Statistics show that 70% of adolescents have a depressive disorder by the time they turn 18. And 30% of all college students have admitted to having depression symptoms that lead to a loss in productivity.
I’m 24 and have depression. I have a great job, nice place, and the world’s best friends. I am not alone. I may have used it to define myself in a sentence but I don’t let depression define me in life. I have felt the struggles of depression in my everyday life but continue to move forward. For everyone that feels like they might have the D just know that you’re not alone. It’s not that crazy to wake up in the morning and absolutely despise the idea of getting out of bed. Or lay awake at night rethinking all the conversations you had and thinking of how badly you screwed them up. Or even thinking about the things you have done wrong over the past two decades. It’s not strange to feel completely alone in a group of people, however cliché that may be. The things you loved at one time seem so meaningless now but it won’t stay like that forever. Seriously.
Depression is cyclical which can be the worst part about it. You wake up feeling like you’ve won. You have the energy, the power, and the motivation to tackle the world and your dreams. Two days later you’re back on the couch, watching Netflix not wanting to move. That’s normal though so take it in stride. This winter weather can bring it on full swing. Dark days and cold nights seem to tell our bodies to hibernate and bring out all the buried emotions. But you don’t have to fall victim to it. With my five years of treatment I have compiled a list of things to help myself and others that can’t seem to shake the funk.
1. Don’t ever give up. I almost did and have been thankful every day that I didn’t.
2. Speak up. Find that one person that you can share a little something with and do it. Try one thing at a time. Start by telling them something small. Maybe just how something made you feel. This not only helps you open up but it makes you think through exactly what it is that you’re thinking.
3. Write it down. No need to write a diary or an essay. Start with a letter. Pick someone that you have strong feelings for. I used my dad for this one. I wrote exactly how I felt about him in a letter. Then I folded it up and put it in my drawer. I even read it from time to time. Just organizing all my thoughts just about him gave me a sense of clarity.
4. Get moving. Hit the gym a couple times a week. Even when you don’t feel like getting up off the couch let alone hitting the treadmill. Exercise releases endorphins that are a natural mood booster. And you will be around people. Just being in the same room can be enough to brighten a cloudy day.
5. Be a yes man (or woman). When friends ask you to do something just say yes. I know at the moment you have zero ambition or desire to go watch a soccer game etc. but you will be happy you did. Human interaction is your best bet. Stick with it.
6. Meditate. Try it out. Read an article or two and give it a try. Focus on your breathing. Feel the air move in and out and picture the path it takes from
your lips down into your chest. Then focus on your senses. Touch: Feel the warmth that is created where your hands rest on your knees. What sounds do you hear? Cars going by or dogs in the neighbor’s yard. What can you smell? Can you taste anything on the air? You can find videos online that will guide you the first few times you do it.
7. Make lists. Write down what needs to be done for the day or even the week. This will keep you focused on tasks and give you that boost of motivation to get up and get it done.
8. Smile. It sounds so strange but just do it. Think of a happy moment or a favorite joke and just smile and laugh. Even if you have to force it. Eventually it will become habit. Just be silly. 5 minutes a day of listening to corny music and dancing around when no one is watching is worth its weight of gold.
9. Seek professional help. It sounds so cold and clinical but I personally can say that it’s not. I gained the tools and tips to live day to day with depression by finding an amazing counselor. The stigma of just sitting on a couch and getting asked how you feel is just that: a stigma. We sat in big comfy arm chairs and just talked about day to day events. If something came up that triggered a feeling we dove into it. It was gradual and became a friendship. We talked about life, played with the dogs, and even practiced meditation. So make the call and make an appointment. Showing up is the big first step.
After that it’s all easy.
The final step is the biggest step of them all. If you’ve ever lived with depression or know someone who has, then share it with others. Sharing what you’ve learned to help others is the biggest gift you could give. Each one of these tips I’ve learned from others or implemented from some small piece of advice gained along the way. You don’t cure depression overnight or with some magical pill. It’s something that you learn to live with and it becomes such a less force in your life. Because above all it is your life to live, not depression’s.