Depression has the annoying habit of hitting you at the worst times, such as right between your college applications, before a big tournament, on your first day of college, or in the middle of finals. The first time it comes, depression could make you feel safe, lazy, and tired. It could strip you of all motivation, especially the motivation to change. Lack of motivation is a core symptom of depression. You might not have the motivation to get out of bed, let alone change the negative habits depression causes.
I will share steps that I’ve taken that helped me want to get better. Depression could make you feel like you don’t deserve to get better. You may have been sad for so long that realizing you have depression is a sigh of relief because depression is not your fault. This can make it difficult to want to get better. But do it anyway. You are worth it.
The hardest hurdle to overcome when you are feeling sad, down, or depressed is to want to feel better. The feeling of sadness can be so comforting and cathartic that you may not want to feel any other way. That is okay, for a while, if you are not harming yourself or someone else. Let yourself cry, scream, sob, and shake for fifteen minutes, then begin to take care of yourself. The hardest part is to be able to step aside from sadness and tell yourself that it’s time to feel better. It’s even harder when you are depressed because depression can be a self-inflicting cycle that makes you feel guilty for feeling sad. Here are some ways I helped myself get out of the rut of depression that you can use too.
First, remind yourself that you are worth feeling better. Sadness and depression can make you feel worthless and unmotivated (although sadness and depression are not the same thing). I know it might seem silly to affirm to yourself that you are worth it, but constantly reminding yourself will let your body and mind rethink how you view yourself. Reaffirming to yourself that you are worth feeling better will help you realize that you have value, despite how depression may make you feel. Take out a post-it and write “I am worth feeling better.” Stick it on your mirror and read it to yourself every day, just to remind your mind and body that it’s time to take care of yourself.
Reach out for help. Tell your best friend, your significant other, your teacher, a therapist, or anyone you trust. If you can’t find anyone you trust or don’t want to bother anybody because depression might make you feel like you are not worth being taken care of (which is definitely not true), text 1800-273-8255 (a crisis text resource) or call the C.A.P.S. helpline. Just reach out to someone. Text them now. Your friends care about you.
I have differentiated my depression from myself by reminding myself that my depression does not define me. A way I did this was to name my depression Greg and imagine him as a bad roommate with no boundaries invading my body and living in it with me. An exercise you could do to differentiate your depression from yourself is to make some art, because art is a great way to express yourself. I wrote a slam poem, but you could also draw or sing about what your depression looks like. My slam poem featured a scruffy man wearing a long black trench-coat, sneaking into bed and holding me down into the bed by my tummy. When I am finding it difficult to separate my sadness from myself, I close my eyes and picture him next to me. He feels cold and leathery. He smells like a hospital hallway. He sounds like an old man singing me scary lullabies, shushing me to sleep. Identifying your depression as distinct from yourself could help you allow yourself to fight it. On bad days, I remind myself that I’m not fighting me, I’m fighting Greg and my depression. I don’t have to fight alone, because I have friends, my therapist, antidepressants and my coping skills to help me combat him.
Making to-do lists may help you feel more motivated. Depression can make it hard to take care of your hygiene, so the first thing on your list might be to take a warm shower. You might be at the point where it seems impossible to leave your room or get out of bed, so the first thing you could do is get out of bed. A good rule of thumb when dealing with depression is “Opposite Action.” Dialectical Behavioral Therapy suggests that when feeling depressed, you should do the opposite of what you feel like doing. So, if you feel like binge eating chocolate, go to Essie’s, get yourself a burger or a wrap, and eat that first and then eat some chocolate. Make a three-step list, get the steps done, cross them off your list, and then add three more. All you have to do is get three things done. I know depression strips you of your motivation, but you can do just three things. One of them could be to reach out to a friend and to remind yourself that you are worth feeling better.
Lastly, trust yourself. There is an intrinsic part of you that wants to survive, to get better, to not feel constantly sad. Trust this part and identify your intrusive thoughts that depression whispers into your brain. Trust that you can at least try to do this. I used to believe that I was not making progress because no matter how much I tried different things, I always failed. Trying is the first step to change. As long as you try, you are doing the best you can. If you try, and can’t succeed, that’s okay. Some days I can finish my ten tasks, some days I finish three, and on other days, I don’t get out of bed. Either way, I am trying to feel better, and this is the important part. Depression is taxing to deal with. It drains your energy and leaves you breathless. You are worth taking care of yourself, and all you have to do is try.
I know how hard it can be to want to get better. I also know, however, that trying is the only way to know if you can do it. I incorporate some new skills into my routine and see how they might help me feel better. If you keep trying, then the depression will fade away into the background and you’ll realize how much better it is to be able to feel an entire spectrum of wonderful emotions. Depression doesn’t define you.