**I am not a medical professional. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding mental illness. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this Website. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor, go to the emergency department, or call 911 immediately.****I am not a medical professional. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding mental illness. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this Website. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor, go to the emergency department, or call 911 immediately.**
All too often we are told to get over it, move on, or distract yourself. That’s easy to suggest when you’re not the one experiencing the mental illness. Last week I talked about my anxiety and panic attacks. Today we’re going to talk about depression.
What it is, what it looks like, and ways you can help someone who is battling it. Depression and anxiety often go hand in hand and it can be a challenge to deal with on a daily basis. I’m here to tell you that I’ve lived it and I’m still living it.
What is Depression?
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), “Depression (major depressive disorder or clinical depression) is a common but serious mood disorder. It causes severe symptoms that affect how you feel, think, and handle daily activities, such as sleeping, eating, or working.”
A lot of people on the outside looking in see depression as just being sad all the time, not wanting to get out of bed, shower, or hangout. Depression can mean a lot of different things for various people. Depression has no bounds, no face, no distinct behavior. Someone you know right now could be struggling with depression.
What Does Depression Look Like?
Depression doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t matter your gender or your socioeconomic status. You could have everything you’ve ever wanted or nothing at all. It could hit anyone at any time. It looks like hanging out with friends, going to work, going to school, laughing, smiling.
It’s playing with your kids or cooking every day. It’s not showering for two days, not brushing your hair, not cleaning the house, laying in bed. Someone with depression could look like the happiest most blessed person in the world. But they could also look like a complete wreck.
What I’m trying to get across is that depression can be an invisible illness. You never really know what someone is struggling with because they work so hard to mask it. Depression can look like happiness, sadness, anger, or anxiety.
What to Do If You Have or Think You Have Depression?
Talk About It!
I think it is necessary to discuss your struggles. You can talk with your closest friend/family member, your doctor, or with others online in forums or Facebook groups. A lot of people think discussing your struggles with mental illness online is displaying your weaknesses for all to see. That’s due to the stigma and shame it carries in our society.
I personally share my struggles because I want other people battling mental illnesses to know that they’re not alone. All too often people are struggling in silence because they feel alone or they don’t want to burden anyone. Well, I’m here to tell you that you are indeed not alone.
Although medication is not for everyone, I know it does help some people. I personally tried medication back in college because my depression got so bad. I had one bad experience with it and I’ve been scared to take it since.
Always discuss medication options with your doctor, never take prescription pills from other people. You never know the actual dosage, how it interacts with your other meds, or how they are told to take it.
I know we’ve all heard before, exercise has vital benefits when it comes to fighting depression. It’s known to improve alertness and concentration, reduce fatigue, and enhance overall cognitive function. Although it’s not a magic fix/cure-all and is likely combined with other treatments, there are various studies supporting these benefits.
I have a love-hate relationship with this one. For me personally, I don’t get that good feeling most people get after a good workout. I get angry and annoyed. Maybe I’m not doing it right lol but I still give it a try every now and then.
Change Your Mindset
Often times anxiety and depression leave us in a web of worry, fear, stress, and sadness. If we try to shift our thinking, even if for a minute, it could lead to a better day. Practicing positive thinking can be beneficial for anyone having negative thoughts. I talked briefly about positive thinking in this post.
I struggle with this because once one thing goes left for me I allow it to affect my entire day. This leads to my entire week being affected and before you know it I haven’t showered and my hair is tangled.
Meditate, Pray, Journal
Take time out of your day to sit and think about all of your feelings. Acknowledge them, whether they are good or bad. While meditating think about all the things you are grateful for, what priorities you have for the day, or just take in the silence around you.
You can also pray about your struggles and tell Him all that you are dealing with and leave it at that. Tell Him as if He will immediately take all of your worries and fears away. Just remember that faith without works is dead!
Journaling is beneficial if you don’t find interpersonal communication easy. I love typing or writing out my feelings as opposed to interpersonal communication. I’m shy and despise talking to people face to face, especially about my feelings and struggles.
Hobbies and Passions
Sometimes depression steals the joy you once experienced when doing certain hobbies. Challenge yourself to get back into it and see if that doesn’t spark something great in you. I know it’s hard to find that joy in things you do when a debilitating illness has taken over — but it doesn’t hurt to try!
Don’t Isolate Yourself!
There is a difference in wanting to be alone and completely isolating yourself from the world. If you find peace and serenity when you are alone then go for it. If you’re like me and when you’re alone those thoughts start to arise and you begin to fall into the depths of negative thinking — then surround yourself with positive people.
As an introvert being around people makes me anxious but at the same time, I know it’s beneficial for me. Just a little bit of social interaction with friends and family can go a long way. Y’all don’t even have to talk. Just tell them that you don’t feel like talking just yet but you don’t want to be alone.
How You Can Help Someone Battling Depression?
Whether it’s your parent, your spouse, your cousin, your best friend, or your sibling, there is always a way you can help them. Remember that you can’t pour from an empty glass so make sure that you are taking care of yourself as well. Whatever you do, don’t take it personally. Their depression could have absolutely nothing to do with you but could be expressed as anger or frustration.
If you don’t struggle with depression, I highly suggest you start by educating yourself and figuring out the best way to talk to your family or friend. Remember that depression is a serious condition and it’s not to be taken lightly. You can’t fix someone’s depression and them hiding /avoiding it won’t help either.
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Lost interest in activities they once enjoyed
- Appetite or weight changes
- Drinks more or abuses drugs
- Complains of aches and pains
- Change in sleep pattern
Remember that someone with depression could be good at masking it or it may not be prominent for the time being. It’s still there, it’s just dormant. Don’t push them to talk but let them know that you are there or share your story with them. You never know whose life you might save.
You’d be surprised how many people are feeling the same way as you. That friend or family member you think has it all could be silently struggling. I’ve learned that sharing my story with others encourages them to share a little bit as well. You never know who is waiting to be asked, “Are you okay?”, “What are you struggling with right now?”, “Just checking on you”.
If you are struggling with depression, I want you to know that the dark days don’t last long. Your life may not feel like it’s worth living right now but there is someone out there depending on you. Your parents need you, your spouse needs you, your children need you, your friends need you.
Surround yourself with things that make you happy, write down things you want to do and see, tell people you love them and you’re struggling. I know it’s hard to reach out because you don’t want to burden anyone but imagine the hurt they’d feel if you left. Don’t be afraid to talk about your struggles.
I’m not going to say it gets better, that’s cliche and not true for everyone, but you do learn how to cope. You learn to take the reigns back on your life, you learn how to reach out, you learn to acknowledge the signs before it gets too bad. My depression has made me stronger and I’ve chosen to live because I made a decision to fight.