I’m not going to pretend that I’m some great expert on the subject of depression. I haven’t studied extensively on it, and all I have to draw on is my own personal experience, and sometimes, I don’t even feel like that is enough. Because everyone’s experience with depression is different, and what holds true for me may not necessarily hold true for somebody else.
So why am I writing this then?
Because what else could I do?
My experience with depression was not, by any definition of the word, fun. It is not something I would have chosen to go through, but it is something that I went through nonetheless – something that I will probably go through again, even. And if that’s the case, then why not try to force some good out of it? And though I know that I won’t be able to help every person with depression through this list, if all I accomplish is that one person makes it through another day because they read this, then it’s worth it.
I need to write this. It’s my responsibility, as somebody who experienced depression, to write this.
So here we go: a few tips for dealing with depression that I personally found to be useful.
1. Admit it to yourself
I went for about a year without even realizing that what I had was depression. I simply felt like there was something wrong with me: I was tired, unmotivated, unhappy, but depressed? Impossible! Depression was something that other people dealt with. Depression was for people in much worse situations than mine, because, really, what did I have to be depressed about? I was in post-secondary, I wasn’t going to have any student debt, I still got to see my old friends from high school every once in a while – really, my life was golden, so what reason did I have to be depressed?
But here’s the thing – depression doesn’t necessarily need a reason. And even if your depression does have one, then you don’t need to justify it to anyone! Just because other people have it worse, that doesn’t mean that what you feel isn’t valid.
So validate your feelings! Accept that you have them, and accept that there’s nothing wrong with having them! Because, in my experience, only once I put a name to what was bothering me was I able to begin the healing process.
2. Talk about what’s on your mind
The first person who I opened up to about how I felt was my mother, and it took me about a year to do it. Why, you might ask? Well, for two reasons: one of them I’ve already discussed – I didn’t feel like my experience was valid, but the second one was because I just wasn’t the type of person to open up at the time.
Now, I’m different. Now I can’t shut up about how I feel, and it’s a real pain in the ass for everyone involved, but at the time? All that I knew was that something was wrong with me, and I didn’t know how other people would react if they knew that there was.
So I kept quiet, and that was probably the biggest mistake I could have made.
Because when you have depression (especially when it’s paired with anxiety, as mine was), your mind can’t be trusted. It becomes the enemy, twisting and turning every little thing until it becomes ugly, wicked, awful. That sneer that a stranger gave you because you forgot to hold the door open for him? He hates you now, the depressed mind says, and you deserve his hatred because you’re a rude, awful person who will never make any friends. You’re just going to live your life alone and meaningless.
But, of course, that doesn’t make sense, and sometimes the only way that you can recognize that is by putting that thought in another context. Tell someone you trust – a parent, a sibling, a close friend, your significant other – and they might be able to help you see that the things depression is telling you isn’t true.
Or, on the other hand, if you aren’t comfortable with talking to anyone quite yet, try writing your thoughts down, in a journal or a blog or whatever makes you feel comfortable. Then, return to your writing a bit later, and with a bit of removal from the immediate situation, you might be able to see better that depression is actually a great, big liar.
3. Write a bucket list
One of the biggest problems that I had with depression was feeling like my life was going to be meaningless, that I had nothing but a joyless, lonely desert stretching before me and there was nothing that I could do about it.
So, I decided to write a bucket list.
The entries on the list included everything from visiting Paris someday (which hasn’t been checked off yet) to buying an Evil Dead poster or tee shirt (which has been successfully checked off, thank you very much!). The point of this exercise was to try to get myself excited about life, to collect everything that I wanted to do into one list so that I could look at it whenever I doubted that I wanted this life. That way, I could remember that there was still so much that I needed to do, so much that held the potential to make me happy. Even if it was something silly, something as small as taking a special trip out to get my first bite of a beaver tail, at least it was something that I was doing to make my life better.
4. Eat healthy and be active
Yeah, yeah, this is on every list to fix pretty much anything that’s going wrong with your life.
Feeling depressed? Eat healthy and be active.
Fighting with your family? Eat healthy and be active.
Car won’t start? Eat healthy and be active.
And, on top of that, I also understand that, when you’re already feeling down about yourself and completely unmotivated, eating healthy and being active is one of the last things you want to do.
I remember the first time that I tried to eat healthy, it ended after about three days, when my depression ridiculed me for even trying. “Face it, Ciara: you’re fat,” it told me. “You’re always going to be fat, and you’re going to die young from a heart attack or something anyway, so just give into it already.”
But if you can push passed that phase (and, I know, it might take a lot of willpower, maybe even a couple of tries before you get it), then you’ll see that there’s a reason why it comes so highly recommended for every problem ever.
And it’s not even about losing weight. Losing weight can be a good way to get your self-esteem up, sure, but it’s not the most important thing. What’s more important is feeling good, and eating healthy and being active will help with that. It will give you more energy, make your head feel clearer, and just make you feel better in general.
And, just as a side-note, one method of getting active that I highly recommend is yoga, especially if you’re the type of person who can get behind the more hokey, peace-and-love aspects of the practice. Because surrounding yourself with an environment focused entirely on finding your own happiness might be just what you need.
As I mentioned before, these suggestions might not work for everyone suffering from depression. Your experience might be entirely different from my own, and if that’s the case, then I’m sorry I couldn’t be of more help. If you are ever in the need of someone to talk to, then please, do not hesitate to contact me.