If someone told me to listen to podcasts when my daughter was in crisis, I would have thought they were crazy. But hear me out. Podcasts are an incredibly easy and cheap form of self-care. And you really need to focus on self-care when your child’s depressed.
If you ask any parent the one thing they truly want for their children, they’ll undoubtedly say happiness. But what if your child isn’t happy? What if your child is questioning whether their life is even worth living? It kind of messes you up as a parent.
When my daughter was hospitalized for her depression, a social worker told me depression is like a whirlpool. It can turn and turn for ages, before suddenly sucking someone under.
As a parent, above the waterline, a child’s suicidal depression is more like a tornado. It lifts the roof off your world, scattering your emotions and sense of self in a million directions.
While the storm is raging, you have to stand still and steady. And when the flood waters rise, you have tread furiously to keep you both afloat, not letting on that you’re tired and worn out. Not sure you can save either one of you.
In the aftermath of this crisis, I started crying. Mostly in my car on the way to work. It was odd and sort of fascinating to me. I’d never been a crier. My body, it seemed, was so full of water that even the smallest bump in the road was enough to push a few drops over the edge.
I know uncontrollable crying is a sign of depression, but in lieu of spare change, time and emotional energy, I started to listen to podcasts.
I needed a distraction. But more, I needed to learn how to be happy again. To make sense of my life and my choices. To reconcile working every day at one job, while I was failing at my most important job.
Listen to podcasts for self-help
I’m not sure how I found out about Cathy Heller, but her podcast Don’t Keep Your Day Job sent me down a rabbit hole and got me hooked on the medium and self-help in general.
The premise of her show is that you can make a living doing what you love. To prove it, she deconstructs the lives of those who’ve done it.
She interviews hugely successful women (and some men), like Caroline Miller, Tamara Melon, Jessica Huie, Bobbi Brown and Seth Godin. And though they lead vastly different lives, it’s clear they follow common guideposts through life, like:
- If you’re fearful, you’re doing something right.
- You have to show up.
- The body only quits something when the brain commands it to.
- Happiness is a byproduct of helping others.
- Busyness is a choice.
- Done is better than perfect.
My favourite is clarity comes with action. It’s become my own mantra and it’s what propelled me to think I could or should even write this blog.
There’s another that Cathy says often: purpose is the opposite of depression. I’ve never felt that’s quite right. I think you can have purpose and still be depressed. Or alternatively, I think when you’re in it, when depression lingers and nothing seems to work to alleviate it, it can become one’s purpose.
Listen to podcasts for stories of hope
It was from Cathy that I learned of Ruth Soukup and other survivors of depression.
Ruth is a successful blogger, author, wife, mother and most recently the creator of her own podcast Do It Scared.
Before all that she attempted suicide four times. The final time, she wound up in a coma with a ten percent chance of living. Against all odds, she survived, and was more depressed than ever.
You can read her full story here, but essentially, after trying everything including electroshock therapy, exercise saved her. At the urging of her dad, she got out of bed for 30 minutes every day and exercised. That was it.
Months later she felt ready for a new therapist who didn’t dive into the causes of her depression or cures. Instead they talked about how to live. Literally, how to put one foot in front of the other.
Listen to podcasts to learn more about depression
Hannah Hart is another survivor. She’s a YouTube personality, comedian and co-creator of Hannahlyze This, the “self-help podcast that just can’t help itself.”
With her co-host Hannah Geld, they try things like rage rooms, animal therapy, gratitude journals and more, and report back on results.
I’m not so into this podcast, but I’ve learned two invaluable things from Hannah, so it makes the list.
Like Ruth, she follows the one percent rule in life. Rather than try to accomplish big things like being happy, she focuses on small things, like bathing. Or cleaning her room or making a grilled cheese sandwich.
So my daughter making an egg for breakfast when she’s surrounded by an almost tangible cloud of depression? Pure joy for me now!
Hannah also introduced me to the disappointment of depression. What it’s like to have something you were really looking forward to, only to wake up, depressed and unable to do it or enjoy doing it. Living with this disappointment wasn’t something I’d considered before.
From The Hilarious World of Depression, I learned that depression rarely travels alone.
If you listen to nothing else, listen to this.
John Moe, the host of American Public Radio, interviews comedians and other creatives about their own experience with depression. His guests are superstars: Dick Cavett, Peter Sagal, Maria Bamford, Mike Brown, Jeff Tweedy, Rhett Miller, John Green, Wil Wheaton.
The conversations are funny, but also heart-wrenching. They’re raw, open and honest.
I’ve gained more insight into what it’s like to live with depression from this podcast than probably anything else I’ve heard or read. And John Moe (also living with depression) is the bomb. He’s brilliant at his job, funny and empathetic.
Listen to podcasts for sleep
Finally, though totally unrelated to self-help, is Sleep With Me. Ever since I had kids I’ve had trouble sleeping. It started when they were babies. As life got busier and work more stressful, it evolved into insomnia. The events of the last few years haven’t helped.
Now I turn to the monotonous tone of Drew Ackerman, aka Scooter. In a dream-like stream of consciousness he drones on and on and about nothing. It knocks me out! I barely get through the sponsor credits. If I wake up, I just push play on the same episode and I’m out again. Unfortunately, I couldn’t tell you what he talks about — I’m never awake long enough to find out.
While none of these podcasts have relieved my daughter’s depression, they have helped me with my own. They have given me strength and focus. They’ve helped me deconstruct my own thought patterns, how to separate truth from belief and how to put one foot in front of the other.
I think they’ve made me a better person, a better parent. At the very least, I’ve stopped crying in my car.