After a brief few months of darkness, I’m on my way to recovery. But the one thing I really wished for was some sort of hope. It took a lot of soul-searching to find the right answers, but perhaps I can help make it easier for the next person who is going through depression.
Below is a list of things that anyone going through depression should know. But before I launch into it, I want to take a moment with you, dear reader. Firstly, you are not alone. You are not the first person to go through depression and you are certainly not the last. It is a struggle, of course, but your mind is powerful enough to get through it. And a lot of people do get through it. It may take a few weeks, it may take a year or two, but you will get through it.
And now, here are five things you must know when you have depression:
Don’t believe everything your mind tells you
Your mind is not an all-seeing god, it is just a mind. It conjures up thoughts that are based upon every single moment of your life. On top of this, your mind is not a separate entity, it is partly controlled by you. And you, being human, have the ability to get things wrong sometimes. It’s not a bad thing, it’s just the way we are all designed.
Your mind is like a wayward child who, if left to their own devices, could spur up multiple questions about one moment. Your friend didn’t answer the phone, and you question that. Your boss wants to see you later, and you question that. The random lady in the street didn’t smile back at you, and you question that. Contrary to the way life goes, your mind is rigged to fear uncertainty. That comes from millions of years of evolution.
The first humans on earth were trained hunters, and I’m sure even they would question things like weird foot tracks on the ground, or billowing smoke on the distant horizon, or even when the drilling sounds of cicadas would suddenly stop. It’s the fear of what next. And that’s natural. This fear makes us do smart things, like looking both ways when we cross the street. We learn from these fears. But it’s when the fear of uncertainty rises to an uncomfortable crescendo where it becomes a problem, and this could cause the mind to lie. It’s not an intentional thing, it’s just the way your mind works. Take your thoughts at face value, but don’t blow oxygen on them.
While your mind is allowed to have random thoughts, the way you see the world is your responsibility. Your opinions are formed by you and questioned by your mind. Opinions about yourself, opinions about your life, opinions about your career, opinions about your friends; they are all your responsibility. But questioning them is your mind’s responsibility, and sometimes this conflict can feel a little like bullying. It’s like your mind is working against you. Sometimes your mind will lie to you about how situations are, it can convince you that your friend really hates you because they didn’t answer the phone. It can convince you that you will be fired by your boss. It can convince you that there’s something wrong with you because that random person didn’t smile at you. Which is why I feel the need to say that you shouldn’t believe everything your mind tells you.
Instead, just accept those random thoughts as random thoughts and continue on with your day. If you feel the need to challenge it, do it. Laugh at the thought and say “that’s not right”. Give evidence to yourself of why it’s not right. But don’t dwell on it, because this is where the problem can start. On the flip side, don’t force yourself to not think about it, because you will just make it worse. The simple and effective method is to accept it as a weird thought and get on with your day.
Life is not about finding happiness
If everyone in the world was at the same level of happiness, would it be an exciting world? I’d find it dull. There’s a reason why all stories need to involve conflict. It’s exciting. It captivates. The true meaning of life is finding experiences. Because with experiences comes a range of emotions. Being excited about a new job. Feeling scared about riding that crazy rollercoaster. Even going out shopping for a new pillow. Some days you may find it hard to get out of bed, and even that is an experience. Dealing with depression is an experience. And look how far you’ve come in that experience. You’re reading this article because you want to find hope, and that is an experience.
So don’t dwell on the idea that you need to find happiness, because you won’t find it like that. Instead, find experiences. And through experiences will you find a wide range of emotions. That’s the true meaning of life.
Everyone around you can only offer theories
One of my greatest weaknesses is trying so hard to find answers through other people. It’s not just in my quest to overcome depression, but even in all areas of my life. I worry about if this sentence sounds right, or if this article is worth writing or even simply wondering what I should do next. And when I worry about these things, I turn to the people around me for guidance. But everyone around us can only offer theories. And these theories are based on their life experiences. I’ve had friends tell me that I shouldn’t take anti-depressants, I’ve had friends tell me I should get into spirituality, I’ve had friends tell me to take up meditation. These are things that worked for them, but will not necessarily work for me. That’s why I’ve decided on my own accord to take anti-depressants, and why I decided to skip on spirituality and meditation. Meditating is just not my forte.
You have to do what you think is right, because you are programmed differently to everyone else. Your difference is your strength, so use it to your advantage.
Be open about what’s going on
Not just to those around you, but also to yourself. The first rule of change is to accept what you already have. You are depressed, and that’s that. You cannot change something if you don’t know what it is.
But equally important as being open to yourself is being open to others. This is not to seek out answers or find immediate comfort from them, but to help get everything off your own chest. Bottling up everything is not a productive way to overcome depression. It’s actually counterproductive. Releasing all the negative emotions into the world is quite cathartic. If you’re averse to sharing it with others directly, why not write it all down? Be candid about it, too. Don’t hold back. What pisses you off about all this? What do you wish for? What hurts the most? Expression is the key to understanding.
There’s always something you can do
Self-care is the epitome of overcoming depression. It’s cliche, but it’s the truth. You may find it hard to get out of bed and do things, but doing things is what keeps you motivated. It’s what helps you find connection to the world. Something as simple as having a shower can help.
The hardest struggle with depression is breaking out of rumination. That’s why a lot of people who have depression tend to keep doing things in order to distract themselves. Of course, it’s not helpful to consider it as distracting, because when you consider it as distracting you are implying that there’s something you're distracting yourself from. Instead, consider it as a way of getting on with your day. Of experiencing the world. Of living your life.
Everyone has things they love to do. For me, I like writing. But I also like cooking, watching TV shows and movies, gaming, going out for walks, having drinks with friends, shopping, having sex, listening to music, planning drag queen shows and bitching about politics. You yourself will have things you like to do in your spare time. Perhaps you like piano or blogging? Of course, work is something you must do too, and you must enjoy it in some way.
So, to be blunt, there is always something you can do to rid yourself of rumination. And when you do them, focus on them. When you have a shower, make sure to clean every part of you. When you go for a walk, enjoy all the little things you see. And then, when you’re doing nothing, try to think about all the things you want to do. Even thinking about that is doing something.
As a final note, I will say that it does get better. In saying that, don't worry about getting better and don’t worry about your depression. Just start doing what you have to do. The key to overcoming depression is not being happy, it’s finding new experiences and enjoying them.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, but it was built eventually.