When I was seventeen, I experienced my first depressive episode and I have never been the same since.
My eleventh grade year of high school was plagued by feelings of loneliness, worthlessness, fatigue, and a myriad of other negative emotions. Drowning under advanced coursework and incessant heartache, I was not fully aware of what was taking over me. This blindness prevented me from taking the steps to heal.
Thankfully, I am in a much healthier place mentally. Although depression never fully dissipates, one can learn to control or lessen the disorder's effects.
With current state of our world, I understand that some people may be heading down a similar dark path. I wish someone would've told me how to cope with and identify depressive symptoms in order to cushion my fall. Here is some of what I've learned these past four years from my experience with depression, and I hope these will help all those who are struggling in the darkness of that abyss.
Know Your Symptoms.
Noticing behavior patterns forged by a depressive mindset will allow you to identify harmful tendencies and feelings and shift to more adaptive, healthy thinking. During my first depressive episode, my symptoms ran wild with my lack of knowledge on how to wrangle them.
My body was constantly tormented with exhaustion, causing an overall shortage of energy and sleeping up to twelve hours. My younger self would allow the fatigue to wash over her, giving into the sweet escape that unconsciousness granted.
Since then, that lethargy has dwindled as I coped with my depression but when that drowsiness creeps in occasionally, I ask myself: do I actually need this rest or is my mind attempting to shut my body down as a coping mechanism?
If the answer appears to be the latter, I remove myself from my to-do list and immerse myself in an activity that will bring me joy. Engaging in something that directly activates my happiness revives me from any sleepiness.
Catching yourself in unhealthy habits will gift you with the opportunity to change course. Therefore, know your symptoms and you can harness some power over your well-being.
Know Your Triggers.
Similarly, you should observe what or who upsets you. My seventeen-year-old self logged each event or person that upset her, but naively hoped that these things would resolve naturally and externally. I unknowingly clipped the power over my life as I withdrew from any chance to stand up for myself.
Eleventh grade marked the first time my friend group had been split among classes, leaving my socially anxious self to grasp for a sense of belonging. This physical separation from my friends severed our feeling of unity and clusters formed within the group, creating pairs based on mutual experiences and new bonds. I allowed this natural growth of my friend circle to ravage my self-esteem, my symptom of worthlessness and inadequacy always ablaze.
Unfortunately, I did not tell my friends how I was feeling and further isolated from the crowd. For the remainder of the school year, all their inside jokes and joint interests poked at my swelling loneliness.
Years later, I confessed to my friends what I hid from them through high school and I kicked myself for not telling them then. I've taken responsibility for my inaction and forgiven myself for falling victim to my feelings.
So, know your triggers and plan to exert control over the situation if possible. If I could travel back in time, I would confide my thoughts and emotions to my friend group and attempt to take back some control over my life.
Share Your Feelings.
I hesitated to share my feelings with my friends out of fear they wouldn't understand. This thought stemmed from previous attempts to connect with my friends emotionally.
Coming from a chaotic household, I felt an unintentional sense of rejection and isolation when my friends couldn't relate to the experiences of my parents' marital discord or an unstable home life. Therefore, they had no idea how to comfort me. This disconnect only widened as my family feel deeper into turmoil with the loss of my dad's job during my eleventh grade year. The subsequent depressive feelings only added to the fear that my friends wouldn't be able to help.
But this is false. Even if your friends cannot understand your problems or feelings, they will listen. And maybe it's better that they don't understand those negative emotions. They will be better able to help by providing unbiased, level-headed advice. Lastly, even if they don't "get it," they will look out for you and comfort you.
Trust your friends. That's what they're there for. I can say that I share a lot more with friends now and have not regretted my decision once. Once I started sharing, I felt less alone.
These are only a few of the lessons I learned from living with depression and although everyone's experiences differ, I hope these tips help to cope in these times. If not, there are multiple hotlines to contact in times of despair.
Of course, depression is an ongoing battle but with the right artillery you can conquer anything. Some days are better than others but if I hope you take anything from this article, it is that it gets better.
- 8 Life Lessons I Learned From Bob Ross While Battling Depression ›
- The Dangers Of High-Functioning Depression And Anxiety ›
- What It's Like Living With Both Depression And Anxiety ›