Let’s begin by reflecting on the idea of how mental illness is not visible. We as a society fail to recognize that, we fail to acknowledge how even the happiest person in front of us can be the loneliest person on the inside. We have the tendency to follow through the notion of how if an individual does not have a breakdown or falls apart or shows any form of vulnerability, they are completely okay. This is incorrect, and this is also why mental health issues such as ‘depression’ go unrecognized as a whole. The whole notion overpowers our way of responding to the topic of mental health, it overpowers our ability to see through a person beyond just a smile, a laugh or their success. It deceives us into believing the unknown, in accordance to our assumptions.
Depression is one of the most common mental health issues currently in our generation amongst a wide variety of age groups. There is no single reason behind depression, it can start with the smallest of struggles eventually leading onto affecting us to the point of completely consuming us holistically. A lot of individuals who live with depression, live with the idea that things or aspects of their lives will never ease down or get better, they live in the notion of how they’re unloved, unworthy and unwanted, they live every single day wondering and identifying themselves as weak. It’s more than what we perceive it to be.
People living with depression respond differently, they may be more consumed by the smallest things in life in comparison to others due to the prime reason being their current thought process, which is consistently moving in the wrong direction, a direction which is misleading and misguided. Depression is difficult to identify. There are times when we can openly notice someone’s change of behaviour but for the rest of time, it’s difficult to reflect on it and to spot it, which makes it extremely imperative for each of us to be attentive and compassionate towards the people we love and care about.
Depression doesn’t necessarily have to take on the face of sadness. There could be someone right in front of you with the biggest smile, and they could be struggling deeply on the inside, however, externally, all we acknowledge is their laughter, failing to dive deeper into questioning them and asking “How are you feeling though?” Depression does not have a timeline, it depends from person to person. It’s painful, it makes it difficult to find even the slightest hope, it laughs to prevent one from breaking down, it may be hidden in someone’s success and fame but that does not indicate that it isn’t any less painful. Depression is real, and we need to openly accept that and be more mindful of our intentions and actions.
How to Deal with Depression?
Recovering from depression isn’t quick or easy but what we don’t realise is that we do have more control over our emotions than we think we do, even if your depression is severe and stubbornly persistent. The key is to start small and build from there. It’s okay to feel as if you’re drowning in a wave of sadness but as and when you take even the smallest step to reflect on your sadness and take a step ahead than a step back is when you’ll finally find a little ray of light again.
Taking the first step is always the hardest. Going for a walk or getting up early or dancing to your favourite music is something small that you can do right now, it can substantially boost your mood and energy for several hours long enough to put a second recovery step into action such as preparing a mood-boosting meal or arranging to meet an old friend. By taking the following small but positive steps daily, you’ll soon lift the darkness of depression and find yourself feeling happier and more hopeful again. It all starts with us and the choices we make for ourselves.
1) Stay in touch and reach out: When we’re going through a dark phase, most of us tend to bury it in the ground because we believe that expressing ourselves will push away the people in our lives, making us afraid of the idea that we’ll be perceived and labelled as “weak”, “fragile” or “broken.” This, however, is the core belief which only increases our tendency of engaging in suppression leading us to feel even more hopeless. Everyone may not understand and that’s okay. Sometimes all we need is the one person who we believe will make us feel understood and heard, and you should reach out to that person. There is always someone to listen to you, don’t fall into the misguided belief that there isn’t.
2) Challenge your negative thoughts: When living with depression, one is consistently wired to think in a negative direction and may interpret even the most harmful comments as something which is wrongfully directed towards them – the mind convinces us that the world is preoccupied with hopelessness and helplessness, and it’s almost a moment where one loses faith in the hope of detaching themselves from it. This follows up with the creation of a vicious cycle, leading to a never-ending downward spiral. What we fail to pay attention to is the idea of how one’s thoughts are just thoughts and one’s feelings are just feelings – we fail to realise the importance of separating the two. Instead, we believe our thoughts and feelings are the entirety of our being, it’s the entirety of the people we are and will become. “I’m depressed”, “I’m stressed”, “I’m sad” are ways of strongly emphasising on how we are our depression, we are our stress, we are our sadness and this is exactly where we lose our way. Instead, validate your emotions and experiences and start by saying, “I notice that I am depressed/stressed/sad, but let’s try reflecting on where this is coming from.” When you take the first step, it’s then that you finally put yourself on a path to move away and perceive it logically and with grace.
3) Do things that make you feel good/bring you peace: We don’t give enough credit to the smallest things which can make us feel better. When one is constantly preoccupied with a million hopeless thoughts, it becomes extremely difficult to pay attention to anything that can positively impact them. However, one needs to shift their focus and take one step ahead – this could include going for a walk, listening to your favourite song amidst pure silence, or expressing yourself through art or writing – even the smallest steps can make the biggest impact, it can be a drastic step leading one to find themselves again, and even that little bit of hope amidst consistent darkness is everything and more.
4) Seek professional help/therapy:Therapy isn’t easy but as you move along, you will experience letting go, you will identify a part of yourself which was hidden amidst various emotions and experiences, and you will experience a feeling that is liberating in its purest form. Therapy doesn’t only give you direction but it gives you a safe space to be yourself, to be vulnerable, to feel all your feelings, to explore your inner world and to identify old and new things about yourself – it will liberate you of all the things which were holding you back, and help you see the light again. It will help you to rebuild a new story from a combination of small old ones. Therapy works.
We don’t have to feel better overnight, in a day, a week or even months – healing and recovery can be slow but to take the first step ahead and to believe you have the power to make the choices rather than letting your emotions make them for you, is what will lead you to resiliently take on any feeling that comes your way. It does get better, just hold onto yourself.
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