03. General Advice

Submitted by armillaria on November 1, 2014

When suffering from depression the first thing to remember is that you’re by no means alone. Depression is something experienced by many, many individuals who are involved in class politics. Life in general is stressful. Being involved in politics is stressful (whether you're involved in an active group or an isolated militant). So it's not surprising that many of us suffer from depression.

If you’re feeling depressed, the main advice we offer is to talk to someone. While we hope reading this helps, it's far more important to find someone to talk to. Ideally, talk to someone in person. In our collective experience, talking to someone else directly provides the best option. But if you can’t talk to
someone in person, talk to someone on the phone. Online forums can provide help in a number of ways, but if you're thinking of hurting yourself and there’s no one around you feel comfortable speaking to in person, call a helpline. A second, related point is that class politics are about solidarity and helping
each other. There's nothing wrong with reaching out when you need it. Whether we suffer from depression or not, we all need to discuss our feelings and emotions. It not only helps us as individuals, but strengthens us as a movement when we develop a healthy culture of discussion and support. So if you need to talk to someone, that’s okay. Part of the reason we get involved in politics is because we want to make the world a better place. That means most activists are more than happy to speak to a comrade who’s in need of some emotional support, so don’t be afraid to ask.

Sometimes being involved in class politics brings a sense of solidarity and purpose. For many people, feeling like they're helping their communities or making the world a better place brings great personal satisfaction. However, if politics are bringing more stress than enjoyment, take a step back. If you need a few months away from a political project or a group you're involved with, that's okay. Similarly, don’t over-extend yourself. It’s not good anarchist practice when one person carries too many responsibilities in a group and it’s certainly not good practice in terms of mental health. Be realistic about how much time
you can dedicate to a project and be open with others when you need help. If you’re not getting the assistance you need, speak to the others involved, let them know, and allow them the opportunity to step up. Ultimately, however, don’t feel the burden is on you to make things work.

Despite our revolutionary commitment, it’s important to have other outside interests. It's beneficial to have parts of your life that aren't explicitly political and to relate to people who may not identify as politicos. Hobbies and sports, for example, are another way to find people who share common interests
and who can be a trusted ear if you're feeling down. They’re also a good way to relieve stress and take what can often be a much-needed break from contemplating the ills of global capitalism. If you’re feeling overwhelmed politically, it’s worth looking into what sort of clubs, societies, classes, and meet-up groups are available in your area. Things like music and art, as well, often provide outlets to release your emotions and stay positive. As one of our contributors writes:

“Something I’ve found very useful is to add something creative into my life. Whether you're depressed or not, everyday life can be a bit soul destroying in terms of tangible achievements sometimes. I find it really helpful to have something that I've worked on, that I can say, ‘Hey, I did that!’ It doesn't have to be anything complex. Baking a cake even, something that you can take credit for yourself. It's a really good distraction from the background noise, something to focus on. I used to play guitar, losing myself in practicing a piece of music until I got it right. It doesn't really matter what it is, but that combination of being absorbed in a process and being able feel that you've accomplished something or learnt something new is really positive and affirming.”

In a wider sense, it’s important to be aware of your ups and downs. Depression is often cyclical and, much as possible, it’s important to find ways to manage that cycle. Being aware of what in your life (and the world around you) triggers your depression is an important part of finding strategies to deal with it. If
you begin to feel depressed, undertake whatever strategies you’ve found to be helpful. Speak to a trusted friend. If possible, take a few days off work or school. Send apologies to meetings. If you find arguing with right-wingers on the internet keeps you up at night, turn off your computer. Get some extra sleep if that’s what you need. But if you find staying in bed all day brings down your mood, make that extra effort to get outside and enjoy some fresh air. Take some time for yourself and focus on staying healthy and positive.

Finally, it’s important understand depression as an illness. Society often ignores the fact that mental illness is an illness. (It's no problem calling off work with the flu and need a day to recover. But how many employers are accommodating if an employee calls off because they're feeling depressed and need a day to recover?). One of the worst aspects of depression is that it leaves sufferers feeling guilty for being depressed, thus causing more depression. Suffering from depression is a very common illness and one which is exacerbated by the world in which we live. We needn’t feel guilty about it. And, again, it’s
important to talk to others to find ways to manage how depression affects us not only in our darker moments, but in our wider lives.