Booker T. Washington & Chocolate Cake: Real World Advice on Coping with Depression & Loneliness, Part IV

March 12th, 2014

Coping with depression, loneliness, and feelings of hopelessness can feel like a solitary activity. When we feel these ways, we often have the impression that we’re on our own. I recently asked my Facebook friends how they get through difficult times – an effort of mine to get more ideas as a therapist and to also help people feel more connected at a time when it’s hard to feel love from others. I received many replies and have published portions of each one.  Following are the final comments I received from my friends. I hope you find these as meaningful as I have.

One friend commented on living long-term with depression: As a PTSD sufferer, depression is a constant companion. Honestly, I struggle each time something comes up and it’s always fresh and new, so I have to learn each time. Bouts from PTSD can last two days to 6 months. Sometimes it’s just about being calm and quiet and resting more than seems normal. Other times I need to exercise and burn off excess mental meanderings. Recently, I have begun to write about my experience and that seems to be the most helpful right now.

Sometimes I need to be loved and held and that’s hard to come by…PTSD is scary. Of course, counseling (EMDR is a miracle) and being honest with myself about what’s real and what’s learned (is helpful).

Another friend uses mindfulness activities to bring some sense of serenity: I take some time to breathe and pull positive energy into my hands and if that doesn’t sound weird I don’t know what does. I also listen to music, go for a walk and/or call people or even better go see them or convince them to come to my house. I will also sometimes eat a piece of chocolate very slowly trying to savor every last bit.

Finally, a friend takes advice from an unlikely source on mental health: Depression? Booker T. Washington was known to tell a story about a sailing ship stuck on the ocean because of no wind. The sailors were beginning to dehydrate. A neighboring ship saw their predicament and sent a signal, “drop your buckets where you are.” The people on the boat did not understand the signal, and many began dying because they lacked non-salt water. Finally, the neighboring ship sent a messenger to the flailing boat, “drop your buckets where you are…you’re actually in a pond of fresh water.” How often have I found myself in a pond of fresh water when everything around me seems, well, salty. So, for me, when lonely or depressed, I drop my bucket where I am, sitting with my fear of falling off the ledge, or failure or somehow being inadequate. My point is to humanize my emotions – not to avoid them – but to remind myself that I’m just growing more mature, just like the crab that lost it’s shell so that it can molt into a bigger skin. Music helps, too. I’ve got a “melancholy” playlist on my iPhone… my favorite R&B and blues singers who know how to name suffering with style that acknowledges my heart-song. Ok, and maybe a martini or two! LOL.

Ending with alcohol…an unlikely way for a therapist to complete a blog post.  But I’ll leave the suggestions in this post to my friends on what helps them.  And I will trust them on it.

If you’re looking for a therapist or counselor in Dupont Circle, Washington, DC, feel free to contact Mike Giordano, LICSW at 202-460-6384 or

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