic, honestly. I was relieved and glad for him. Of course, I didn’t say this.

Also when I’ve been pretty depressed (I’m fairly stable now) and witnessing the euthanization of a mouse in a science class, I’m not as freaked out as my classmates. I don’t feel disturbed. I don’t think, “Oh, poor mouse!!” I remember my lab instructor saying, “It’s normal to have a negative reaction to this. It’s actually weirder if you don’t feel bad.” Lol. I wasn’t offended. And this is not to say that I never feel empathy for animals. I do. I once had a dog named Mopsy whom I loved very much. She was the best dog, very cute, very well trained, and very smart. She was also very mellow. As she got older, she developed dry eyes that would get caked with eye mucus that we had to clean out. It was hard for her to see. She also developed Cushing’s disease, and I could tell by the way she moved that she was depressed. I was experiencing one of my first depressions at the time, and I couldn’t pay as much attention to her as I used to. It hurt to look at her. I felt her pain too well. I told my parents and sister to euthanize her. They interpreted this as coldness and heartlessness. Eventually they did take her to the vet to be euthanized, while I laid heavily in bed. Afterward they told me how sad it was to see her die and that they had cried, and that I was so selfish for not going with them.

It wasn’t until a year later on a trip to Ireland that my feelings became clear. My mom and I were looking at a Shetland pony in a stable, and it looked sad to me. Its head was low and it didn’t look at us. We threw some bread in and it sniffed it but didn’t eat. It just continued standing still with its head low. I was reminded of Mopsy. My eyes welled up and I cried and cried. Perhaps the pony was sad for most of the time; perhaps its owners did not take adequate care of it or pay enough loving attention to it. Perhaps it felt trapped like me. But a pony in its circumstances doesn’t have the option to commit suicide and end its misery like I do. It probably doesn’t even have a concept of suicide…

By the way, suicide is not the answer and I’ve been telling myself it’s not an option. What I said up there is a reflection on my feelings from 7-9 years ago.

My point is, depression can make you more disturbed by life, but also less disturbed about death. 🙂

Wow, am I writing depressing stuff today or what?

Neuropharm presentation on bupropion this Friday :)

So… I have a straight-up D in my neuropharmacology class, even though I’ve been looking forward to this class for years, because I’m unable to stay focused enough to complete assignments due to depression and anxiety. (I’ve also dropped two of my three courses this semester!) But I’m pleased to say that my 10-minute presentation on a medication of my choice this Friday is one of the few assignments that I’ve started working on before the day it’s due. That’s because I already know a substantial amount about the drug from my personal experience with it, and therefore I don’t need to muster as much motivation to get started.

I’m also pleased because my telling the class that I’ve used Wellbutin (bupropion) in the past and that I’m currently on it should make the presentation a little more interesting for everyone. Hopefully I can prepare enough to the point where I can be proud of the final result.

You might be thinking, Is it really a good idea to disclose that you’re taking bupropion? Isn’t it… unprofessional? 
I used to think like that. I’ve had a therapist tell me it may be best to not let anyone know at my neuro internship that I struggle with depression, to keep business and personal life separate. A friend and former classmate who has bipolar disorder also suggested it might be best to not tell the class that I’m actually on the medication. But I feel strongly about my role in destigmatizing mental illness. Anytime there seems to be any discomfort either on my end or on another’s part regarding the knowledge of my depression, I feel the need to face the discomfort head-on instead of trying to avoid it. I think that’s exactly what destigmatization requires. As long as I am privileged in the sense that despite being mentally ill I have the confidence to be open about it, I’m going to actively use it to bring mental illness into conversations and awareness because it’s an extremely important issue facing the entire world today.

The Nature of My Romantic Attachments, and Tasks at Hand

The following is to be read by my future cognitive behavioral therapist, because otherwise it would take about four sessions to communicate all of this.

 

I think I’m starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I told my friend Tiffany today that I believe I will recover from this depression. But there is a ton of work to be done before I’ve made a full recovery.

I’m going to walk at my graduation ceremony on May 27th, and my grandfather will see me “graduate”. I put ‘graduate’ in quotes because I won’t quite be finished then as I am dropping my Spanish course this semester, and possibly also my chemistry course, unless I take an incomplete in chem and finish that by the end of the summer. Whatever the case, I need those units in order to receive my diploma.

I’m going to go back to Los Angeles after the ceremony. Back to lovely La La Land. I’m going to live with my boyfriend, who loves me deeply, is a great person, and provides me with pretty much anything I need. I’ll make up coursework at UCLA and spend my time doing homework, seeing a cognitive behavioral therapist, working out to my heart’s delight (everyday if I can manage), eating good food, and trying to build a solid social network. My boyfriend will make all of this possible because he will drive me to therapy, drive me to class, drive me to tutoring sessions, pay for my gym memberships, and take me out to nice restaurants. In the last several months his business has been picking up, and he’s been looking at new condos to move into that are priced upwards of $1m. He won’t buy one that I don’t approve of, because it’s to be our place and he’d like to make me his wife someday.

My anxiety got me into this fortunate situation, funnily enough. But it’s not because I’m envisioning a fairy tale ending that I’m seeing a light at the end of the tunnel.

My anxiety and probable oxytocin dysregulation have caused me to be very attached to and dependent on my boyfriend whom I have known since two weeks in that I will not marry. I love him–I’m extremely attached–but I’m not in love. He says I am perfect for him, but I can’t say he is perfect for me. And it is very unfortunate that I’m not in love with him, because if I were, everything would be golden. What is better than being in love with someone who loves you and does everything he can to make you feel secure in the relationship? For me, nothing. Absolutely nothing. And since we started dating in February of 2015 I have felt guilty for what I’ve seen as “wasting his time” and leading him on. The stress from this guilt has been so intense despite the fact that I feel better and safer when I’m with him, that I have tried to leave him several times. And every one of those three or four times, within a matter of days or minutes, I have been struck with a strange and disturbing anxiety, wherein I feel a strong tingling sensation just beneath the skin of my arms and legs, and my wide eyes quickly leak tears, my breath becomes frantic, death comes rushing in, and I miss him terribly. Every time, I have run back to him, and every time, he has saved me from death. What a guy, huh? Did I mention that he never passes a homeless person without giving him/her at least a couple bucks? And that he talks to them and gets to know them over meals, too? That he loves animals? That he prays every morning and every night and at every meal? That he always takes the initiative to apologize when he’s not perfect? That he’s a skilled kickboxing coach who teaches people to not pick fights and to stand up for others? That as a recovered alcoholic, he helps other alcoholics get back on their feet??

His support has helped me to slowly recover from severe depression for more than a year now, and my failed attempts at leaving him have taught me that I won’t be capable of leaving (or of making a firm decision as to whether or not there is potential for marriage) until I’ve recovered from this depression.

So I am going to work out the many kinks in my mind with a cognitive behavioral therapist, but I’m especially going to focus on this issue I have with inappropriately strong attachments. Breaking up with my first boyfriend in January of 2015 brought me closer than ever before to suicide. It was so heart-wrenching that I feel confident in saying that I know what it feels like for a mother to lose her child. Such was my grief. Odd as this sounds, it was as if my ex were my son, and he had died for absolutely no reason at all. My love for my ex was so profound, that I can’t even say I loved him with all my heart; I loved him with all my soul. He meant the world to me at the time, even though I was aware that he didn’t deserve my love at all. I managed to get over him by shacking up and rushing into a relationship with my very first Tinder date, who is my fantastic current boyfriend, two days after we met.

And before I met my ex, I had been seeing a guy that I was not attracted to at all, except for the way he smelled. He smelled nice. But he was overweight and out of shape due to asthma, had big, flabby lips that weren’t fun to kiss, and was a photographer, and I have never been impressed with photography as an art. He was also a bit of a snobby hipster (Hipsters never admit that they’re hipsters, and this guy looked down on them–Classic hipster!) and had a weird-shaped head. And yet I was attached to him. I obsessed. One night I drove to his house and waited a couple hours for his photo shoot to be over to hand him a framed picture of him I had drawn on a napkin, and to tell him we should stop seeing each other. He accepted the gift graciously and gave me a warm hug. When I got back home, I unfriended him on Facebook, and was very depressed. The next three days I lay in my bed and cried virtually nonstop. I cried so much that I began to feel an outward pressure all around my head that I had never experienced before (When I later described it to my doctor, and said it felt like some sort of inflammation, his response was that he didn’t know what it was). To me it felt as if my brain had expanded inside my skull. I had quit seeing someone I wasn’t attracted to, and it crushed me, leaving me more anxious and depressed. A month and a half later I was over the hipster, but not much had improved with my mood, and I checked myself into the local mental hospital (which didn’t help much (Surprise!!)).

Friends. I don’t have many. My closest friends are my sister, my friend Tiffany, my boyfriend, and my friend Asa whom I’ve known since we were little. The first three I communicate with regularly. Asa and I talk occasionally.

It is an obvious and proven fact that platonic friendships can be great as a buffer against romantic turmoil. After being in and out of school–a school I dislike–for the last seven years, and consequently not being interested in forming bonds with people here that I probably will never see again after “graduation”, I’m pretty isolated. I also found during my first leave of absence from Wellesley, a women’s college, is that I am especially stable when I have friends who are male. It’s actually quite amazing. I got plugged in to a church during that year and acquired some very respectable and mature-for-their-age male friends–one of whom I did develop a crush on but was surprisingly at peace with the fact that he had a steady girlfriend–and I went from being a single girl pathetically desperate for male attention to being a quite happy single girl (Wellbutrin also helped).

It took me a long time for me to acknowledge this in part because I was a prude for the first 22 years of my life, but getting to know men–respectful, attractive men–is probably the one thing which energizes me the most in life, aside from food, sleep, and other basic necessities. Of course, this sounds pretty damn normal for a straight woman. So imagine you take a young heterosexual woman with a healthy libido and you place her on a college campus where there are no attractive, available men around, and you also make the academic curriculum extremely rigorous so that she has no time in her schedule to find attractive, available men off-campus. Also add to the fact that her prudish ways have done nothing for her social anxiety and skill with men, so that when she doesn’t prioritize her schoolwork and goes off to a college party anyway, she still gains nothing except for more sexual frustration and academic stress. Would you be surprised if this caused her health to decline? Because this is exactly what happened to me my first year here.

So let’s tie this all together: I plan to stay with my boyfriend at least until I have recovered from this depressive episode and earned my Bachelors degree. He is a very stable and generally happy person, so if we break up, I will not cause any huge emotional pain. My therapist will help me accomplish a breakup or whatever I need to do to take the next step in my life. A breakup will also mean that I definitely need a full-time job. Finally, whether or not a breakup occurs, I need to make friends, both female and male.

MENTAL HEALTH FEATURE: Michelle Hammer, Schizophrenic NYC

ORGANIC COFFEE, HAPHAZARDLY

tankteebracelet

It is my pleasure and honor to introduce to you Michelle Hammer, the CEO and founder of Schizophrenic NYC, a clothing line for the mental health community. I fell in love with this shirt that I came across when scrolling in my favorite place – Instagram – and when dealing with Sarah, remembered that Michelle had written for Stigma Fighters. I was eager to interview Michelle, to learn what led her to launch this advocacy and speak with the person behind this amazing cause. It turns out that Michelle was diagnosed with schizophrenia when she was 22 years old. Five years has passed, and she is doing something important to support people like me. She is an amazing woman who I would love for you to get to know.

Please welcome Michelle Hammer.

-Allie

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