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Having coped with depression on multiple occasions throughout my life I have learned a great deal about the condition so many Americans face today. Through trial and error and over the course of many years, I have come to realize what works and what doesn’t. So, I’d like to share the steps that ultimately helped me work through my depression and hopefully reach others who may be battling the same thing.
Half the battle of dealing with whatever ails you is knowing exactly what ails you in the first place. If you think you may be depressed, take five minutes and a piece of paper and write down exactly what bothers you. And be honest with yourself. No one has to ever see this piece of paper but you. A proven therapeutic activity, writing can act as a filter, much like gardening, yoga, or crime fighting in a leotard, that will ultimately help you narrow down what is specifically eating at you. Once you see everything illuminated on paper, you will immediately begin, although marginally, to feel better. This is because you’ll have consciously taken the first step towards feeling happier. Now, make another list of all the physical symptoms you’ve been experiencing. It is vital that you are honest about these too, because they will come in handy for the next step: furthering your education about depression.
Once you’ve made both of these lists, take the second one to your computer or local library and see what information you can find on depression. There are countless articles and books on this topic. Compare your second list of physical symptoms to what you find and see if you can match any. You may find that what you are experiencing isn’t depression, but something else altogether. Or you may find some startling parallels between your list and the information you’ve gathered that suggest depression is exactly what you suffer. Regardless, actively researching your symptoms will help you start to feel better because it will give you a small sense of accomplishment that you’ve been so proactive about your health. It will also help you realize that while depressed, you at least care enough to take the steps this article suggests to potentially help yourself.
The Open Mind
This next step is really up to you. You may be someone who doesn’t believe in seeking the help of a medical professional or pharmaceuticals, but as someone who has dealt with depression the majority of her adulthood, I highly recommend both. I’m not saying either will cure you or be the light at the end of your problem tunnel, but they can certainly help and are at the very least, options worth visiting. Part of conquering depression is learning to have an open mind about various solutions to your depression and realizing that your condition is not your fault. Depression, on any level, is a disease. It is not something that you have done to yourself or caused, so you should not blame yourself. Once you learn to stop doing this, you will immediately feel some of the weight depression can put on your shoulders lift. A therapist can help you realize this. Remember doctors exist for a reason and are armed with techniques that can help you unlock potentially hidden reasons you feel weighed down and teach you tricks to alleviate your depression.
Many people are uncomfortable with the idea of professional help, some for religious reasons, some simply due to personal preference. As stated before, professional help is not the only solution to coping with depression. There are several ways you can improve the way you feel, depression sufferer or not. Someone once asked me if I’d ever seen a depressed athlete. At the time, the comment made me giggle, because it just sounded funny. Then I thought, wait, what about it makes it so funny? Then it hit me. It’s kind of an oxymoron. “Depressed athlete” doesn’t sound right, because the word “athlete” exudes confidence, endurance, strength– everything that “depressed” isn’t. The point? Exercise. I’m not saying you should start training for an Iron Man tomorrow, but if you don’t already exercise, start. You will be amazed at how empowering it can make you feel if you pace yourself. Studies have been done showing how exercise affects the levels of serotonin in your brain. Consistent exercise ultimately increases those levels, which can improve sleep, boost confidence, and ultimately combat depression.
But let’s face it. What depression article doesn’t already suggest exercising? And how many times have you revved yourself up to exercise, started, then after a few times, remembered why you hated it in the first place and stopped? Here’s a suggestion. Ask yourself what would motivate you? An avid musician, I have a passionate love of music. So naturally, that’s what motivates me to get my buns off the couch and into an ugly windbreaker. The best thing I ever did was join I-tunes. It’s a massive archive of music and arguably the best way to search for tunes. And everybody has a song or ten they love. Try setting aside a few dollars and burning a cd or updating your I-pod with the most upbeat of your favorites. This does not mean the theme to the most recent Lifetime movie you and your buddy Haagendazs were tearfully watching last Tuesday in your sweats. Will accept “The Way You Make Me Feel” by Michael Jackson or “You Make My Dreams Come True” by Hall and Oates for example. We’re looking for happy, people. Happy. This is, after all, an article about depression. But those are only suggestions. Pick what you can’t help tapping your feet to. Trust me, it WILL help motivate you to move, regardless of your mood. For you hipsters I’d also recommend “Beggin” by Madcon, “Sandcastle Disco” by Solange, “What I Like About You” by Lillix, or “When Love Takes Over,” by David Guetta, featuring Kelly Rowland.
Bottom line, while everyone is different, we all go through ups and downs throughout our lifetimes and experience at one point or another, some form of depression. This article does not claim to provide the secret code for breaking depression, but rather, some advice from someone who knows what has worked for her. To those of you who are reading this because you are currently battling depression, I hope this helps. Don’t be afraid to get out that piece of paper and understand that you’re not alone.