Depression free for life

What It’s Really Like Going Through a Deep, Dark Depression

How we see the world shapes who we choose to be — and sharing compelling experiences can frame the way we treat each other, for the better. This is a powerful perspective.

In early October 2017, I found myself sitting in my therapist’s office for an emergency session.

She explained that I was going through a “major depressive episode.”

I’d experienced similar feelings of depression in high school, but they were never this intense.

Earlier in 2017, my anxiety had started to interfere with my daily life. So, for the first time, I’d sought out a therapist.

Growing up in the Midwest, therapy was never discussed. It wasn’t until I was in my new home of Los Angeles and met people who saw a therapist that I decided to try it myself.

I was so lucky to have an established therapist when I sunk into this deep depression.

I couldn’t imagine having to find help when I could barely get out of bed in the morning.

I probably wouldn’t have even tried, and I sometimes wonder what would’ve happened to me if I hadn’t sought professional help before my episode.

I’ve always had mild depression and anxiety, but my mental health had rapidly declined that fall.

It would take me close to 30 minutes to coax myself out of bed. The only reason I would even get up was because I had to walk my dog and go to my full-time job.

I’d manage to drag myself into work, but I couldn’t concentrate. There’d be times when the thought of being in the office would be so suffocating that I’d go to my car just to breathe and calm myself down.

Other times, I’d sneak into the bathroom and cry. I didn’t even know what I was crying about, but the tears wouldn’t stop. After ten minutes or so, I would clean myself up and return to my desk.

I’d still get everything done to make my boss happy, but I’d lost all interest in the projects I was working on, even though I was working at my dream company.

My spark just seemed to fizzle.

I’d spend each day counting down the hours until I could go home and lie in my bed and watch “Friends.” I’d watch the same episodes over and over. Those familiar episodes brought me comfort, and I couldn’t even think about watching anything new.

I didn’t completely disconnect socially or stop making plans with friends the way many people expect people with severe depression to act. I think, in part, it’s because I’ve always been an extrovert.

But while I’d still show up to social functions or drinks with friends, I wouldn’t really be there mentally. I’d laugh at the appropriate times and nod when needed, but I just couldn’t connect.

I thought I was just tired and that it would pass soon.

3 Ways I’d Describe Depression to a Friend

  • It’s like I have this deep pit of sadness in my stomach that I can’t get rid of.
  • I watch the world go on, and I continue to go through the motions and plaster a smile on my face, but deep down, I’m hurting so much.
  • It feels like there is a huge weight on my shoulders that I can’t shrug off, no matter how hard I try.

The switch from deep depression to considering suicide

Looking back, the change that should have signaled to me that something was wrong was when I started to have passive suicidal thoughts.

I’d feel disappointed when I woke up each morning, wishing I could end my pain and sleep forever.

I didn’t have a suicide plan, but I just wanted my emotional pain to end. I’d think about who could take care of my dog if I died and would spend hours on Google searching for different suicide methods.

A part of me thought everyone did this from time to time.

One therapy session, I confided in my therapist.

A part of me expected her to say that I was broken and she couldn’t see me anymore.

Instead, she calmly asked if I had a plan, to which I responded no. I told her that unless there was a foolproof suicide method, I wouldn’t risk failing.

I feared the possibility of permanent brain or physical damage more than death. I thought it was completely normal that if offered a pill that guaranteed death, I would take it.

I now understand those aren’t normal thoughts and that there were ways to treat my mental health issues.

That’s when she explained that I was going through a major depressive episode.

Reaching out for help was the sign that I still wanted to live

She helped me make a crisis plan that included a list of activities that help me relax and my social supports.

My supports included my mom and dad, a few close friends, the suicide text hotline, and a local support group for depression.

My Crisis Plan: Stress-Reduction Activities

  • guided meditation
  • deep breathing
  • go the gym and get on the elliptical or go to a spin class
  • listen to my playlist that includes my all-time favorite songs
  • write
  • take my dog, Petey, on a long walk

She encouraged me to share my thoughts with a few friends in LA and back home so they could keep an eye on me between sessions. She also said talking about it might help me feel less alone.

One of my best friends responded perfectly by asking, “What can I do to help? What do you need?” We came up with a plan for her to text me daily to just check in and for me to be honest no matter how I was feeling.

But when my family dog died and I found out that I had to switch to a new health insurance, which meant I might have to find a new therapist, it was too much.

I’d hit my breaking point. My passive suicidal thoughts turned active. I started to actually look into ways I could mix my medications to create a lethal cocktail.

After a breakdown at work the next day, I couldn’t think straight. I no longer cared about anyone else’s emotions or well-being, and I believed they didn’t care about mine. I didn’t even really understand the permanency of death at this point. I just knew that I needed to leave this world and unending pain.

I truly believed that it would never get better. I now know I was wrong.

I took off the rest of the day, intending to go through with my plans that night.

However, my mom kept calling and wouldn’t stop until I answered. I relented and picked up the phone. She asked me repeatedly to call my therapist. So, after I got off the phone with my mom, I texted my therapist to see if I could get an appointment that evening.

Unbeknownst to me at the time, there was still a little part of me that wanted to live and that believed she could help me get through this.

And she did. We spent those 45 minutes coming up with a plan for the next couple months. She encouraged me to take some time off to focus on my health.

I ended up taking the rest of the year off of work and went back home to Wisconsin for three weeks. I felt like a failure for having to stop working temporarily. But it was the best decision I ever made.

I started to write again, a passion of mine that I hadn’t had the mental energy to do for quite some time.

I wish I could say that the dark thoughts are gone and I’m happy. But the passive suicidal thoughts still come around more often than I want. However, there’s a little bit of fire still burning inside of me.

Writing keeps me going, and I wake up with a sense of purpose. I’m still learning how to be present both physically and mentally, and there are still times when the pain becomes unbearable.

I’m learning that this will likely be a lifelong battle of good months and bad months.

But I’m actually okay with that, because I know I have supportive people in my corner to help me continue fighting.

I wouldn’t have gotten through last fall without them, and I know they will help me get through my next major depressive episode too.

If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, help is out there. Reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.

Allyson Byers is a freelance writer and editor based in Los Angeles who loves writing about anything health-related. You can see more of her work at www.allysonbyers.comand follow her on social media.

Updated on09/13/19

I was 14-years-old when I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. My family had recently moved from New Jersey, where I grew up, to Florida. It was a tough transition for me starting eighth grade in a new school, losing lifelong friends and being forced to start over.

It didn’t help that the school year began with me being pushed down a flight of stairs and slammed into a door. And it didn’t get any better as I was constantly bullied by every group of students in my grade.

As the bullying got worse, I found every reason to avoid going to school. My grades slipped, I lost all motivation and started spending more time alone. I stopped caring about things I once loved, and I had these overwhelming feelings of hopelessness and sadness.

Day by day, depression took control of my life, and I no longer recognized the person staring back at me in the mirror. I turned to self-injury to replace the emotional hurt with physical pain. It worked for a while, but it didn’t address the underlying issues. And in 2007, I hit rock bottom and tried to end my life.

My depression was at its worst from 2003 to 2008, but I still struggle with depression to this day. I don’t think it will fully go away, and that’s okay. I always say my depression comes and goes in waves. Some days are great, but other days it’s a battle just to get out of bed in the morning.

Depression has affected my life in so many ways, and here are 10 reasons how.

1. I Lost Friends

Today, I’m lucky to have a wonderful, supportive group of friends who understand how depression has affected my life and love me anyway. It wasn’t always like this. I’ve lost a lot of friends because of depression. Some, I pushed away because I just wanted to be alone and didn’t feel worthy of their friendship. But others walked away because being friends with the “depressed girl” at school was a burden.

2. I Felt Like I Was Never Good Enough

Depression had a funny way of making me feel like I was never good enough. Not a good enough friend, sister, girlfriend, student, daughter, etc. I didn’t feel as though I was worthy of being loved by those around me.

3. I Became a Shell of The Person I Used To Be

One day, I was a normal 14-year-old girl who laughed a lot and loved her life. The next, I was a shell of the person I used to be. Depression made me feel weak, unworthy of love, lonely, hopeless, lost, stuck and powerless. It made me feel like my life wasn’t worth living and that there was no way out. By the time I hit rock bottom, I genuinely didn’t recognize myself anymore.

4. I Wanted to End My Life

There were a lot of days where I didn’t see the point in living. I was being bullied every single day at school, my “friends” were spreading rumors about me and I just couldn’t do it anymore. My mind kept telling me that I wasn’t worthy of living another day and that no one would miss me when I was gone.

5. I Was Numb

There’s a misconception that depression is only extreme sadness, but I learned that it’s much more complicated than that. In fact, most days I was numb to all emotions – happiness, sadness, anger, joy and everything in between. I went through the motions of daily life without feeling anything. While some would argue that it’s better than being sad all the time, to me, it was draining.

6. I Felt Ashamed

Even before being diagnosed with depression, I was ashamed of the sadness I was feeling. As a result, I pushed everyone away. Even when those around me tried to get me help, I refused. I insisted everything was fine – even though I knew it wasn’t. For the longest time, I tried to keep my depression a secret because I was embarrassed to have a mental illness. I though it meant I was broken, weak or damaged, and that it defined who I was as a person. So, I kept it hidden away as much as possible, even though everyone around me knew the truth.

7. I Hit Rock Bottom

I think every person, at some point in their life, hits rock bottom, but mine came a few weeks after attempting suicide. I always thought that once I hit rock bottom, I’d never come back from it. I couldn’t stop crying, was numb to everything and couldn’t control the thoughts in my head. I became my worst enemy, my nightmare. Depression had taken everything from me, and I felt lost. But somewhere along the way, hitting rock bottom made me stronger, and it was the catalyst that helped me turn my life around.

8. I Became a Writer

I’ve always enjoyed writing, but it became my outlet during my darkest battles with depression. It gave me a way to express myself when no one else would listen. It helped me heal and gave me a sense of purpose.

9. I Learned a Lot About Mental Illness

Before being diagnosed with depression and anxiety, I didn’t know anything about mental illness and how common it is. But after going through this 10+ years struggle with depression, I’ve learned a lot about mental illness, societal stigmas, and recovery options.

Over the last few years, I’ve developed a passion for helping others going through similar experiences and encouraging people to get the help they need. While I was once embarrassed about my struggles with depression, I’m no longer afraid to share my story because it’s made me a warrior. I’ve always said that if I can help just one person by sharing my story, then it’s all worth it.

10. Depression Showed Me Life is Worth Fighting For

There were a lot of nights where I cried myself to sleep because I didn’t feel that my life was worth living. Nights where I so desperately wanted the pain to go away. While depression has affected my life in a lot of negative ways, it’s also the one experience that made me realize how valuable my life really is.

The biggest thing I learned from having depression is that no matter how dark your days may seem, your best and brightest days are still ahead. And what you’re feeling now – as awful as it is – isn’t permanent. It won’t be like this forever.

One day you’ll look back and be amazed at how far you’ve come. It Gets Better.

Hello:

My name is Joanne and I reside in Boston,MA. I am a 35 Indian-American who lives with her folks due to putting myself in debt due to depression which resonated in expensive shopping because not only did I have to be depressed, I had to have expensive taste and shop at stores like Saks, Banana, and J.Crew. I feel my story will move you as I am sure many others have but, this one comes with so much insanity attached you will feel like you just had the most intense cardio workout that even Jillian Michaels has not even tried!

I moved to the states in 1985 at the age of 6 from India with my two parents, and my two siblings. Like many Legal foreigners (lol) my parents had the same dream for themselves and their family to have a better life so they could provide for their children better opportunities for a better future. Okay, let me fast forward 17 years, it was time for college, I was always quiet about the whole subject and yet gave off the impression i went with the flow, went with my friends to the college campus visits etc all the time knowing my parents were not in a position of sending me away to college due to finances and not wanting to entertain the idea of letting go. They felt I was too young and although my older brother was in his senior year of college, he never expressed the desire of moving to a campus setting so this was uncharted territory for them.

My friends moved away and I went through loss, sadness, loneliness for the first year and then I acclimated to them coming home once in a while. Lets fast forward to the age of 19, I by now, worked at CVS for the last two years or so. It worked and surprisingly lucrative because I worked so much due to having my friends away at college. I went to Quincy College taking classes here and there it was a two year affordable college. My hopes were to matriculate into a four year school. But of course I found, Bay State college and got my associates in fashion merchandising with hopes to go to NYC to F.I.T.- of course there was no way in hell my parents would be able to find a way to afford it or let go .

This led to depression, and desperation it is funny how they go hand in hand. I must have worked a million retail jobs and then at the age of 19/20 I was hired by Arnold Worldwide an advertising firm in Boston as an account coordinator entry level it was for 22k; I thought I had hit the millions! I was living on my own now cuz my parents moved to Florida due to my dad getting a transfer in the bank he was working for. Had no clue what I was doing but I went with it and guess what I survived. Got laid off by 22 and at that point was finishing up on my lease for my apartment so I had to figure out funds asap! Luckily someone created severance packages. That helped with a new apartment. My parents also helped me financially. So I guess looking back, it wasn’t that my parents did not want to help me out financially, but in their head, they were willing to help with realistic things. They did not see what a better value of an education you received while living on campus measured out to v. being a commuting student. I of course wanted my space and pushed for moving away. A battle that I lost miserably!

I signed up with almost every temp agency in the city of Boston. I went on interviews, and got job offers, some of which I showed up for the first day and some of which I boldly did not show up for. I recreated the downward emotional spiral; as a matter of fact, by the time I was done with it, my life actions resembled more of a geometric equation! Okay do not mind my corny jokes; I guess I am showing that all I can do reading this email I am preparing for you is to laugh because I did not know what I was doing! I also felt like my parents were not the people to go to for guidance because they were not supportive of me going away to schools, so what else could they possibly understand.

At 26, I received another full time job as a receptionist, I had it for a year and got promoted to the marketing division and of course go laid off. I started taking it personal! I job hunted again for a year and did every job both corporate and retail for this period of time until I found Tufts University School of Dental Medicine in 10/2005. I worked the front desk for 2.5 years while earning my bachelors at the same school I earned my fashion associates degree as they started bachelors programs at the school. I earned my bachelors in Business Management in May of 2008.

At this point, I reached out to my favorite recruiter (at this point I knew so many, that it was possible to have a favorite one lol) and she found me a job at a great finance firm as an office administrator making 33k. I did that for 2.5 years and started searching again because guess what, I got bored. I have no interest in making rich people richer is what my heart was screaming day after day. I got a job at the prestigious broad institute in Cambridge with a 15k salary increase. So I was working for the company founder Eric Lander. This was great for 7 business days until i basically told off Eric’s right hand man I was working with off because he treated me horribly and I dimed him out in front of the HR rep. I am seen as a horrible person in that company’s eyes but I felt good doing it. No one has the right to mistreat people.

After that I was back to the job search drawing board, I was job searching again, needless to say the recruiter that found me the broad institute would not work with me again but I did not perish I persevered. I found MGH, the same thing happened, someone in her twenties might I add when I am in my early 30’s basically bullied me out. I guess I lost that battle but was able to keep my sanity. This whirl wind brought me back to Tufts Dental school and I am there today.

I am still not satisfied, I joined Tufts again in 3/2011 for the front desk. I was promoted in 7/2001 for a dental practice administrator. I am currently working with two doctors co-managing a group practice of 32 dental students in a teaching dental clinic.

Phew, almost done, I racked up so many credit card bills, about 20 cards since 2003 because my boyfriend of 5 years broke up with me in the worst way not written in the books as of yet. I lost my childhood friends, and I basically had to start over. My parents took me back in in 2002 after they moved back to boston. I have 50k in debt, 40 of it from school; I graduated in 2008 but I spend money instead of wokring on paying it back. hence the same amount to pay back 4 years later. I spent money on a pilates certification and never finished it through because I got bored, I ask my parents for 4k in February of this year to do a holistic health counseling through IIN in NYC and I am 6 modules behind and module 8 comes out tomorrow. Guess what I am bored!

Clinical depression is a very serious medical condition that affects nearly 20 million teenagers and adults in the United States. Everyone can have a bad day, or two, now and again, but when you are depressed, those feelings of sadness never seem to end. Depression makes everyday tasks feel overwhelming and the motivation to do anything at all, very challenging. Depressed people often isolate themselves socially.

Depression is one of the most common mental health disorders in the US. Research suggests it is caused by a combination of genetic, biological, environmental and psychological factors. This difficult condition does not discriminate. It can begin anytime, in any race or gender, and at any income level.

Anxiety in childhood or adolescence is linked to depression in adulthood. Depression that occurs in midlife is often the result of a co-occurring medical or physical illness such as heart disease, diabetes or cancer. The good news is that there are many effective treatments for depression so recognizing the symptoms and seeking help is important.

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Do you feel depressed?

Take one of our 2-minute Depression quizzes to see if you or a loved one could benefit from further diagnosis and treatment.

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Not everyone who suffers from depression will experience every symptom but here are some of the most common:

  • Feelings of sadness that seem overwhelming
  • A loss of interest in your normal and favorite activities
  • Problems with your appetite, including overeating or not any interest in eating at all
  • Having trouble falling and staying asleep, or even sleeping too much during the day
  • Lethargy. Feeling very tired and without energy all of the time
  • Feeling irritable and grouchy for no particular reason
  • Thinking about death or even suicide
  • Physical aches and pains throughout your body

What’s Cortisol Got to Do with It?

Depression is a disorder of the brain that can be treated with a variety of techniques including therapy, medication and lifestyle changes. For many people who live with depression, simple changes to diet and getting sufficient rest can go a long way toward alleviating the worst symptoms of depression. Much of it has to do with cortisol, an important hormone in the body that is secreted by the adrenal gland. Elevated levels of stress in the body can raise levels of cortisol and perpetuate the cycle of depression.

Also known as the stress hormone, cortisol is released in response to stress in the body triggering the heart rate to increase, blood pressure to rise, and muscles to become tenser. In the short term, that’s a good thing—cortisol helps us access the energy we need to perform our best. But having elevated levels of cortisol in the body for an extended period can actually affect your physical and mental health.

Research has shown that elevated cortisol interferes with learning and memory, negatively impact immune function, contributes to weight gain and is connected to depression. Long-term activation of the body’s response to stress can disrupt almost all of the body’s processes and put you at more risk of developing headaches, gastrointestinal problems, depression, and anxiety. Nearly every cell in the body has a cortisol receptor which is why elevated levels of the hormone have such a big impact.

Reducing stress is one of the best ways to correct the balance of cortisol in your body, says Michael McGee, MD, chief medical officer, Haven at Pismo, an addiction treatment center in California and author of The Joy of Recovery: The New 12-Step Guide to Recovery from Addiction. “Good self-care is a foundational part of a low-stress life. Self-care involves optimizing your biological, psychological, social, and spiritual well-being and involves basic things like eating healthy, getting plenty of sleep and exercise, having regular routines, being involved in your community, pursuing passions and spending time in solitude for contemplation or reflection,” explains Dr. McGee explains.

Techniques like meditation, massage, and journaling can also be effective. If sleep is a problem, speak to your healthcare provider. There are medications that treat both insomnia and depression but they’ll need to be managed by a physician or psychiatrist.

Not All Depression is The Same

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) contains authoritative information used by health care professionals to diagnose mental health disorders. It is published by the American Psychiatric Association and reviewed and updated periodically.

There are several different types of depression including major depressive disorder (MDD), persistent depressive disorder or dysthymia, postpartum depression, atypical depression and seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Each type can range in severity and involve a variety of different symptoms.

SAD is a type of depression tied to the seasons—most commonly winter. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, SAD may be related to changes in the amount of daylight we receive. Between 4 and 6% of the population is affected by the winter blues but an estimated 10 to 20% of the population may have a milder form of it. Women are affected more than men. Many people don’t realize that SAD it is a type of depression, not a symptom of it.

“A lot of people expect to hit the ground running immediately after Labor Day,” says Sanam Hafeez, PsyD, a New York City-based licensed clinical psychologist and teaching faculty member at Columbia University Teacher’s College. “Allow yourself a solid two weeks to a full month to get back into the swing of your fall routine. You can’t expect to go from a more relaxed summer mindset into a rushed pace. A lot of people make the mistake of going from summer ease to fall hustle and they end up running themselves down leading to a cold. You want to get a realistic handle on the fall routine and make decisions about how much to take on. Planning ahead helps,” explains Dr. Hafeez.

For people who feel depressed during the winter, light therapy can help. Other types of depression benefit from medication and therapy. Non-medical treatments such as exercise can also be helpful.

Stay Calm and Carry On

If you are feeling persistently sad, have lost interest in activities that used to bring you joy and just can’t seem to shake off those feelings as something temporary, make an appointment with your physician or healthcare provider (HCP). Your HCP will examine you and ask a series of questions about your health. Be as honest and forthright as you can. Sharing accurate information will help your HCP determine if you are suffering from depression or have some other type of medical condition. And while there are no laboratory tests that can specifically diagnose depression, your physician may order some tests to rule out other medical conditions that may be connected to physical symptoms such as headaches and digestive distress.

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Take our 2-minute Depression quiz to see if you may benefit from further diagnosis and treatment.

Take Depression Quiz

You may also be referred to a mental health professional, such as a therapist, psychiatrist, or mental health counselor to discuss your feelings and symptoms. During your first therapy session, you may feel anxious and nervous, and that is perfectly normal. Try and stay calm, because the more relaxed you are when speaking with a mental health professional, the more you will gain from each session. In the beginning, you will be asked questions about your family history of depression or other mental health disorders. If sharing this kind of information causes shame or embarrassment, it may help to remember that depression is a common problem and that you are not alone. Seeing a mental health professional—and approaching therapy with a positive attitude—will help you feel better and is an important first step on your road to recovery.

Depending on your level of depression, a prescription drug may be recommended. If that happens, be sure to ask about side effects, dietary restrictions, how long the medication is typically prescribed and the amount of time for the medication to take effect (most of today’s antidepressants do not provide immediate relief from negative symptoms).

What You Can Do to Help Yourself

If you’ve been diagnosed with depression, there are some effective ways you can help yourself, according to Carrie Carlton, LCSW, clinical supervisor at Beachway Therapy Center in Florida. “I always suggest to anyone who is dealing with depression that they create their own personal ‘wellness toolbox’ as a positive way to feel better,” says Carlton.

“Come up with a list of things that you can do for a quick mood boost. The more ‘tools’ for coping with depression, the better,” she explains.

Carlton suggests implementing a few of these ideas each day, even if you are feeling good:

  • Spend some time in nature
  • List what you like about yourself
  • Read a good book
  • Watch a funny movie or TV show
  • Take a long, hot bath
  • Accomplish a few small tasks
  • Play with a pet
  • Talk to friends or family face-to-face
  • Listen to music
  • Do something spontaneous
  • Join a support group online or in person

5 Easy Ways to Eat Better

Nutrition can also impact mental health. “What you eat can have a direct impact on the way you feel,” says Susan McQuillan, MS, RDN. “And the way you feel can also have a direct impact on what you choose to eat.” Here are some simple ways to improve nourishment to your body.

1. Watch your diet. Limit foods that you already know have a negative effect on your mood and/or behavior, such as caffeine, alcohol, and foods high in sugar and fat.

2. Don’t skip meals. Going too long between meals can make you feel irritable and tired, so aim to eat something, even a snack, at least every three to four hours. “Instead of grabbing random foods, treat your snacks like ‘mini-meals’ and balance your plate with small amounts of several different types of food, just as you would a full meal,” McQuillan advises. “Well-balanced snacks—something like a cheese stick, a few whole almonds, and half an apple—not only contribute essential nutrients, they also provide steady energy to hold you until your next full meal.”

3. Eat mindfully. Take the time to sit still and do nothing else while you eat (other than engage in low-key conversation with others if you’re not eating alone.) Mindful eating helps you pay attention to what and how much you eat and develop better eating habits overall.
4. Boost your B-vitamin intake. Deficiencies in B vitamins such as folic acid, B-6, and B-12 are associated with depression. The best sources of B vitamins include meat, poultry, fish, whole grains, leafy green vegetables, beans, nuts seeds, dairy products, and citrus fruit. In other words, a well-balanced diet! Talk to your health care provider to see if a B-complex vitamin supplement will help.

5. Add more omega-3 fatty acids to your diet. Studies show mixed results but Omega-3 fatty acids may play an essential role in stabilizing mood. The best sources are fatty fish such as salmon, herring, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, tuna, and some cold-water fish oil supplements. Other sources include walnuts, flax seeds, hemp seeds, edamame (green soybeans) and other soy products. These foods contain fatty acids that can be converted in your body to Omega-3s.

If you are depressed, know that many others are struggling, too. “No one should worry or suffer alone,” Dr. McGee says. “There is a saying that a problem shared is a problem halved. It is amazing how just talking through a problem with others can bring peace and clarity.”

Last Updated: Jul 17, 2019

6 Life-Changing Tips From People Living With Depression

Borchard started the Beyond Blue Foundation, a nonprofit that provides hope and support to people with mood disorders.

A diagnosis of depression means different things to different people. For mental health advocate Jean-François Claude of Ottawa, Ontario, the competing emotions arrived in a flood — “alone, angry, ashamed, confused, lost, overwhelmed, scared” — and led to numbness.

“My mind’s response was to numb itself to these feelings by emotionally shutting down,” he says.

For others, such as lawyer Dan Lukasik of Buffalo, New York, and business owner Loralee Hutton of Vancouver, British Columbia, it was a relief. “I finally had a medical diagnosis for what was wrong with me,” Lukasik says. “It wasn’t just ‘in my head.’ I needed medical attention and medication.”

Unfortunately, many people neglect to face depression head on and seek help, or they make decisions when they’re first diagnosed that they later regret. To help others avoid the same mistakes, we asked six productive, engaged people who are living with depression what they’ve learned about managing their condition, and what strategies and advice they’d like to pass along.

1. Take Your Diagnosis Seriously — Don’t Blow It Off or Downplay It

One of the biggest regrets Hutton had after her diagnosis was pushing it aside as insignificant because of other things she had going on in her life, including the death of a family member and a diagnosis with another illness. “I wish I had taken it more seriously,” she says.

Independent journalist Greg Harman of San Antonio, Texas, still struggles to make his mental health a priority.

“Until all my symptoms sort of collided into one giant mess, forcing me to take my recovery and wellness as the life-or-death matter that it is, I really just drifted with the diagnosis,” says Harman, author of After Depression: What an experimental medical treatment taught me about mental illness and recovery. “I was only able to push my depression to the front of my to-do list when it came close to killing me. It shouldn’t take that much for anyone.”

Not neglecting your condition also means complying with treatment recommendations, says Moe Gelbart, PhD, a psychologist at the Torrance Memorial Medical Center in Torrance, California. “It’s quite common for patients to resist taking medication,” Dr. Gelbart says. “This could be due to side effects, like weight gain and decrease of sexual libido, or just to a sense that if they take medication, they’re admitting something is wrong with them.”

He advises people to accept depression as an illness, not as a sign of weakness or defect — something Harman echoes as well. Managing depression is not unlike managing any other chronic illness, such as diabetes, Harman has learned. “These are typically life-long illnesses that simply require good maintenance,” he says. “Without kind attention, either one can end very badly: Both can be fatal.”

2. You’re Not Alone, So Seek Help and Support

“You are not alone,” each person interviewed says.

The reality, says Harman, is that “depression is an indiscriminate mother.” It affects all different kinds of people: “the pretty ones and the not-so-pretty ones, the quick and the slow, the rich and the poor.”

Yet everyone interviewed says they battled loneliness, and emphasize the importance of support networks.

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“Feeling completely alone was a huge problem for me,” Hutton says. “I started to believe I was worthless.” Going back to school helped ease her symptoms because she could focus on something new. “It didn’t completely go away, and I’ve had many setbacks since, but a new direction in life pulls me back from the worst of it.”

Seeking help sooner might have helped Everyday Health columnist Therese Borchard avoid a breakdown that lasted two years after her second child was born, she says. Lukasik says he was “profoundly lonely” and would have benefited from a support group sooner.

Not having a local community should not keep you from finding a support network in the age of social media, suggests Claude, who established a depression support website. He found a “wonderful community of mental health advocates” on Twitter who offered substantial support. Borchard also started the Beyond Blue Foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides hope and support to people with treatment-resistant depression and other chronic mood disorders.

3. Be Gentle and Compassionate With Yourself

“I wish I had been kinder and gentler to myself and learned self-compassion, instead of beating myself up for being depressed in the first place,” says Borchard.

Others echoed her words of wisdom. “Don’t be too hard on yourself when you have feelings of despair or of being overwhelmed,” Hutton says. “Believing that you’re wrong or bad can take over pretty quickly.”

It helps to acknowledge that life is hard with depression or not, Harman says. “Gentleness is the only way to live through that hardness.”

In fact, Claude suggests self-pampering and relaxation activities, such as massage, as ways to manage depression. An eight-week mindfulness meditation course has also helped him manage his anxiety.

Pooja Parikh Traveled Across The World For The HS Diagnosis That Changed Her Life Forever

Jenavieve

Depression doesn’t just come and go, it breathes you in. It feels as though you have become depression yourself. It fully encompasses you and you know nothing else but its sinking and tugging at your heart. Friends ask you to do something fun like acro-yoga or Dave and Busters, and you just lay in bed and hope that sleep takes you away longer this time. Your alarm clock rings and you come to the slow realization that you are awake and alive, your worst nightmare.

And so you cry. And it’s not the pretty girl cry that you see in the movies. It’s ugly. It’s a runny nose, soundless screaming, barely breathing crying. It’s the crying that seems like it will never end.

The crying is at its worst when you come home from work and you are alone. You walk into your apartment, headphones in, and you lock the door to your bedroom. You fall to the floor and bang your head against the door, half hoping someone hears you and the other half hoping it echoes in the silence, like a tree falling in a forest with no one around to hear it. And so you sleep. 6pm, you don’t even bother putting on pajamas. You cry yourself to sleep and pray to a God you don’t believe in, asking for him to spare you the pain of waking up.

Sleep is your only escape. Consciousness is too painful to bear. You ponder why breathing isn’t an option. You take a bath to soothe yourself, but you end up pretending to drown. You listen to music to calm you down, but you end up listening to evanescence full blast. You color in a coloring book to take your mind off of life but you end up stabbing the book with all your strength. You begin to crochet a scarf but then you throw all of it in the air wishing it would stop taunting you. You read a book to distract you, to bring you into a different world, but the lure is never enough. Before you know it, you’ve exhausted all your coping skills.

So you sleep your life away. You lose 8 pounds in a week. You stop going to work and school. You don’t leave your bedroom for any reason but to use the restroom. You’ve been here before, which makes it hurt all the worse.
This is the life of someone with severe depression.

Depression opens its arms to anyone, it doesn’t discriminate. Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide. More teenagers and young adults die from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza, and chronic lung disease, combined. Why don’t we talk about it then? Why is suicide a taboo topic? Why is it so stigmatized? Why must we hide from our loved ones, teachers, doctors, and even therapists, afraid of judgment or rejection of love?

Society has taught us that crying is a sign of weakness. It has also taught us that suicide is a crime. In our society, you don’t “die” by suicide, you “commit” suicide. That brings so much shame and guilt into the matter. When someone is thinking of suicide, they are not thinking maliciously. They are not being selfish and they are not asking for attention. They are in desperate need of safety and professional help.

In order to reverse the stigma associated with depression and suicide, we must advocate. The time to talk about suicide is right now. Educate others, enlighten others, and give hope. We cannot stay silent.

Speak up.

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