Mental health is a tricky thing. It's difficult to understand exactly what someone is going through inside their own head and even harder to help them when they don't really know what they need. A lot of times depression seems as though it is just a deeper sadness but it's actually much more than that. The despair can be so consuming, any simple task can feel like an insurmountable dilemma. That's what depression does to me.
Now, after 15 years of fighting, I feel like I'm really starting to get a handle on this frustrating disease. But, man, it has not been easy. It is an ongoing battle and no matter how well my medication works, I never can seem to escape those exasperating "down days." Everyone has a different journey and different things that work for them, but I thought I'd share the things that have worked for me. If you suffer from any mental illness and are trying to find a way out of that maze of misery, ponder these suggestions:
1. Consider medication. I'm a big medication advocate but I'm also an advocate of doing what works for you. Don't do things you're uncomfortable with, but think about taking to your doctor about taking a mild anti-depressant for a few weeks or months, just to see if it helps. If what you're using isn't working, ask your doctor to try something else. Everyone's brain reacts differently with different medications, you just have to try them to find out which one works.
2. Be aware of emotions. Oh boy, these are the hardest things to control, but when you find a few minutes alone, check-in with yourself and address and accept what you are feeling. I know. It's much easier said than done, but understanding where you are is a big part of knowing how to move on.
3. Know and understand your limits. In my experience, this is one of the most difficult things to abide by. Just knowing what you can and can't do can be hard to figure out. Try making a list of things that cause you the most anxiety along with what you could do to handle it so it's there for you to refer to. Then, when something comes up that you know will cause you anxiety, you can be more mentally prepared for it before it comes. However you do it, once you know your limits, stick to them by saying no to doing things you know will cause unnecessary anxiety.
4. Ask for help. While you're not feeling depressed, make a list of people you feel comfortable reaching out to to have during the times you just can't think. A network of resources is the best way to keep you from getting to your worst. Then, when you don't think you can get out of bed for the fifth day in a row, you can call someone to help you. Whether they come over and clean or entertain your family for you, a solid support system can be vital to staying mentally healthy.
5. Bask in the happy times. Sometimes these happy times are few and far between, but you really have to recognize the moments when you are smiling and happy and try to appreciate them. Then, when you are in the depths of despair you can hold on to the memories of happiness and remember that the sadness will not last forever.
Depression is a hard thing to live with. It makes my heart sad to know that so many other people suffer from this disease and do it silently because there seems to be such a stigma against it. Well I say, "No more!" Even if you are not comfortable talking about it yet, know that there are people like you. We all deal with the same type of issues day in and day out. And it is hard.
Hang on. Take things one step at a time and just keep going. There is happiness to be found.
Have a story about depression that you'd like to share? Email firstname.lastname@example.org, or give us a call at (860) 348-3376, and you can record your story in your own words. Please be sure to include your name and phone number.
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.