What do you do when the dark fog of depression settles in and starts to destroy every aspect of your life? As feelings of loneliness, despair, self-hate, and pain begin to weigh you down, where do you go to seek refuge? These were questions that I really struggled with for quite a while as I began to crumble underneath the pressure of my depression. But over time, my experiences have given me opportunities to find ways that I can cope with the depression. As I share what I have found, I hope that I can help some of you out there who may feel lost and don’t know where to turn. You are NOT alone, and you can make it through this darkness!
As I began my journey through this mental illness, I was set on overcoming it alone. I did not want to have to rely on medication to make me feel better. I know many people who have felt or feel the same way. I was stubborn and refused to even think about getting on any medication. But after some time, I was still stuck. I was still very depressed and there just didn’t seem to be any way of escaping it. My wife suggested that I should at least go talk to my doctor and see what he advised me to do. I was reluctant because I knew exactly what he was going to say, but I decided to just go for it. And this honestly was probably the best thing that I could have ever done. It took a couple of tries to find the right medication, but once we did, I started to feel so much better. The medication alone didn’t make me feel completely better, but it did give me a jump start that I had been missing for a long time. And as I began to incorporate some of the other coping mechanisms that I will be talking about in this post, the fog was lifted, and I could finally see and feel the happiness and joy in front of me. What an incredible feeling this was! If I am having a hard day, I can think back on how it felt to finally see through the thick fog I had been surrounded by, and this helps me feel a little better. Now, I am not saying that medication is the route that every person should take. There are so many other ways to cope with depression without using medication. But if you are still stuck after trying other ways and just can’t seem to get out of your depressed state, I would suggest to at least try medication. There is nothing wrong with being on medication! In my pride, I felt like it was a bad thing or it was shameful to be on a medicine to help me overcome my depression. I am so happy that I got over this shallow way of thinking and opened my eyes to the possibilities.
Another way that I have been able to cope with my depression is through exercise. I have always had a passion for running. When I am consistently running and training, my mood and mental state is ALWAYS better. Running gives me the opportunity to clear my head and breathe. It gets me outside and helps me stay active. In my depression, my motivation levels are very low and I am usually not very active. As I exercise and get my body moving, my energy levels throughout the day are much higher and I don’t get in my head as much. If you feel like you need to clear your head of all the negative thoughts that are constantly flooding your mind, EXERCISE! It doesn’t matter what you do for exercise, just get moving! Push through the inactive state that your mind keeps pushing you to. You are stronger than your depression! Exercising and staying active has really helped encourage my brain to rewire itself in positive ways. And what is great about exercise is that it doesn’t just boost your mood! It also has many other health benefits such as lowering blood pressure, protecting your heart from disease, and boosting your self-esteem.
When you are depressed, your life seems to be very chaotic. There is no balance and you feel like everything is very disorganized. The structure of your life is stripped away. One day melts into the next. One big thing that you can do to help you cope is to get yourself into a routine! This has been such a big factor in how I manage my depression. If I have a routine, I find that my day is always better and I am able to stay in a better mood. When you have a routine, you feel that you are in control and that you are on track. Your routine doesn’t have to be anything extravagant. It can be as easy as always waking up at a certain time. When your life is structured, the depression can’t take control.
As your life becomes chaotic and unbalanced, you begin to lose sleep. You start to stress over everything that you must do in a day. And you feel that there is no possible way you can accomplish what you need to, and so you start to beat yourself up. You basically open yourself up for the fog to surround you, and you become hopeless. You stay up at night, staring at the ceiling and thinking about what you haven’t accomplished and focus on all your failures. So what am I suggesting? First off, SLEEP is so important. Do everything that you can to make sure you are getting a good amount of sleep. Make the changes to your lifestyle that will help you get enough shut-eye. Go to bed and get up at the same time every day. Try your best not to nap during the day. Take all the distractions (such as your phone and computer) out of your bedroom so you can focus on going to sleep. Set goals of what you want to accomplish every day. When you are depressed, you may feel that you can’t ever accomplish anything. The demands of your tasks can seem so overwhelming. Set daily goals for yourself and cut your tasks into smaller portions. When you break down tasks into smaller steps, the task at hand doesn’t seem so impossible. You can manage your daily tasks and accomplish more in a day. These accomplishments begin to build your confidence and your ability to cope. All this takes patience and time. Maybe even years. The road to recovery is slow. Give yourself credit for each success. Don’t diminish it with thoughts about what you ought to be doing. Do what you can, one step at a time. Pace yourself in a way that works for you!
Another way that I have found has helped me cope with depression is to WRITE. I have always had an innate talent for writing, and I have found that if I write down my thoughts and feelings I am able to cope much more effectively. This is one reason behind me starting this blog. It may help you to write what you are going through in a journal or just on a piece of paper. Get those thoughts and feelings out! One way that you can cope with your destructive thoughts is to write them down and get them out there, and then throw away or rip up the paper. This way you are releasing these negative thoughts and feelings and destroying them! You can use a journal as an outlet to write down your fears and worries, which can help ease your mind. Another way that I have used writing is to write down five things that I am grateful for every day. This forces me to think more positively and helps me realize that things aren’t REALLY that bad. As you start to let this gratitude and more positive thinking in, the negative thoughts that the depression is trying to force on you starts to disappear.
Another thing that can happen when you are depressed is you start to feel in a rut. How do you fix this and get out of the rut? Try something new! I have found that if I do something out of the ordinary, I start to see the world in a whole new way. Doing something new can push and challenge you, giving you a new sense of enjoyment and learning. For example, last winter I decided to try snowboarding for the first time. I was so nervous and honestly didn’t think that I would enjoy it at all. But as I tried it, it gave me an excitement that I hadn’t felt in quite a while! And this new activity has now turned into a hobby that I use to cope with my depression. Don’t be afraid to change things up every once and a while! You will be amazed at the difference in how you feel when you find something new to try.
And last of all, DON’T GIVE UP! Depression can make you feel like you just want to disappear. You can feel so chained down and lost. It can be so hard to change your way of thinking and try to get better, but I can testify to you that there is a world out there that is beautiful and enjoyable! You just have to push your limits and look for the good in life. As you use some of the coping mechanisms that I have listed, you will find that your will to hang in there and hold on is much stronger! There is always hope! Some of you may not be religious, but staying close to my spiritual side has made such a difference in how I have felt about myself and has given me the ability to push through my depression and see the light in front of me. If you will look to God and give your struggles to Him, I promise that he will give you the strength that you need to overcome the darkness! Also, find a support system and rely on them! Having people around me to support me and help me see the good in life has been such a lifesaver. If you are struggling and feel so lost and abandoned, please know that you are loved! I am always available to you if you need advice, someone to talk to, or just someone to have around. I know what it feels like to feel so alone. To feel that there is no reason to live. I need you all to know that there is SO MUCH GOOD in this life! It is all around you.
Coping with depression can look different for everyone, but I hope that I have been able to shed some light on the possibilities that are out there to break through the chains of depression. Each one of you is needed, so please don’t give up! Hang in there, life WILL get better. I love you all!