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Beating the Blues Isn’t Easy, but it Can Be Done
When I was junior in college, I had my first bout with serious depression. I had recently left a relationship, but my misery seemed unending. I slept about 3 hours a night, and lost about 15 pounds. I had never known anything like this before; life seemed hopeless.
Looking back, I had it all. I had earned a prestigious full-ride scholarship and my grade point average approached a perfect 4.0. I was involved in volunteer and extracurricular activities that I had previously found fulfilling. I was on the path to get into a great graduate program. I had just rocked the GREs! Intellectually, I knew I had a great life ahead of me, but I couldn’t make the pain go away.
Eventually, the pain faded, and I felt more like myself. I have to admit, however, that it was a long and difficult path. Facing depression has been the most difficult challenge I’ve had in life. And it continues-although I’m doing well, I know I’m not cured. I will always be prone to depression. Now, ten years after my first episode, I still consider myself to be someone who battles depression. I’ve never had a scarier depressive episode than that first one, though. It’s gotten easier because I know I can and will feel better. One silver lining of my battle has been the support I’ve been able to provide for others who fight the same battle. If you fall into this category, here is my advice for you:
- Don’t hesitate to try medication. Anti-depressants can be effective, but be patient. Your medication might take 4-6 weeks to work. After a few months, if you don’t think it’s helping or if you have intolerable side effects, talk to your doctor. Many people go through 3-5 medications before finding the right one. (I think I’ve been on about six!) The lack of effectiveness of one medication does not indicate medications are not for you. It’s a trial and error process.
- Remember that you have an illness; not a weakness. You do not deserve blame, and furthermore, blaming yourself is one of the most counterproductive things you can do. People may tell you to “cheer up,” or “stop moping around.” This implies that you can simply stop being depressed because you choose to. You know this is not the case; keep in mind that these well-meaning people are ignorant about your illness.
- Find a support system. Friends that you’ve had for years may not “get it.” Sometimes hanging out with these people can make you feel more alone. Figure out who in your life is able to support you in the way that you need, and spend your time with these people. I have to admit that my biggest supporters were people I would have never guessed.
- Avoid your triggers. When I was extremely depressed, I just felt awful when I watched the news. The news just reinforced to me that the world was full of horrible, awful people and events. I’m sure, looking back, that there were some positive news stories, but during that time, I didn’t notice them. I couldn’t get rid of the negative feelings I had after watching news, so I stopped watching. Typically, I like to keep up on world happenings. This was difficult for me, but I avoided the news for about 6 months. Your triggers will be different, but notice (you can even journal) what triggers negative emotions for you and stay away from those things.
- Know that you will feel better. Although we don’t know when depression will lift, remind yourself that what you’re feeling is temporary; you will not always feel this way. Remind yourself that your feelings of hopelessness are symptoms of depression. There is hope even if you can’t feel it!