We all know the statistics and the ‘facts’ surrounding the mental illness known as depression. It is an increasingly common illness affecting up to 17% of people throughout their lives and is triggered by various circumstances which leave an individual feeling lonely, sad, tired and lost.
After a two week period, these feeling become abnormal and once they begin to obstruct our routine, behaviour, relationships and ultimately our lives they can signal that we are experiencing something far more serious than ‘the blues’(ADAA).
Having been through depression myself, the best way I have been able to describe it is like a flat soda. What was once bright, colourful and full of flavour is now dull, lifeless and dead. We are told how to identify this pandemic in ourselves and our friends, but who actually tells those of us who are depressed how to feel happy again?
Purely from my own experience, I have learnt that recovery is not about a few large steps but many small ones taken each day. Here are five steps that helped me on my journey to recovery.
1. Find what makes you happy and keep doing it.
As simple as it seems, the act of watching your favourite TV show or listening to your favourite music can turn your entire day around. Find the simple things that require very little energy, and make a point of doing them daily. You deserve to be happy, and by constantly implementing behaviours that make you feel good you will start to believe this.
2. Be kind to yourself
Mental illness is exactly that, an illness; and it has its own set of symptoms, causes and treatments. Would you tell someone with a cold off for sneezing? By secretly hating yourself for being depressed you are denying your body and mind the right to show it is ill. It is ok that you blank out in conversations, run away from company or just generally hide away from the world. These are symptoms of the illness, not who you are as a person.
3. Challenge yourself
The sad truth is that if you never challenge yourself or get help, it is highly unlikely you will get better and experience a normal level of happiness. With the support of someone you trust, seek out opportunities to stretch yourself so you begin to improve. Perhaps your next step is walking round the block, doing two sit ups or taking a phone call. The smallest things lead to the greatest improvements.
4. Talk about it
Your life is horrendous right now, and everyone knows it. But this doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be talked about. Find someone you trust; a counsellor or psychologist is beneficial simply because they are removed from the situation, and vent. If you don’t feel like talking then just sit. You need a safe place where you can be completely honest. For me, seeing a counsellor made all the difference and kept me accountable so I could return to my normal life.
5. Remember who you are
Before you were diagnosed with the dreaded ‘D’ word, you were a thriving parent, sibling, friend or spouse. You were a cherished member of the community and contributed to it consistently. Now you struggle to pull yourself out of bed and count yourself as fortunate if you only tear up once in the day. You may feel and act different now, but this does not change who you are. You still have much to offer the world and your family. You are not your depression, you are simply experiencing an illness that is pushing you to take stock of your life and re-evaluate what is really important.
Unlike most self-help articles, I cannot say that by following these five steps you will overcome your depression and feel happy again. However I can say from experience that doing these things will allow you to feel supported, valued and strengthened as you get through each day.
Overcoming depression is a long journey and each one is unique. The good news is that you are innately strong enough to overcome this as you free yourself of the restraints that caused this illness to begin with, allowing you to live a more abundant life than ever before.