When the doctor diagnosed me with depression, I remember thinking to myself, “what a weird nightmare.”
But I never woke up … Because I wasn’t lying in my bed, sleeping; I was awake in an office trying to piece together what exactly the doctor had said. It wasn’t that I didn’t hear her — I kept replaying the moment the words fell out of her sympathetic mouth when she said “depression” — it wasn’t that I didn’t understand her, even though I feared to understand, but this was no longer just a word, void of meaning to me now. It was my word to burden for the rest of my life and I was either going to let it destroy me, day by day, or fight it each day and take control of my life. I chose the latter and I’m glad I did.
There are some days where depression consumes me and it feels like all the hard work and “fighting” that I’ve done thus far seems pointless. But it’s not and that’s important to remember. There will be some days where you’re mentally and physically incapable of fighting due to exhaustion, or even a long day at work can cause stress-induced depression. These constant mental battles are waning, but you wouldn’t know this because my exterior is flawless and the façade I’ve allured you to believe is brilliant; yet deep within my counterfeit, guarded exterior walls, is an internal battle that is mentally destroying me. All of a sudden it feels like depression has the upper hand and you’ll never be able to weigh it down.
But depression only has the upper hand if you allow it. Depression can only conquer you with your permission. Depression is part figment and the more you think about it and worry, the more powerful it gets.
I know it’s easier said than done, but I’m fighting too. You’re not alone. And that’s one of the best realizations: knowing you’re not alone, fighting depression. And I know how tiring it can be to fake a smile, pretend you’re mentally stable and tell people “everything is fine.” But I also want you to know that sometimes it’s okay to be vulnerable and replace the smile with something real — whatever it is that you’re feeling — and to say “actually, I’m not okay today.” Because the reality of it is that nobody will know unless you tell them and let them know of your battle or that you’re having a tough day.
Vulnerability doesn’t have to be bad and I wish I knew this years ago, because I would’ve stopped hiding behind my fake smile and pretending to be someone I’m not. Once I told my family and friends, my vulnerability is what saved me. I got the proper help I needed and the support was overwhelmingly pleasant. People do actually care and will be there to support you. They won’t see you as an unequal or some monster. They will be there for you and it’s your job to let them understand what depression is like, so that they can help. Talking about it with someone is as potent as any anti-depressant medication, without the lingering, harmful effects. So why wouldn’t you do it for yourself? For your happiness and own well-being? I do realize that most people won’t know what actual depression is like, so don’t get frustrated with them – they’re only inquiring to get a better understanding of your pain, so allow them to ask these questions and it’ll benefit both of you.
So my four reminders for people dealing with depression are as follows:
1) You are braver and stronger than you’ll ever know. You aren’t just a broken soul that is alone in this world. People all over the world are fighting this too and conquering it. They aren’t giving depression permission to sabotage their life and neither should you.
2) You deserve to be happy. You’re not totally useless and you shouldn’t think of yourself as a “bad example.” You’re loved, cherished and this life is a blessing. Let’s use this blessing in a positive, happy way. Don’t watch the news all the time; quit wasting your time on dating sites, waiting to feeling appreciated or seeking affection; don’t feel like you’re not beautiful because you compare yourself to the digitally enhanced image of “Victoria Secret Angels” — it’s fake — and quit thinking you’re not good enough. YOU ARE!
3) Attitude is everything. This was the hardest realization for me to accept and understand. It sounds cliché and cheesy, but attitude is the “secret” recipe to sustaining and achieving a happy life and suppressing those negative, provoking thoughts that imprison you in your own mind. Think positively about the future, spend more time with family and friends, start to workout — it increases serotonin and dopamine — start writing, this really helped me, listen to music that moves and motivates you, find the bright side in everything and appreciate the small things, and never underestimate the power of “I love you” and say it often
4) Sadness is temporary and is controlled by your attitude. Being sad all the time and wanting to be alone is a constant feeling I had. I hated when people would ask “what’s wrong?” And not like my answer when I honestly responded, “I don’t know.” Because I had no idea what I was dealing with. It’s such a difficult question to answer because I would go out and laugh with my friends, tell jokes, go out and have a lot of fun, had girlfriends and I knew my life was good, and it certainly could be a lot worse. But when I go home, and everyone in my house is asleep, and I’m lying in my bed at 1 a.m. thinking about every mistake that I’ve ever made and wondering if anyone ever really liked me is when it all goes downhill and I start to get emotional. And then I wonder if I was ever really happy. But it’s that kind of mentality that worsened me and kept me in the depression cycle. I finally started to learn to be confident and started giving myself pep talks about my confidence and how I have great friends and a loving, caring family; I would tell myself that I will do great things today and that nothing will stop me. It changed everything. The power of language and coaching your mind to sustain the right attitude has changed my entire life around, for the better.
Never stop fighting… ever.