Everyone is bound to go through a period of depression at some point in their lives. In fact 6.7% of the US population, 18 or older, is diagnosed with depression each year. That does not include all of the individuals who are never diagnosed. You may have depression but just never have a word for it because you feel like you aren’t the kind of person who has a mental health problem. That is only for people that have a history of trauma/hardship, but that just simply isn’t the case.
Depression is something that varies from person to person. They can happen in episodes that last varying amounts of time and differ in degrees of severity. Symptoms include having difficulty with day-to-day tasks, persistent lack of happiness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and other manifestations. At its worst depression can lead to suicidal thoughts or even suicide. It is the leading cause of disability worldwide (World Health Organization).
Depression can come and go. It isn’t something that always lasts every single day of your life, and people with depression probably don’t classify themselves as being sad. The best way I can define it is: depression is a persistent state of lack of pleasure, enthusiasm, happiness, and energy; it is a lack of vitality.
Depression is not something to be ashamed of. It took a total breakdown for me to finally accept that something had to change in my life, because I wasn’t really living. I was existing in a constant state of discomfort, robbed of my joy. I went to the doctor. I got on a medication that changed everything for me, even though it has made me shaky. I tried talk therapy, and it helped but the real improvement came from my personal actions for betterment.
Here are a few things that have worked for me:
Journaling: Depression somehow bends reality. It warps every moment of your day. However, by taking a moment to write it out and to put things into perspective, I was able to step away from my internal struggle. It helped me see that things that seemed like a big deal were only a fraction of a moment. They didn’t matter to anyone except me. Your journal is your space to say and think whatever you want, and it is an opportunity for you to be brutally honest with yourself.
Sweat: Exercise is my number one treatment. There is all kinds of science behind it, but when you feel good physically, it is a lot easier to feel good mentally. Exercise is a stress management tool. It allows you to blow off steam and to sweat out the bad stuff that is holding you down.
Support Animal: My constant companion is a little Russian Blue cat named Merlin. Instead of coming home to emptiness, he is there waiting on me. He needs me, and gives me a reason to get up in the morning (he is persistent at 6:30am when it comes to getting his breakfast). It seems so simple and it is, but he has filled a hole in my heart. Animals have a special way of fixing things, and I would encourage anyone who thinks they could benefit from having a support animal to talk to their doctor about it.
Diet: I am an emotional eater. I love sweets and all of kinds of unhealthy junk. And when I feel bad, I turn to food for some unknown reason. However, when I eat all that junk I feel even worse. It is a momentary pleasure that results in greater damage, including diabetes… Eating well, planning meals, and remembering to fuel my body is key for my emotional success. Your brain needs the right nutrition. If you aren’t providing it with that, then there is no reason to expect it to work properly.
FUN: I was sitting yesterday reading a book, and I realized that I had forgotten how much I enjoyed just relaxing with a story unfolding on the pages before me. I forgot. Somewhere along the winding road I have been on, I had forgotten the things that I have always loved. So, my advice is to just start doing things that you have always enjoyed. Go outside, have nothing to do every once in a while, spend time with the people you love, and go out and try something new.
You can be your own worst enemy. That fact will never change, but you can also be your number one advocate. Speak up for yourself, because if you don’t, then no one will ever know. Take charge of your life, and don’t settle for a life without vitality.