DEPRESSION. I've been there, and you probably have too. Here are 5 things I've learned about it.
1. It's kinda complex.
- There are degrees of depression: There's feeling blue and then there's suicidal despair. It all falls under the gloomy heading of SAD, though.Clinical depression is the label that professionals use to diagnose a syndrome with a specific set of symptoms (that you can read about here)--it's how they distinguish ordinary mood changes from an illness that is interrupting life.
- There's a lot of stuff that can cause it and contribute to it. Yeah, being dumped could certainly be a culprit, but so could unresolved anxiety, diet and sleep patterns, bipolar disorder, life changes, loss, chemical imbalances, physical trauma, stress, negative self-talk... You get the picture.
2. It doesn't make you weird.
It might surprise you, but there are probably 19 million people all around you suffering from major depression. No, I didn't make that number up and it's not an exaggeration. And of the other millions of people who don't have depression right now, many of them have in the past or might in the future. Major depression is a mood disorder, and experiencing it doesn't make you weird; it just indicates that you're human. So if you have symptoms that are interrupting your life, go ahead and
get some help
, because it's your life and now is absolutely the time to live it.
3. Faith can be a help, but it might not be the cure.
Experiencing depression as a believer in Jesus is better in my opinion than experiencing depression without Jesus, because when you're unexplainably sad, having an intimate and gracious Friend is a wonderful comfort and a source of strength. But even the greatest Friend doesn't guarantee permanent bliss and emotional invincibility. I know that sometimes religious people talk about faith and salvation and the Holy Spirit as if they were bullet-proof armor against unhappiness, but that's silly. The most sacred of all books records the depression of the saintliest of all people: Hannah, Elijah, Peter, and yeah, Jesus.
So although moping around and feeling sorry for yourself isn't a virtue, feeling sad isn't a sin. If you're experiencing depression, don't make the fact that you're depressed another reason to be depressed. (That probably didn't make any sense.)
4. Some things don't make it better.
From personal experience, I present to you the not-at-all-definitive list of things that probably won't help you get un-depressed:
- beating yourself up about it ("You stupid loser, stop being depressed" has never been proven to cure anyone)
- isolating yourself from the people that care.
- dropping stuff that used to make you happy, usually in favor of more tv/food/internet/video games/whatever
- binges. of any kind. Cuz you just feel crappier later.
- alcohol. This isn't from personal experience, but I thought I'd throw it in here because so many people like to drink when they're sad. But alcohol is physiological downer, so it only makes your body more sad which makes it harder for your mind to get happy. Las drogas son malas, tambien.
5. But some things do.
Maybe one of the sneakiest things about depression is that it usually sucks away all desire to. do. anything. So when you're depressed it's pretty challenging to muster up the energy and drive even to write down a list of "Things I Should Do (but probably won't because hey! I'm depressed and I'll probably live the rest of my life wearing sweatpants in the living room watching tv)." Therefore, to simplify the list-making process for you, I present another not-at-all-definitive guide of things that probably will make you feel better.
- Talk to someone about it. It's so twentieth century to suffer in silence thinking that depression is something to be ashamed about. You don't mind telling somebody that you have a sore in your mouth from eating too much pineapple, so why be shy about this? I know, I know: you think your depression is a sign that you're weak or unspiritual or silly, but it's not. It's real and it's normal and it's affecting you. And even though you're prone not to believe me, Mr. Depressed Guy, you matter. So talk to
- Your mom
- A friend
- Your favorite cousin
- Your roommate
- A professional counselor. Stop thinking it's weird. It's fine. If you want to find a professional near you, great places to start are your doctor's office, a list from your insurance company, and the counseling office of a nearby university.
- Do things that you used to enjoy. Think back to that time when you really derived pleasure from things. Now... what were those things? Go do one. Seriously. You don't have to enjoy your 30 minutes of knitting, just make yourself do it. Let the enjoyment come when it's ready, but open the door for it :)
- Set modest goals for yourself and then feel awesome when you achieve them. For me that meant accomplishing 6 things every day, including "breakfast" and "getting dressed." Baby steps, people!
- Move. ---Not your address, but your body. It really can lift your mood, so take even a short walk outside. I'm not kidding when I say that some days that meant making myself walk to the mailbox. But it counts! It totally counts.
So, my friend, I leave you with this word of hope:
You don't have to feel this way forever.
There is help.