Updated: Mar 10, 2019
It's honestly kind of difficult in ways for me to write about depression--emotionally. Because the wounds are fresh and always there. Thoughts, feelings, and images enter my mind, from my lowest points in the past. They are the very things I try hard not to dwell on. What I try to escape from. At the same time, this all makes it easy to write about depression from an intellectual stand-point, because it is a struggle that is current and ongoing for me. The knowledge and understanding is there from personal experience.
And so I still feel the need to share. It needs to be talked about more. Yes, I feel vulnerable. But my hope is that I can be a voice and spread awareness. To stop the stigma. To possibly help at least one person in some way.
What Major Depressive Disorder Feels Like
Everyone feels some level of sadness at some point in their lives. But sadness and depression are not the same thing. Yes, you feel sad when you're depressed--but sadness by itself doesn't last very long. When you have constant symptoms every day for at least 2 weeks, however, then it is considered Major Depressive Disorder (or clinical depression), which is what I was diagnosed with about 8 years ago (although I have dealt with it for longer). There's a genetic component to it, so having a family history of depression puts you at higher risk--but anyone can develop it as well. It's not something you can just think or wish away. Contrary to what well-intentioned friends might tell you, you can't just "snap out of it." For some, depression is somewhat temporary--a single episode triggered by a specific, possibly traumatic event or major life change. And then over time, they are fine again. But for others, like me, it's a chronic, life-long depression (recurrent episodes). And some days are worse than others.
How depression manifests itself can differ a little bit from person to person, but for me, this is what it feels like...
Feelings of hopelessness and despair. Like a thunder cloud hangs over me, or I'm stuck in a dark, cold hole. Feeling sad and worthless. Numb and apathetic. Isolating myself from others. Not wanting to get out of bed and face the day--just wanting to sleep. Feeling fatigued and slow-going--not having the motivation or energy to do anything. Not showering for a couple days and not doing my makeup like usual; staying cooped up in the house. A mentally tormenting snow-balling effect of negative thoughts about myself and my situation--including occasional suicidal thoughts, that I try to shut out, and feel guilty about afterwards. Irritable, impatient, and pessimistic. Crying. Loneliness. Disinterest in most activities. Always seeking some sort of escape, comfort, and distraction.
Does this sound like you? If so, talk to a healthcare professional about it. And reach out to supportive family and friends. Don't feel embarrassed. Do these things seem to describe someone you know? If so, reach out to that person. Ask how they are doing. Be a friend and a listening ear. Simple acts of kindness can go a long way.
"Hidden Lake," in Glacier National Park, MT | © 2016 by Clarissa Rochelle Photography & Design
Although you may never fully overcome Major Depressive Disorder, there are many ways to treat it on a consistent basis to mitigate symptoms. In addition to anti-depressants (which I take), or other medication, you can see a psychologist (talk therapy) and/or psychiatrist (more focused on medication management). I have seen both on a few occasions and benefited from it. So please seek professional help. I'm glad I did. Self care is also very important. Know your triggers. Stress, not getting enough sleep, poor diet, etc. can cause or worsen an episode. You can learn more about ways to cope with depression (and anxiety, stress, etc.) from my post "10 Self-care Routines to Nourish Your Mind, Body, and Soul."
I have found that once I started opening up about my depression and anxiety to others, I felt more free to be my authentic self (watch a music video of my original song about mental health, called "Rise Above"). When I didn't treat the subject of mental health as taboo, and something to hide, I felt less anxious. When I stopped caring about the stigma and perceived judgement of others, I became more confident. And when I reminded myself that life is meant to have ups and downs, that there is opposition in all things, that everyone has their own trials--and I learned to accept that this is just one of my trials in life--I became more at peace. If we don't taste the bitter, we can't appreciate the sweet. This was reemphasized to me when I listened to one of life coach, Brook Castillo's podcast episodes the other day. She mentioned how sometimes we're so caught up in self-pity. We're upset with the fact that we're not happy, as if we're not supposed to feel that way--like we're broken and need to be fixed--but we just end up feeling worse. So she talks about accepting pain and suffering; to relax into it, rather than resist it. Because it's an inevitable part of life. When in the midst of adversity, we can ask ourselves, “What can I learn from this experience?” And it’s hard sometimes, but if we look at adversity as an opportunity rather than a stumbling block, we will learn so much more.
You're not alone. So many people are fighting a similar battle. So conquer the day. One step at a time. Celebrate the little wins. Make self-care a priority. Remember....you are an amazing person who is beautifully unique and incredibly loved. Your life matters. Be strong. I know it's tough, but you got this. We got this.
Want to learn some specific therapeutic exercises to help you with depression and other psychiatric disorders (and just stress in general)? Well, my friends, I have a little freebie for you! Click on the image below and I will send it straight to your inbox!
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