Let’s Talk About The “D” Word
Let’s talk about the “D” word… Depression.
If you’re not directly affected by Depression, chances are that you at least know someone who is. According to The World Health Organization, over 300 million people worldwide suffer from depression. Let that sink in for a moment.
Over 300 million people.
It’s time to stop treating Depression and other mental illnesses as “taboo.” If you suffer from Depression and/or any mental illness, it doesn’t mean you’re crazy, incompetent or different, or that there is something wrong with you. It just means that the chemical makeup in your brain is making you this way. And that’s okay. Luckily, there are so many ways to treat and combat mental illness, you just have to be proactive and understand that your hopelessness or lack of motivation is more than likely just a symptom of your depression.
As a writer who has lived with Depression since adolescence, it’s important to me that I use my voice to try and contribute to the conversation about Depression and mental illness. I want to help people. Sometimes you just need the right remedies and time to heal. I finally feel like I’ve gotten to a point in my life where I’m in a much better place, and my depression is no longer controlling my entire life.
I once wrote a letter to my depression and anxiety for an exercise, and it was an eye-opening experience. Below are sections from that letter. It begins to define what my own version of depression looks like, and my feelings towards it:
“Why is it that when I know I can, you say I can’t? Why is it that I know I’m smart, but you tell me that I’m an idiot? Why is it that I try my hardest, but you claim that I can’t do anything right?
When I achieve something you can always find a fault; when I fail you say, ‘I told you so…’
…I’m afraid for you to go away because then, who would I be? We’ve been walking hand-in-hand since adolescence and I’ve only just gotten to really know you. Your roots are deep in my brain, wrapped around my memories and my identity…
These fears are your fault because you want to exist. But, why? Why would you choose me and try to ruin my perspective. I don’t have anything to be depressed about… There is nothing that is welcoming you into my life. You don’t ask for permission, though. You force your way in and sit in the pit of my stomach like a bag of sand. On my ‘down’ days, the sand enters my bloodstream and it flows to the tips of my fingers and toes and weighs them down. I don’t see the point in anything. I wonder why I exist. I wonder why anything exists. I feel like I’m falling down a pitch black hole, watching the opening slowly close as I fall further and further away from hope…
Today I am having an ‘up‘ day. I can see the silver linings of the dark clouds that hang above me; I have energy and ambition. I take these days and try to stuff them with as much as I can, because I know that the ‘down’ days will eventually come. This cycle can be exhausting, but I’m not done fighting you…”
As mentioned above, I was having an “up” day when I wrote this. There are hints of positivity and strength. I wanted to re-visit the writing exercise on one of my next “down” days so that I can compare the two. I already know that my voice will be different, and that the hope will be lacking or gone altogether. On these days, I try to surround myself with things that I love and that makes me feel better.
There are different remedies for Depression from medication to meditation, talk therapy to exercise. It’s important that you find what is best for you. We’re all different. We’re all affected by Depression differently and we all react to different remedies differently.
Below are sources that have personally helped me:
- The podcast: “The Hilarious World of Depression.” In this podcast, John Moe interviews comedians and they talk about their own struggles with mental illness. I found myself laughing and saying things like, “oh my god, me too!” to the different experiences that were shared. Sometimes it’s nice to know that you’re not alone, and this podcast makes me feel that way. It also opens up the conversation about mental illness in a positive way. To listen to the podcast, click here. They just started releasing episodes for season 2.
- Creating things. I love to write and paint, both for fun, but also for the therapeutic effect they have on me.
- Listening to music and singing. Sometimes, all I need is a sad song and a good cry. Other times it takes more, but music helps me in every one of my moods.
- Being outside and in the sunshine. Nothing makes me feel more alive than feeling the warmth of the sun on my skin. It grounds me and always makes me feel better.
- I try to talk to people when I need help, whether it’s friends, family, or a medical professional. Sometimes my Depression tells me that I’m not worth it and that I shouldn’t bother other people with my problems. But really, when has my depression actually been right about anything?
- Focusing on self care: Letting myself be upset on my down days and not beating myself up about it like I used to, can help a lot. I’m an emotional person and sometimes I just need to let those emotions out.
- Opening up the dialogue more about Depression and other mental illness also helps me. I’ve learned that it doesn’t define me, it’s just a small part of my person. I used to be ashamed and keep my Depression and Anxiety a secret, but I’m not ashamed anymore. No one should be. Instead, we should all have a conversation on how to help each other out and make life easier for each other.
If you are struggling with any type of mental illness, please, please, please reach out to a medical professional or someone you trust. On your darkest days you may think you’re not worth it, but you are. The world is a more beautiful place just because you exist. Make sure to take care of yourself.
You can always contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255, which is available 24 hours a day.
For those of you who don’t personally live with depression and other mental illnesses, a great website for information on how to talk to and help those who are affected is: Make It OK
Other great resources for information about Depression and other mental illness:
Let’s keep the conversation going: How has Depression touched your life?
For those of you who know Depression personally, what would you write in a letter addressed to it? I’d love to read your responses.