I’ll be honest: it took me a long time to learn how to live with chronic mental health challenges. It was a bit of a bumpy road, and there were some definite missteps in the process. Some days, it felt like I was just doing a trial and error for how I lived my life. This process is fluid and ongoing, which means that new challenges will continue to pop up, but managing these challenges makes up a big part of my day-to-day life. However, one of the flip sides of this has been that sometimes, I inadvertently cling to a routine I’ve created and feel like a failure if I decide to change that schedule. It’s had a negative impact on my mental health, but sometimes it’s just as hard to recognize as it is to adapt to.Continue reading
When I first started dealing with depression in a major way, I got hooked on the concept of routines. I’d had some routines growing up, but they were created more by things I did, team sports or group activities, than activities I planned on my own (of course, that’s also childhood). I’d started my own routines when I reached college, but when dealing with depression started to feel like a full-time job, I looked for ways to still live my life despite having depression. I’d read about life hacks, about little things I could do throughout the day so I wouldn’t be depressed, but nothing ever stuck. It took me a long time to learn why ‘routines’ would never work in the way I understood them – but I also learned how depression could help me create a healthier attitude toward them.Continue reading
I swear to you all, I had a great idea for a post today. I sat in bed last night, and something popped into my head that was interesting, thought-provoking, and was likely going to lead me right into another solid post on Thursday. But in my excitement (and because this was right before I fell asleep), I forgot to write it down. I thought I might remember it in the morning – and here we are. While I have other things I could focus on today, I decided to write about it because it taught me a lesson I learn often: sometimes, my anxiety outmaneuvers me, outwits me and I take the loss during my daily life. But that’s okay, and here’s why.Continue reading
Like other facets of mental health disorders and conditions, understanding high-functioning depression can be tricky. Since people experience symptoms differently, it might be difficult to understand if someone is just having a bad day or going through a difficult bout of depression. And since depressive episodes can last anywhere from a few days to several months, the situation can be even more confusing. But recognizing signs of high-functioning depression, whether we recognize them in others or in our own behavior, is one way to improve the situation. I’ve put together a list, based on personal experience and the advice of others, about some of the ways high-functioning depression can show up in our lives.Continue reading
“High-functioning depression.” The first time I heard a mental health professional say those words to me, I did a double-take. That phrase didn’t add up. At the time, I understood depression as a debilitating mental illness, one that was capable of robbing me of energy, personality and ability to be myself. And while I’d feel that way most of the time, there were periods where I was able to be productive and get things done. Those were the times I didn’t have depression then, right? Not necessarily. Learning about high-functioning depression was an necessary education – one that helped shape the way I view living with mental illness.Continue reading
“If you know someone who’s depressed, please resolve never to ask them why. Depression isn’t a straightforward response to a bad situation; depression just is, like the weather. Try to understand the blackness, lethargy, hopelessness, and loneliness they’re going through. Be there for them when they come through the other side. It’s hard to be a friend to someone who’s depressed, but it is one of the kindest, noblest, and best things you will ever do.” – Stephen Fry
It’s hard to be a friend to someone who’s depressed. This might sound obvious, but if you aren’t well-versed in mental health or mental illness, it’s not. It’s easier to help someone who’s depressed when you’re in the moment. It’s easier to help them find a psychiatrist or a therapist. It’s easier to help them get help. But to be their friend – to love and support them through what could be the darkest points of their life up to that point – is hard.
Depression isn’t always easy to spot. It can sometimes be disguised as grief, fear, exhaustion. Sometimes there seems to be an obvious reason; other times it is incredibly subtle. No matter the reason, depression is something that is extremely prevalent in today’s world – major depressive disorder (MDD) is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. for adults ages 18-44 according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. And rather than push the evidence to the side, it’s time to pay closer attention to those around us to look for some of the signs of depression (these symptoms, and many more, are listed on the Mayo Clinic’s website).
Tiredness or lack of energy
Lack of energy is a big one for me personally because when depression hits it saps me of my energy. Working out the right medication has helped physically, but it still takes a mental toll to get things done when my mind is full of negative self-talk and resentfulness. Now some people are just tired – life is like that – but when this symptom is combined with other symptoms of depression, it can be a sign of poor mental health.
When you read this I know you’re thinking about your insomniac friend. I know, because I am that insomniac friend. But before you diagnose your friend remember – problems sleeping include both people who don’t get enough and people who get too much. So if your friend has trouble getting out of bed to do normal everyday activities, you might want to ask them if they’re okay.
Feelings of sadness, tearfulness, emptiness or hopelessness
This is one of the prime symptoms of depression that set it apart from other mental health disorders. That last word – hopelessness – is common among people with depression. We feel empty. We feel hopeless. And we feel like things are never going to get better. As with other symptoms, this might be circumstantial, but when it’s not you should talk to someone about it. Sadness happens. Feeling empty happens. But it shouldn’t consume your life.
Trouble thinking, concentrating or remembering things
I have a terrible memory. I constantly forget things that happen – my camera roll is full of mundane photos that help me remember the things I do in life. Now, I won’t blame that all on depression. Like the other symptoms listed, take this with a grain of salt. But when you combine this symptom with feelings of hopelessness and a lack of energy, it’s possible that you might be having a depressive episode. Your mind can get cloudy when it’s full of self-hate and negative thoughts, and that can easily get in the way of concentrating on things.
Loss of interest in normal activities
I love the game of basketball. I played competitively at a high level until I was 18 years old. It got to the point that I was doing something basketball-related almost every single day. But as my depression got worse in college, I lost interest in playing. I didn’t get burned out. I didn’t fall out of love with the game. I just didn’t get any pleasure out of it. When that happens to the things you love – schoolwork, hobbies, teams or clubs – you need to evaluate why you lost interest. If there’s a concrete reason, it’s okay. That’s life. But when a loss of interest or pleasure happens suddenly or for no reason at all, you might want to ask yourself why that is.
While all of these are signs of depression, you should NOT diagnose yourself because you identify with one of these symptoms. Depression should not be a word to be thrown around lightly – it is a serious issue that affects millions of people. However, if you begin to combine these symptoms and notice a pattern of behavior in a friend or loved one, you should check in on them – not just to talk about to depression, but to make sure they’re doing okay.
There’s no doubt about it, depression sucks. Whether it’s having no energy, not enjoying anything, crying for no reason or just wishing you weren’t here (fun STUFF am I right?), there are plenty of symptoms that can be a sign that something is off.
When depression hits, I try to fight it. I’m not saying I’m always successful, but I do make the effort – much more than I used to. And I’ve learned a thing or two over the years about what can help turn a depression day into a (somewhat) normal day. That might not sound like much, but to me, it’s enough. Here are five things you can (try to) do when depression hits you like a ton of bricks.
Get out of bed
Depression can sap you of your energy and make you not want to do anything – even something that seems as simple as leaving your bed can be a monumental task. It’s not always easy, but getting out of bed and interacting with the world can go a long way. It’s easy to stay in bed when you’re tired or you want extra sleep, but when you feel crippled by depression and don’t want to leave, that’s a sign that you might need help. I’ve had many days where I feel like I didn’t accomplish anything, but when I remember that I got out of bed and chose to be a human – that day gets a little easier.
Eat healthy foods
Eating healthily might sound like a pro tip for the general public, but it can also help improve your mental health. Sometimes when I’m depressed, I have the urge to eat junk food until my stomach is sick – making me feel as bad physically as I do mentally. Seeing the link between mental health and physical health is an important step toward self-improvement. If you can improve how you feel physically, that may help how you feel mentally.
It’s important to tell someone that you’re feeling depressed or having an off day. No, they are not responsible for making the depression go away. Sometimes there isn’t anything they can do at all. When I am depressed, I feel like I’m all alone – that no one else is going through what I’m going through. Since in reality, that’s not true, reminding myself that I’m not alone is paramount to getting through the depression. Having someone out there that knows how you’re feeling can go a long way, and make you feel less alone in your struggle.
I’ve talked about physical wellness before, but it’s an important aspect of getting out of that depression funk so I don’t want to gloss over it. Please know that when I say exercise, I don’t necessarily mean hitting the gym and lifting weights. Any form of exercise can be helpful to someone who’s depressed. Going for a run, doing yoga, biking outside, or even just taking a walk around the block can help keep those depression symptoms at bay. Try to do get some exercise when you’re feeling down – it’s more important than you think.
Practice Coping Strategies
We all have different coping strategies for dealing with mental illness. Over the years, I have found what works – and what doesn’t work – when it comes to my depression and anxiety. But that came after a process of trial and error. Use this time to practice coping strategies that you’ve learned from friends, therapy, the Internet, wherever. They might not all work. That’s okay! You practice them so you can see what works for you. Everyone’s different and oftentimes, it doesn’t matter what you do to cope with depression as long as it’s healthy and keeps your feelings at bay.
I’m introverted by nature, so spending time with groups of people tires me out pretty quickly. Introverted people typically need time to themselves to recharge their batteries, to be alone with their thoughts. They’re typically more reflective than most because they feed off that solitude.
I’m speculating, of course, because that’s merely been my experience as an introverted person, but I’ve heard from friends that they can be the same way (how do you think we became friends?). However, if you combine an introvert with a mental illness, that alone time becomes increasingly more complicated – and not easy to come by.
Hey, how’s your day going? Probably great if you’re reading this swell content. One thing that is very difficult when talking about mental health is to be blunt. Honestly, it’s my biggest problem if I’m discussing my mental health. It’s so much easier to talk around the subject and not get right to the point. Kind of like I am right now…