What’s the truth about depression?
There are a lot of common misconceptions about what it’s like to live with depression.
People like me are lazy. Unmotivated. Not good with people. Cry all day long.
But is that really accurate?
I came across a picture on Pinterest that I wanted to talk about. (Credit to: paintedteacup.com) The image talks about 7 truths people living with depression can relate to. It was pretty spot on, so I wanted to address them, and offer tips for how to get past them that have been helpful to me.
Also, I am not a doctor or mental health professional. Just someone who has lived with anxiety for many years who is passionate about sharing her experiences and tips for success. If you are in crisis call your doctor, then click here for some good mental health resources.
So, how do we shatter the mental health stigma?
“There is nothing worse than feeling depressed when by all accounts things in your life are going well and you ‘should’ be happy.”
JEN’S TRUTH BOMB: This. This is such a shitty feeling. I have a husband who has been with me through unimaginable things. And we still like each other after almost 14 years together.
We made two beautiful girls together who make us laugh constantly. We have a warm home to live in, plenty of clothes, and an abundance of food to eat. Plus, we live close by to family we like spending time with. I have maybe not a billion, but a couple fists full of great friends that inspire me on a daily basis.
So… why my brain do like it do? I really struggle with that. Something about neurotransmitters and serotonin, blah blah blah. It’s such a dick move on biology’s part, but here we are.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?: If this is true for you, and you are already seeking treatment for your mood issues, you might benefit from some personal development reading. There are a lot of great books available that can help you change your mindset. I love You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero; Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis; and The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz.
“You start thinking more and more negatively and while you often know what you are doing, you just can’t stop.”
JEN’S TRUTH BOMB: We’ve all been down this rabbit hole, but for the depressed it is a regular occurrence. Let me illustrate this for you. *Someone cuts me off while I’m driving to the grocery store >> They don’t like how I’m driving >> I’m a shitty driver >> What else am I terrible at? >> The other day I didn’t finish doing laundry >> Why does X friend always have their laundry put away? >> She is also prettier than me >> Ken probably has a crush on her >> I’m the worst.*
Like, what even is all of that? It’s nonsense that your brain creates, because NEWSFLASH– Your brain is addicted to its own chaos.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?: A practice I learned about recently that really helps is the following… When a negative thought comes up, instead of allowing it to spiral out of control, think or say, “Cancel cancel,” or “Delete delete,” and then say or think, “That is an interesting thought, but…” and then replace it with something positive.
I also recommend taping a list of positive affirmations to your bathroom mirror and repeating them multiple times a day. There is a lot of research now that suggests that your brain is more elastic than you think, so google it!
“You know what it’s like to sleep for a full 8 (or more) hours and yet still feel like you could sleep for days.”
JEN’S TRUTH BOMB: They’re really preaching to the choir on this one. Enough said. I’m just over here yawning, ready to move on to #4.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?: There are many things you can do to mitigate the fatigue that often accompanies mental illness. I struggle MASSIVELY with fatigue, but I can tell you a few things that help.
- Think about how you’re eating, and get moving! Cut out the sugary drinks and processed junk and slowly begin to incorporate an exercise routine. Even just a 15-20 minute walk a day is a great start.
- Get a good supplement regimen. For fatigue, many doctors will recommend at least a multivitamin and vitamin b or d.
- Get some blood work. There could be an underlying physical issues exacerbating the fatigue. People with depression also tend to have some physiological issues that can make fatigue worse that can be identified with a simple blood test.
“There are days when all the money, chocolate, or love in the world couldn’t make you get out of bed.”
JEN’S TRUTH BOMB: I am very fortunate that currently I am at least able to get out of bed in the morning. Most days, the middle of the day finds me needing to lie down for a bit while the girls play, but in general this does not apply to me.
But the important thing to remember is, this is what life is like on a daily basis for many, many people. It may not make sense to you, but it is the reality they live with. Yes, they are capable of overcoming it with the right amount of support and motivation but it is incredibly difficult. Getting out of bed is almost like a hobby, in that it takes time and practice to excel at it when you live with depression.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?: Ugh. This one is so hard. Like I said, it just takes practice. I definitely recommend plugging in your alarm or phone across the room so that you have to get out of bed to turn it off. The feeling of not wanting to get out of bed is an incredibly hard one to shake, but as the days pass it can be done. Just start with one foot at a time!
“You know what it feels like to walk around with a smile on your face while on the inside you are barely holding it together.”
JEN’S TRUTH BOMB: Omg, this. I lived this way for far too long, and that is why of late I’ve become way more vocal about my journey. Yes, I have a wonderful life. I’m not living my dream yet, but it is pretty darn great. (See: Truth #1) I have many reasons to smile. But, at the end of the day, I am living with bipolar depression. It is an insidious disease, and many times you find yourself faking a smile just for the sake of feeling normal.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?: Share. Share your struggles. It is hard to remember that the things you go through are nothing to be embarrassed by. They may not be normal to the majority of the world that functions normally, but to the growing number of people with mental health issues, the challenges you are facing are very very normal. It really helps to share, and have people validate your statement by saying, “Hey, I’m going through that, too.”
“There is nothing more isolating than opening up to someone about how you are feeling and hearing things like, ‘it is just a phase,’ ‘you are just having a bad day,’ and the best of the them all… ‘have you tried exercising?'”
JEN’S TRUTH BOMB: Okay, mayyyybeeee I’m guilty of that last reaction occasionally. It is hard to put yourself in the place of the person sharing this struggle when it is not something you have personally experienced.
We as humans are natural “fixers.” We are designed to come up with solutions to problems, and that is how we are predisposed to deal with friends who tell us they are depressed. We want to fix it. Yes, there are genuine solutions you can offer that can and will help, depending on the person. But ultimately, they mostly just want you to listen.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?: Ask them, “Is there anything I can do?” Offer to bring dinner over one night. Ask if they need some help with housework. Offer to watch their kids for an hour or two so they can get some self care in. These things are invaluable to someone living with depression.
“You know what it’s like to feel completely hollow and numb even when doing the things you love the most.”
JEN’S TRUTH BOMB: This one is so strange but true. It is very common for those living with depression to stop enjoying things they used to enjoy. It is also common for us to do things that you do still technically enjoy, but it’s like your body isn’t capable of expressing that enjoyment like it used to. And even stranger still, there are times you almost begin to resent that activity because it is just a bleak reminder that you could and should enjoy it more.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?: This one maybe is the most challenging for me, as far as coming up with advice. I definitely find this happening to me from time to time. If you feel this way, maybe it is time to start mixing up your hobbies. Trying something new can be daunting, especially if you suffer from anxiety, but it might be what it takes to get you excited about “doing” again. Routines are very good for people with depression, but sometimes we get so stuck in them, we almost get more depressed. So try something new!
What you can do next
The most important thing you can do is share this post! There is still such a huge stigma about those that live with mental illness, and this has got to be the year that we wreck the hell out of that. We need to shout as loudly as we can so that everyone can hear.
Did you learn anything new about living with depression while reading this? I hope so. I really hope it spoke to you, and gave you some direction in dealing with your own struggles or those close to you.
Have any more tips on living with mental illness? Leave them in the comments! I’d love to hear them. Also, make sure to share this post if you found it helpful.