Written by Alanna Gardner, MFT
The above quote reflects my feelings about Depression. As a therapist that helps people living with Depression, I see how much it impacts their lives & well-being. I knew it was painful but it wasn’t until it personally touched my life that I was able to truly understand how bad it can be. My short bout with Depression dropped in when I was recovering from major surgery, this is typical for many but I didn’t expect to experience it since I was recovering quickly. However that soon changed when I couldn’t work, do things with the people I loved or participate in the activities that were synonymous with who I am; I felt I was a shell of a person that I used to be. It was painful. My existence in my world had drastically changed and it was going to be a long road to get back to where I wanted to be. Despite that having been a dark time for me, I’m thankful for the experience and the knowledge I gained from it because I know I’m not alone. With 6.8 million Americans living with Depression and 18-29 year olds quickly growing to be one of the most depressed groups in the U.S., there needs to be a discussion about Depression amongst Millennials. If you or someone you know is living with Depression, here are five things that helped me when I was going through it:
- Don’t Be So Hard on Yourself
I was extremely hard on myself for not being my usual upbeat self that I probably caused myself more pain than anything else. I needed to show myself the same compassion that I show others. As simple as it sounds reminding myself that I’m not alone nor immune to problems made me feel better. Remembering that I’m human and part of the human experience means going through painful experiences with emotional highs and lows was important.
- Find an empathetic friend
One of the things that makes Depression so bad is that people tend to not understand or notice that something is wrong until it’s too late. I realized this early when I would try to talk to some people and just didn’t receive the support that I needed. While some people had their own issues to work through, others dismissed my feelings entirely. However when I did share with those that were empathetic or had their own experience with Depression it helped a lot. It felt good to be heard by people who loved and understood me; it also deepened those relationships as well.
- Write it out
I had difficulty finding the words I needed to talk to people sometimes about what I was going through, so I turned to my journal. I wrote it all down, every hurt, every anger, every confusing moment. It helped me get a better understanding of what was going on with me. Looking back at posts helped me to pinpoint when things were getting better and what I was doing that was or wasn’t working to help feel better. I encourage everyone to keep a journal whether you’re going through a hard time or not, it’s truly therapeutic. Click here for a post about the health benefits of journaling.
- Dabble In Faith
Depression is like being in thick fog without a flash light. All you see is the fog with no end in sight. Something that really brought me out of that fog was spirituality. I threw myself into prayer, meditation, and inspirational works when nothing or no one else seemed to help. I made it a habit to focus on building a spiritual relationship with God and to build my faith. I know that not everyone is religious but you don’t have to be religious to be spiritual. Working faith, positivity and spirituality can be the light that gets you through the fog. Here is a list that has some of my favorite books that I read during that time—> “24 Positive Thinking Books You Should Have Read Already!“
- Seek Professional Help
There’s going to come a time when you realize that whatever you’re experiencing is bigger than you. You can’t fix it on your own, talking to others isn’t helping and you’re at the end of your rope. If this is how you’re feeling then the best thing you can do to help yourself is to ask for help. Admitting you need help isn’t the easiest thing but a lot of times it’s the best thing. Mental health professionals are specifically trained to get you through times like this and if you’re looking for someone who understands you when no one else will, a therapist will be that person. At the time I couldn’t afford therapy but I was blessed to be surrounded by my fellow therapists in training, experienced professors, and a boyfriend who is also a mental health professional (lucky me!). They always made sure that my physical AND mental well-being were improving during my recovery. For those of you who are seeking therapists in your area, here is a website to help you find one that can accommodate your emotional, mental and financial needs: Psychology Today Therapist Finder
To sum it up, Depression steals the joy from your life and ruins precious moments. It can destroy everything from your work, relationships, friendships, to how you view yourself. Depression definitely damaged areas of my life but I wouldn’t take any of it back. I’m stronger than I was then and I know whoever this message touches will be to.