What Managing Depression Naturally Is Actually Like

This past summer was the first time in my four years of post secondary education that I took a semester off from my studies. In the past, I always pushed through summer courses in hopes of getting ahead in my degree, but over the past year I found myself dreading the thought of even stepping into a classroom again. I found myself overcome with anxiety toward my schooling and I was brought face to face with the depression, which has always been a small whisper in the back of my brain. This whisper had turned into a scream that distracted me from everything in my life. This depression called on me for my constant attention. So while taking summer classes seemed like an impossible feat and knowing that I needed to get a grip of my mental state, I dedicated my summer to managing my depression without the use of medication. I had several ideas of how this experience might go based on information I had gathered from the internet and popularized societal views on what depression is like, but (big surprise here) not everything I had heard was true and there were five things that took place which I had not anticipated:

  1. I lost weight. This is not a public service announcement on how to get the perfect bikini body--summer is almost over anyway. But when I decided to tackle my issues with depression (a decision which was a long time coming and years in the making) I began this process by working out. Naturally, I lost weight. This form of depression management is not comparable to some weight loss tea you read about on the Internet: its basic science but carried with it a lot of corresponding benefits that encouraged the continuation of this form of depression management.
  2. I became obsessive. The three main steps I took to try to encourage my mental state were 1) taking care of my body, 2) taking care of my physical surroundings, and 3) giving each day a set schedule. I began doing these practices and instantly felt more fulfilled, more productive, and the voice of depression quieted. This success was halted when the next thing I knew I was asked to go out for coffee and consequently my world began to fall apart. My daily life had become only those three steps and any interruption to my completion of the steps resulted in a meltdown.
  3. I became antisocial. Ironically, all through my life I have known that spending time with people who I love was helpful to easing my anxiety and depression issues, but because I wanted to more actively tackle my depression, I forgot about this basic cure which has been my friend for years. Again, I found myself in a state of focusing only on my three steps to betterment as if these steps were advised to me by some fairy godmother. I treated my loved ones like they were my evil stepsisters keeping me from the ball, when in reality these people are the little mice helping me get there (sorry, Fam: I definitely just put you on the same level as little Gus).
  4. I still woke up depressed some days. Waking up depressed seems like the usual for someone who suffers from depression, but waking up depressed when you feel like everyday you have been working to NOT wake up depressed is the absolute worst. I had gotten it into my head that "management" would work the same as a "cure-all". I felt like I missed the memo telling me that these terms are not interchangeable.
  5. I became appreciative of one of the hardest years of my life. Basically, in managing my depression and finding that it would still sometimes be a loud scream in my mind when I wanted it to be a faint whisper, I was forced to reanalyze how I wanted to live my life. It forced me to realize that my daily life should not be centered upon managing depression, but should simply incorporate these management tools. This brought me to contemplate what I actually did want to focus my life on-- what actually made me happy?

With hindsight, it was clear that encountering these strange occurrences still made me one of the lucky ones. I could have just as easily chosen to listen to my depression and I could have become the voice in my head that was screaming at me instead of choosing to quiet that voice. Through this all, depression is still something I deal with everyday, but how I deal with this depression dictates how much I let the ailment absorb me.