Kristin Diversi takes an honest look at living with depression, and discusses a few tips on how to deal with it.
Depression is a funny thing.
Actually, it’s not funny. It’s not funny in the way that Seinfeld isn’t funny. It’s just life, and it’s just there, but when you look at it from the outside, all of a sudden you can’t believe how fascinating the banal has become (is that my life? How did it get like that??). And just like life (and Seinfeld), a lot of us are living a similar story.
No – you are not alone, although it can feel that way, and depression would definitely like us to think that. But will it surprise you to know that there are many people out there feeling the same way you are? Personally, I was shocked as hell.
Depression has nothing to do with life’s trappings, or circumstances, and it is different from sadness or grief. One in ten adults – over 15 million Americans every year – will experience depression, and yet over two-thirds of us don’t get the help that we need. At least six million American men are included in this number, and doctors believe that it’s probably higher. But 1) men are less likely to seek mental health help than women, and 2) men don’t exhibit depression the same way that women do, and so their struggle may go undetected – even to themselves. There may be experiences of severe anxiety, physical symptoms like headaches or chest pain, sleep disruption, and changes in energy and confidence. More often than women, men are likely to feel angry, frustrated, and irritated when they are depressed. To find out more about depression, and maybe take a brief online assessment, click here.
Depression doesn’t change when things on the outside do. Like life, it moves on with us, through triumphs, over sunny days, past the holiday season. We can only heal when it moves on with us, through us, when we process the pain that it’s manifesting as: numbness, anger, fear, sadness, isolation. Which mask does your depression wear today? In time, we work to heal the root of that pain. To do anything else – ignore the pain, be mad at it, pretend it’s not there – would be to bury it, and that’s not healing (and most likely, it will show up down the road somewhere: mentally, physically, spiritually, emotionally).
Ignoring it may seem like an easier, better route, because dealing with depression is hard. For many, the circumstances of our lives are great, but we still deal with depression regularly – even when we “should” be happy.
In a Seinfeld episode, depression is the Newman character. He’s not there all the time, but we always know he’s lurking a few floors below. Always in the building. Ready to be a pain in the ass.
One of the most frustrating parts of my depression is the fact that I can’t “happy” it away, and no one else can, either. My incredible husband can’t love it away, but he’ll certainly try (and I’ll love him twice as much, for the effort). I can’t exercise it away. I can’t shop it away. I’ve tried all of these things, and more.
And I feel shame. Shame because my life is nearly perfect, and I can’t un-depression myself. Shame because my husband (like many spouses) is amazing and wonderful and fully supportive, and so how can I still have depression? Shame because I do what I love, and still. What more can you ask for, Depression?
What do you want?
Depression is like having a filter on life, and it’s going to be a little more difficult for us to clear it up. It can feel like a layer of sludge, on your head, your heart, your soul.
What can we do with depression? Since we can’t out love, out shop, out yoga, out sex, out drink, out happy it?
We can learn from it. Discover new pieces of ourselves.
Get in it. Don’t ignore it. Don’t give in to it. I guarantee you that there are so many people in the world that are thinking of you at this moment, and they love you more than you know. They are invested in your health and healing. Think of one right now.
Don’t tell them how you are, at first. Ask how they are doing. Encourage them to tell you every single thing that is going on with them. Can you help them in some way with something? Even just by listening?
Doesn’t that feel better?
Loving others, feeling beloved, is a sure way to bring more sunshine, more healing into our days.
Get out of the house, even if you just go for a walk. It’s not that cold out – put on a damn sweater! A silly one, if you can. Force yourself to move. You will feel better once your body wakes up and the endorphins kick in. Look around you at nature, at people, at the moon, and feel in touch with the universe. Because all of that came from the same place. If that’s not your thing, just take a deep breath. It’s the same deep breath we all take. Connect there.
Go to the gym. Wish someone a good morning. Tidy up your house a bit. I hate it too, but it’ll feel better than looking at the mess from the couch. Make a cup of herbal tea (there are way too many flavors to not like one) and read a book. Memoirs always elevate me. David Sedaris is incredible, but try Paul Stutzman for adventure, and Eric Hipple for football and coping with loss – seriously. Just read something that lifts you.
Look into local volunteer opportunities. Make it something you like. You’re not going to do it if it’s something you dread. Helping others is a way to feel connected, to feel valued, to lift ourselves out of our heads in order to be helping hands.
Get a good snack, or better yet, good chocolate. Hershey’s is for the birds. I like to go to the local ice cream parlor and get a big old sundae, a “feel sorry sundae” or a “do what I want sundae.” If snacks don’t do it for you, make a gratitude list (and maybe put your ice cream or chocolate at the top). Thank you is one of the best ways to realize that, yes, you are depressed, but, dammit, you can still be happy.
Because life is full and abundant. Even and despite depression.
Depression. It’s not sexy. It’s not funny. But, like life, it can move on, but only with your help.
About the author:
Kristin Diversi is a star child, born and bred in rural New Jersey and currently enjoying the good coffee and fried chicken in Durham, North Carolina. Kristin has a bunch of education, but it took her eleven years of school and work experience to do absolutely nothing related to any of her degrees. Find the things that make you come alive- and go do them. Find her at her blog, on Twitter, or on Facebook!
Photo credit: Flickr/ryanmelaugh