My depression is tired. Tired of forcing myself to get out of bed in the morning. Tired of forcing myself to do things I don’t feel like doing. Performing. All day, every day.
My depression resents being brought into this world, not meant for the likes of me. And then being left to deal with it, utterly unprepared.
Regret. So many bad choices. Mistakes I made that brought me to this day, the day that I don’t want to be in. The day I feel stuck in.
My depression is disappointment. Disappointment in myself. Too weak, too sensitive, too easily influenced. Overwhelmed. Worthless. Purposeless. Tired.
I don’t want to die. But I don’t want to live either.
I want rest. I want general anesthesia for a year, five years, ten. Give me a dreamless dream. Indefinitely. Give me a break. I’m tired of being in this world.
I don’t belong here.
These thoughts are always there. They have permanent residence in my brain. They will be there always. They are my truth. They can’t be argued away.
The more you argue, the more I will defend them.
Sometimes they are on the surface, all I can think about, taking over my consciousness.
But eventually they will retreat. They always do. They’ll go into hiding – somewhere in the folds of my brain – and other truths take their place. Sometimes for weeks or months. Sometimes years will go by before they resurface.
And that’s why there is hope. As sure as my depression is to live on forever, as sure it is to go into remission. Every single time.
And there are things I can do. Things I have learned that help. Help make it go away. Help make it stay away a little bit longer.
I want to share these things with you.
But everyone is different. My things might help you, they might not. But even if my personal solutions are not exactly right for you, I want to give you hope that there are things. It is worth looking.
So here are seven things that have helped me get out of depression.
1. TAKE CARE OF YOUR BODY (EXERCISE!)
The stronger my body, the stronger my mind. Good food, good sleep, good exercise. If my body doesn’t get these, my mind won’t feel good. That’s just the way it has always worked for me.
Related: How To Manage Anxiety Without Meds
2. GIVE YOUR BRAIN ENERGY
I’ve had little bouts of feeling down throughout my entire life, but I’ve had two episodes of major depression that brought me to the brink of total and prolonged hopelessness. Both times I was in a situation where I had virtually no alone time built into my schedule. My daily routine was driven by other people’s needs and agendas and I failed to make sure that I was getting what I needed.
Extraverts get energized by interacting with other people. Introverts have their energy depleted by other people and they need time alone to recharge.
Even though I’m an introvert, I can act like the extraverts in my life and copy their lifestyle preferences for quite a while. But eventually it always backfires. If I constantly act opposite to my true temperament and if I neglect my need for alone time for too long, my brain gets so tired it becomes vulnerable to depression. I literally run out of steam to keep going.
If I give myself the solitude I need to recharge, I feel more energized and I’m better equipped to handle daily hassles – the mountains shrink back to molehills.
If you are an extravert, you need to do the exact opposite of what I do to give your brain energy. Whereas I crave quiet solitude, you need to fill your days with people and activity to feel your best.
3. PUT YOUR BRAIN IN FLOW
Another way to make life feel better is to do more things that feel good. But when I’m depressed, nothing feels good and I’m pretty convinced that nothing ever will.
The thing to remember is… There have been times when I felt good in the past. This is a glimmer of hope that something might feel good again. It’s possible to feel good.
It might take a giant effort to force myself to try and it might not feel good right away, but the road out of depression requires getting out of bed and trying to do something, anything – even if it’s something tiny – with an open mind. I may have forgotten how, but it’s possible to feel good, and it will only come back to me if I give it a chance.
The tricky thing about this one is figuring out what ACTUALLY feels good to you and puts your brain in “flow”. We are all wired differently and your “flow” may come from something completely different than people around you. I now believe that when I used to say “but nothing feels good” it wasn’t that there was nothing in the world that would make me feel good. It was that I was following the people around me, who for the most part were very different from me, and their feel-good activities were not right for me. Most of the things that I was told should feel good just didn’t do it for me.
I needed to find my own thing.
I needed to find my own meandering path to contentment and walk on it with confidence even if most other people find their happiness on a different road.
Related: How To Make Your Brain Happy
4. FIND YOUR PASSION AND PURPOSE
I have found that my mental well-being is closely related to how I’m feeling about my work. If I’m spending the majority of my waking hours stressed or bored or doing something meaningless, it’s probably not terribly surprising that I’ll start feeling like shit about life in general.
Ideally we would all spend our days doing something we feel passionate about and something that gives us a sense of purpose. My eventual goal is to spend every day doing something I both enjoy (passion) and something that allows me to make a positive difference in the world (purpose).
Of the seven things listed in this article, pursuing your passion and purpose can be one of the hardest to achieve. Real life can show its stubborn face and block your way. We have bills to pay, kids to feed… But I firmly believe that it’s still a very worthwhile goal to pursue with great rewards when you get there.
And here’s the awesome thing. Even if you can’t spend all day every day on your passion and purpose just now, it helps to figure out what they are for you and incorporate at least some of it in your life right away.
5. CONNECT WITH YOUR PEOPLE
Depression comes with loneliness. I’m swimming upstream in a sea of humans all going in the opposite direction from where I want to go. I feel too different to belong, too different to forge connections. When I’m overwhelmed with these feelings, it’s easy for me to just want to give up on the world and say I’m done. On the upside, the more I’m able to feel connected to other people, the more I want to participate and live.
Most people need at least one trusted person in their corner. Someone who will be there for you no matter what. Someone who lets you be 100% you. For me, this is my rock of a husband. For you, it could be a friend or a colleague or a parent or a sibling.
But I think it also helps to feel connected in a broader sense. As an introvert, I find it easiest to find these connections via reading and writing. As a writer, I’m able to skip the small-talk and bring up issues that matter to me. The beauty of publishing my writing on the internet is that it allows me to connect with people all over the world who struggle with the same things I struggle with.
I also find connection via articles and books and movies that share my view of the world. I’m reminded of how amazingly creative people are. I’m reminded that I’m not as alone as I sometimes feel with who I am and what my values are.
6. KEEP A FEEL-GOOD DIARY
People prone to depression often have a tendency to see the glass as half empty and I’m no different in that regard. As a matter of fact, I would go as far as to say that my glass is at times completely dry with not one drop in it. 🙂
Now, don’t worry, I won’t tell you to “just think positive” or “just change your attitude”. However, it definitely doesn’t hurt to systematically remind yourself of the good moments that sometimes manage to sneak into your otherwise shit-pile of a day.
Recently, I had a rough day with a giant headache and consequently unfinished to-do list, and at first glance, the day felt like a big, fat waste. But before going to bed, I tried to think of three things that made me feel good that day: 1) seeing my kids running around in the yard happily chasing each other, 2) my husband and I looking up the Knight Rider theme song online (cause we are total dorks), and 3) vegging and watching reality TV (too embarrassed to mention specific show). Mostly silly and trivial things, but they brought me little moments of joy. So maybe the day wasn’t a complete waste.
7. SEE DEPRESSION AS AN ALARM
I once saw depression as a disease of which I was a helpless victim and for which the cure came in a bottle of pills.
But nowadays I like to see my depression as an alarm. An alarm that rings from my brain telling me that something isn’t quite right. I’m off balance. I’m not living my best life.
Maybe my body is not getting what it needs. Maybe my brain is burned out without energy. Maybe I’m not doing things that make me feel good. Maybe my passion and purpose are lost. Maybe my relationships are in trouble. Maybe there is so much negative in my life that it’s overwhelming the positive bits.
Depression tells me something is off.
I feel stuck. I feel like I have no options. I’m convinced I will never feel better again. But in reality, I’m just temporarily lost, at a crossroads, not sure where to turn next. I’m lost in a tired fog.
Depression forces me to take a break, to get rest, to re-assess. It forces me to figure out how to give myself what I need. And when I do, the new direction will come.
Depression is an alarm that propels me to seek change and to improve my circumstances.
And that’s the way I want it to be with my depression. I don’t want to feel numb to it. I don’t want to settle. I would rather feel a pain so deep it forces me to change.
I want depression to ring its bell and help propel me forward in my life.
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