I have struggled with depression for most of my life. I think it first began to plague me in middle school. I had no real friends, spent most of my time alone, and my parents fought a lot. I dare you to find a kid who wouldn’t get depressed in such circumstances. At the time, I didn’t know what to call this deep well of darkness I seemed to exist within. I just thought I was “sad” or sometimes even without emotion. Reading books was my escape. I could laugh, love, and feel without the danger of being hurt.
Depression Battle Rules
In college, I began to realize I had an actual problem and began to consciously do something about it. During this time, I organized what I called my “rules” and while they don’t do that much good for anxiety (something I learned years later), they did get me through some harsh times. I want to share my rules in the hope that they could help someone else battling depression.
1. Things are not as they appear.
When depression comes, it skews perception. How others think of you, the reality of your situation, even how you really are, all of these things are warped. Being depressed is like wandering through a fun house mirror maze, except the reflections in the mirrors aren’t funny. It’s a nightmare. Therefore, don’t trust it. I find it helpful to remind myself of the good I’ve done or to take at face value the good things people have said to me. The less speculation, the better. Also, don’t make any big decisions while depressed.
2. Try not to be alone.
For an introvert, this rule is especially hard. We introverts don’t have many close friends and we can be reluctant to open up. However, this rule doesn’t mean you have to find a shoulder to cry on. Find someone to go do something mindless or watch television with or, if all else fails, go find something you enjoy doing, which leads me to my next rule.
3. Fight against the tide.
Depression makes you not want to do anything. At my most depressed, I would stare out of a window for hours at a time. (Granted, I also sometimes did that just for fun but it’s different when depressed.) Normal activities suddenly have no appeal. Some people don’t even want to eat. You have to fight against that. Depression is a deep well, an utter blackness, but at the end of the day, it’s a feeling caused either by a situation or topsy-turvy chemicals in the brain. You control how you respond to feelings and to situations. Situations and feelings do not control you. The sooner you accept this, the better.
4. Get help.
If I got a quarter for every time I heard a horror story about a psychiatrist or drugs, I would never need to use my credit card ever again. But don’t let those horror stories frighten you away from getting help if the depression doesn’t eventually leave. I recommend finding a psychologist. A psychologist can’t prescribe medication on his own and will therefore try to find other solutions to the patient’s problems. And remember that, yes, the drugs will make things strange at first. Readjusting brain chemistry isn’t as easy as popping an antacid. It takes time. Don’t give up on it. And if your psychologist isn’t working out for you, find another.
Believing in something greater than yourself, something purer, something above the muck and mire of daily living, can help immensely. I know this immediately brings up the question of “If there is a God, why does He let me feel this way” but when is anything in life simple? We expect a simple answer to that question but I don’t think there is. I think we’re given challenges in this life to become better people and God, like any good parent, isn’t going to do everything for His children. How else will children learn? Trusting that there is something greater than you that cares about you, that wants the best for you, can be a comfort beyond understanding.
Having rules helps because it gives back some control. And you can do something about how you feel. You are not helpless. I hope these little rules, or maybe one or two of them, will inspire or help someone out there who feels like they’re drowning. Depression makes you feel alone but you’re not.
And never forget that you control how you respond to how you feel. You are not controlled by your feelings. Take your life back. It is yours.