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Helpful readers offer advice on ways to defeat black dog

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DEAR MISS LONELYHEARTS: This person called Very Upset is in immediate need of help and suicide watch. I am also bipolar -- diagnosed by a good psychiatrist, unfortunately late in life. This person needs a psychiatrist, in my opinion, as physicians aren't well-equipped to diagnose. Or, the depressed person should check themselves into the psych ward at a big hospital through the emergency department. Here are some of my tips for keeping the black dog of depression at bay. 1)You need to get helping medications or have them adjusted. But, be careful which ones you take. Some can suppress libido, and be cause for additional depression. Nonetheless, meds must be taken, as prescribed. No "drug holidays" when one is feeling better. 2) Some close and trusted people need to know of one's illness, but don't tell people at your workplace as it can destroy your career. 3) A good counsellor is essential. Both Klinic and Aurora Family Centre provide this at no cost, or cost based on income. 4.) The depression darkness can sometimes be deceptively warm and comforting, yet therein lies emotional, spiritual and even physical death. 5.) When the black dogs attack, one must seek light and enlightenment (corny, I know). Get out into the sunshine; spend time with close friends/family, seek a higher power, meditate, do things you're good at. By not withdrawing into oneself, one defeats the dogs. 6) Establish routines that provide order, predictability, comfort and esteem-building (e.g. "Yay! I got out of bed. Yay! I showered.). 7) Make small, three-item lists -- things you'd love to do, want to do, have to do. Accomplish one thing on each list, as time permits. Self-esteem soars when accomplishment prevails. -- "Certified," Winnipeg

Dear Certified: Thanks for taking the time to make this helpful list, from your own experience with beating back depression. Your input is much appreciated. One big problem in Manitoba is the lack of psychiatrists, and the long waiting lists. A trusted physician can often help while the person awaits the appointment with a psychiatrist. But, if one is feeling suicidal, it's best to go straight to an emergency room and be clear about how you are feeling and get immediate psychiatric help.

Dear Miss Lonelyhearts: The depressed person called Very Upset could have been written by me. He/she needs to know that it doesn't have to be like this, and there are others who have been through exactly what is described, and come out the other side as happy people. You gave excellent advice and I just wanted to add that you cannot say enough times to yourself: "It will get better." Putting chemicals into your body is not a bad thing, considering we are made up of chemicals, and sometimes they are out of balance, through no fault or inadequacy of our own. Thank you. -- Taking My Meds Faithfully

Dear Meds: Whatever it takes to straighten out the mess inside -- like a combo of counselling, professional therapy and the right medication -- gets my vote. Forcing oneself to march on without medication is neither wise nor valiant when you're headed downhill.

Questions or comments? Write Miss Lonelyhearts c/o Winnipeg Free Press, 1355 Mountain Ave., Wpg, R2X 3B6, or email lovecoach@hotmail.com

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 30, 2012 D4

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