The Truth About Depression & 10 Ways to Fight Back
Trying to explain depression to someone who has never felt it is like trying to paint with milk. To be fair, I’ve never actually tried to paint with milk, but I imagine it doesn’t go well. I have, however, dealt with the ups and downs of depression and anxiety. I’ve dealt with it as a young adult, as a woman, and as a parent. It is dark and deep, and consuming. It steals your focus and clarity and fills you with lies; lies about yourself, your family, your friends, and your life. It makes you feel helpless and alone in this world. But regardless of what it whispers to you, I promise – YOU. ARE. NOT. ALONE. There is a light at the end of that tunnel. A light that you are strong enough to make it into. That you are worthy enough to make it into. And if you’re reading this because you suspect someone close to you is suffering, or “dealing”, then please read on. This is what we want you to know. Because we can’t always articulate it when we’re in the deepest pits of it, but your support could truly make a world of difference. This is the truth about depression & 10 ways to fight back against the grip it holds.
The Signs & Symptoms
Being depressed and having depression are completely different. You’re sad or depressed when a family member or pet dies – in emotional turmoil, sure, but that is a healthy emotion. It is essentially sadness and grief, part of the healing process. Depression is not. Depression is when you get stuck in that state and never see a way out of it. If you or someone you love exhibits these symptoms outside of normal behavior, it may be an indication of a mental health issue arising
- Change in sleeping habits – low energy, sleeping too much, or insomnia
- Change in eating habits – suddenly overeating or rarely eating
- Mood swings or unable to control emotional outbursts
- Inability to handle stress or common daily problems
- Withdrawal from family, friends, or other typical social patterns
- Difficulty connecting to others
- Excessive feelings of guilt, fears and worries
- Feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, isolation, or undeserving
If more than a couple of these struck a chord in you, welcome to the family. The biggest lie depression tells is that you are ALONE. Well, depression is a greedy pig, so that could not be further from the truth! There are nearly 300 million people living with depression. I bold that for a reason. Because depression is not the end game.
Defeating Depression IS Possible
For as many signs of depression, there are just as many ways to combat it. Ignoring it is not one of those ways. First things first, if you feel like you may have a mental health issue, or something just isn’t quite right, speak to someone. Whether it’s your best friend, your mom, that really nice lady at church, or your doctor – talking about it is the first step to treating it.
Just like anything else, it just takes a little bit of effort. Which is ironic considering that is exactly what depression robs you of. However, talking to someone who can and will support you will give you the go-ahead you need to get the ball rolling. If you are the support person, we don’t need you to answer every question, every fear, every ridiculous scenario that our overactive and under-productive brain conjures up. Just listen. Just listen to how we feel. Show up and act like we don’t look like we are falling apart at the seams. Because we are. Our smile has forsaken our face in these lows, and tears have stained our cheeks for longer than we care to talk about. Which is why you are so important in these times. Because when all we see is darkness surrounding us, you can hold the flashlight and show us the way back.
Here’s to Fighting Back
I’ll be honest though, even when we DO have an awesome support system, it still feels like we’re alone. We still have to depend on ourselves to at least crawl out of bed. I know that sounds dramatic, but that’s how it feels. I’m speaking from my own personal experience here. Don’t worry though, as I mentioned earlier, there are plenty of ways to push back.
1. Set a routine. Keep it simple. If you try to plan your days down to the minute, you will likely get overwhelmed and just give it up altogether. For me, it was waking up every morning and washing my face. The simplest, easiest, most common sense action was crucial in pulling me out of the deep funks.
2. Exercise. Just move. Do squats in the living room. Do pushups, burpees (those are the devil), crunches, run in place – just get your blood pumping. The natural endorphins your body releases will improve your mood and mental clarity. If you live in an area with a scenic trail, take a hike and enjoy the view while you’re at it.
3. Monitor eating habits. I am not talking about dieting. Whether you are a depressed overeater or under-eater, take notice of your eating habits. Don’t opt for half a dozen cookies, while yes, chocolate does release “happy” endorphins, the feeling is fleeting, while our thighs are not. You see where I’m going here. On the opposite end of the spectrum, make sure you ARE eating. Even if it’s toast for breakfast, and a banana for lunch, you will feel better – and your moods more stabilized – on a stomach that isn’t eating your backbone.
4. Take baby steps. Make little goals. I am a list maker (bet you couldn’t guess that). I lean on my lists for so many things. When I’m in a depressed state, I have to write down everything, for the sake of remembering it and not getting lost in my own sorrows. I also use lists to set daily goals for myself. This will help you to see your accomplishments, even if you don’t feel accomplished.
5. Check your self talk. This is SO important – I almost want to put it in all caps. How we talk to ourselves will dictate our day. If you roll out of bed thinking you woke up in a nightmare, you’ll probably have a terrible day. Do NOT set yourself up for failure. You are in a battle and you WILL win it. Ignore the lies swirling in your mind and talk yourself out of them. Ground yourself to the reality of the day by putting a hard stop to the bad thoughts. The power of positive thinking is almost everything here.
6. Occupy your mind. Find something to focus on to keep from getting too deep in your own mind. Especially if you have anxiety as well. Start a DIY project, rearrange a room, do a puzzle, read a book, heck write a book! Do something that you find enjoyable, even if you’re having a hard time enjoying it right now.
7. Be selfishly giving. This is my favorite. This has been my cure a time or two. Help someone else. Volunteer at a homeless shelter, animal shelter, church function, etc. The act of helping others is a wonderful feeling in and of itself. It really helps to give a fresh perspective on an otherwise bleak situation. It’s for a selfish reason – because we want to feel better, but does that make it less good? I don’t think so. I think it makes it better; healing two hearts with one act.
8. See a counselor. If you’ve gotten this far to no avail, talk to your doctor about counseling or therapy. Some people hear those words and clam up. But I promise you, as a private person myself, there is something just….invigorating about word vomiting your whole, pitiful, sad, my-life-doesn’t-suck-but-I-feel-like-it-does story on a total stranger. Tears and snot flying, I was a mess, but man did I walk out of that office with a weight lifted!
9.Medication. I saved the end for this because I am not a fan of medication. I’m awful at taking it like I should, and I would rather exhaust all options before resorting to it. But at the end of the day – if it’s going to help, then do it. There is no perfect pill that will instantly cure you – it may take some adjusting and trial and error, but it is a very reliable method of treatment. Your doctor can give you all the information your heart desires. (Also set a timer on your phone so you don’t forget it!)
10. Call the Hotline. 1-800-273-8255 If none of this has worked for you and you are in the deepest pits of your depression – remember you are NOT ALONE. Suicide is NEVER an option, and if you are feeling suicidal please call this number to speak with someone. Also know that if you walk into ANY mental health facility or hospital, and you tell them you are depressed and considering suicide – They will take you in for help RIGHT THEN!
In a time when mental health issues are so common, yet so taboo, it’s our job to educate others on the reality of what we deal with on a daily basis. The reality that depression is a bully. But we are stronger. We are not weak.We are not incapable. We battle within ourselves everyday. And each day is a little victory. We will endure. We will survive the battle. And we will conquer. This day, and the ones to follow.
If you want to read more on mental health issues…
Check out this link to Mayo Clinic:
Or check this link, which I found helpful while doing some research:
Finally, I leave you with this message: If you are having difficulty “dealing”, stop. Stop dealing and start healing. I am always more than happy to assist, so feel free to send me a message if you need help finding resources. Be well, friend.