There are a litany of reasons to hate depression. It colors your mood, makes you apathetic, makes everything seem worse than it is, and the list goes on. The part that people forget to talk about, the part that people don’t generally bring up in conversation when is the number of lies that depression feeds us.
I’ve struggled with mental health issues for most of my life. I’ve never been particularly great at winning my own battles with it, but that’s because I spend most of my time helping other people’s with theirs. We talk constantly about so many symptoms of depression in their lives, but they never bring up the thing that worries me most about depression: the way it lies to us.
Depression’s Definition of a Person
My depression when it’s that constant, nagging voice that’s always around, redefines who I am. Until my depression got really bad, I was outgoing, I was always getting As, pushing myself and my boundaries. When it hit, it slowly started redefining who I was as a person. I was a goal setting, goal achieving, person that cared about others and had plenty of friends. I became, over time, someone that failed at everything, that no one loved, that no one would be there for, I was a burden in people’s lives even when we hardly interacted.
Depression warps every tiny aspect of who you are to make you feel worse. You’ll go out, set a goal, accomplish that goal, and depression will tell you that you failed and that no one else could be proud of you so there’s no reason for you to be proud of yourself. It will seep into those quiet moments where everything is okay and it will slowly warp it until nothing is okay. It will take those moments where you have friends around you, people you love and cherish, and it will make it seem like they pity you and the only reason they have you around is so that they can remind themselves how much better off they are than you.
Depression defines you as the worst thing you can imagine.
How to Fight Back
I can’t tell you about a magic cure that will instantly take away depression. It’s a fight. It’s long, it’s arduous, and a lot of the times when it swings back, it feels like a waste of time, but there is nothing more important than to reclaim yourself and your sense of self.
The easiest way that I’ve found to fight back is just to keep a gratitude journal. I know, it sounds really stupid and when I first started I felt the same way. There’s a power to it though, there is a power to deliberately seeing the good in things. When you’re dealing with a monster in your head that throws nothing but the negatives at you, it is a big win to be able to stop it and say “no, not all of this is bad. I choose to see good in here.” Over time, that good becomes larger and larger, it won’t stop negative things from happening, it won’t immediately stop you from feeling down every day, but it will over time make everything more alright. It will even out, and at the end of it, you’ll get to a point where what was previously a terrible day, will just be a day that was pretty good with a bad event or two mixed in.
The Practice of the Journal
There are a few ways to start this journal out. You need to find what works for you, but here’s how I do it.
I have a legal pad or a notebook, and in it I write: the day’s date, five things that I’m grateful for in my life (e.g. my friends, the fact I have a job, my cat Havoc, the fact that every day I get to learn something new, pizza), then come the really critical part of three things I’m grateful for about myself. The reason this is so critical is that you’re actually choosing to see something in yourself that your depression doesn’t want you to see. It can be really simple, some days mine are literally, I’m grateful for the fact that I’m trying, I’m grateful for the fact that I choose to do good, and I’m grateful for the fact that I care about other people. Those three things seem really small, but the repetition of seeing reasons to be grateful for yourself every day leaves a mark. They’re like snow flakes landing on the ground, some melt, some fade, but with enough of them, they blanket everything and change the world into something new.
Give yourself a fighting chance. Choose, actively choose, to fight that monster in your head instead of just labeling it and saying it’s there and you can’t deal with it. Every single person I’ve met that has dealt with depression is a person that I’m proud of. Some have gone on to teach, some have gone on to do social work, some have gone on to be doctors, the thing that stands out to me the most about people who struggle with depression is that all of us tend to end up caring more about the well being of others. We know what it’s like to be down, to feel out, to be left by the wayside. We also all know what it’s like to fight back, to get up again, to keep going.
Depression makes warriors out of people that never thought they were strong. Go out and use your strength to reclaim yourself. Remind the people you care about that you care about them. Live to see your best self come back. You’re stronger than you know, whether you yourself have depression or you’re helping somebody else deal with it, the fact that you’re fighting at all is an accomplishment to be proud of.