Depression

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Mental illness isn’t a sin. It doesn’t mean the people struggling with it are failures. It can’t be cured by “cheering up”, or getting out. For most, it’s a lifelong battle, and some lose their lives to it. Yes, it can kill. Many people with mental health issues have the diagnosis of a depressive disorder. In fact, these are some of the most common diagnoses. Some of the symptoms are avoiding people, not eating or eating too much, lack of ambition, lack of hygiene, thoughts of uselessness, and contemplating suicide. Other symptoms are rage, irritability, feelings of hopelessness, insomnia, and lack of energy. This is by no means a complete list of symptoms, and I am not a professional in this field. I am making this post to help inform people.

CAUSES

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There are numerous causes of depression. Sometimes it runs in the family. It can be due to trauma. Sometimes it is connected with another illness such as hypothyroidism, and sometimes there’s no obvious cause. It is not uncommon for people to have things going well in their lives and still be depressed. I personally have a double-edged sword when it comes to this. My mother struggled with depression. I was physically and verbally abused growing up, which triggered depression for me. I also live with hypothyroidism. For those who don’t know what that is, the thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in your neck. It produces a hormone that affects every part of the body in all people. When it can’t produce enough hormones, depression is one of the symptoms.

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FIGHTING BACK

There are ways to combat depression, but they aren’t one size fits all. What works for some people may not for others. However, I will list a few that help some people so you may have suggestions. Listening to music or watching a film, or getting an emotional support animal. I had emotional support rats. Yes, I said rats. They are loving, compassionate, goofy creatures that bring a smile to my face. Some people go for dogs or cats. Those are both great animals too. Writing, drawing, other forms of art, singing, and ranting on social media might help. Some people find it helpful to look at pictures of nature. Maybe you can take some pictures of nature. Aromatherapy could help. I personally love the scent of baked goods. Exorcise can help if you have the energy for it. Try it in small steps. A walk around your house, if you still feel up to it, go a little further. Take a walk to the store, or a park. If you can walk to a friend’s house. Enjoy some nature. If you are not capable of this, it’s ok. Let me say that again. It’s ok if you don’t have the energy to go for a walk.

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Visualizations are a good idea. This one is slightly easier than the others. Basically, you are using your imagination. You can imagine yourself in some quiet, calming place where you are completely and totally loved. You can imagine yourself on some grand adventure. The choice is yours and you are only limited by your imagination with this one. You could visualize your depression as something physical and beat the crap out of it too. I am a huge fan of “Doctor Who”. I like to imagine myself visiting distant planets in the T.A.R.D.I.S. where The Doctor and I get in some trouble. We also help people. You could read a book. A good story can be an escape at least. If you have the ability, perhaps some volunteer work. Sometimes stepping outside ourselves and helping others can lift us up too.

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Creating consistency in your life may help. Set your alarm so you get up at the same time. Eat at regular times. Eat healthy foods that promote energy. Create a plan for your day and stick to it as best you can. This suggestion is particularly difficult because of the amount of energy it can take. However, it is still a good idea if you can do it. For some, it’s difficult because of job, family, school, and life in general, but still worth putting out there. Remember though, it’s ok if you don’t have the strength for any of the suggestions in this. It’s ok if it doesn’t work and you have to try again or try something else. And it’s ok to not be ok.

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It can take an incredible amount of energy just to try these. They are just a few examples of what’s out there. The truth is you have to find what works for you. Also, talk to someone about it like your best friend. I understand that reaching out is hard, but people are not clairvoyant. They can’t help if they don’t know. There is such strong support on Twitter for mental health issues. Not every advocate is a professional in the field, but many of them are so willing to listen and offer some suggestions. They share their downfalls and triumphs regularly so that others may feel their experience, strength, and hope. And trust me there is hope. Maybe not a cure, but things can be better.

You are not at fault for your depression

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Depression will tell you that you are worthless. It will tell you that you are not loved; try to convince you that every bad thing in your life is your fault, and keep silent. It will tell you that nobody gives a shit. It is lying. You have value, you are loved although you may not know it. Maybe you have made some bad choices in your life, but that is part of being human. We all do it. Some of the stuff that has happened to you is not your fault. You didn’t deserve it. Some people give a care, and we are searching for you. If you keep silent, you are giving it power. Depression is like the monster hiding under a child’s bed. The only power that monster has is to produce fear. Turning on the light takes away that power. Speaking out is turning on the light. You are capable of flipping the switch. You just don’t know it yet.

WAYS TO HELP

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Some of you out there might not struggle with depression. That’s a good thing, and I am happy for you. However, you probably have someone in your life who does. Even if they have not said so. If someone is exhibiting some of the symptoms listed above, they may be depressed. There are a few things you can do. Be kind to them. Let them know that you care. Send them a message that says thinking of you. offer to take them out. Try to be compassionate toward them. Even if you make a well-meaning mistake. Still trying to show them compassion. Here are a few things NOT to do. Don’t give them a guilt trip if they aren’t capable of doing something, call them lazy or say “What do you have to be depressed about?” or “Other people have it worse than you.” These things invalidate the person. Instead, try “I’m here to listen if you need.” Then if they do open up, don’t judge. Don’t start with the “You should do this”. Just listen. If they cry, it’s ok. If they yell or scream it’s ok (so long as they are not being verbally or physically abusive).

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If they don’t want to talk, it’s ok. Sometimes just you being there can help. Ask them what they would like you to do. Offer to watch a movie with them, or make them dinner. Tell them a funny joke. If they make a request that isn’t unreasonable, do it to the best of your ability. It can be very difficult when someone in your life struggles with mental health issues. Also, remember that you matter too. If you need to step away from the situation for your own well-being that’s ok. If they do get abusive toward you, don’t feel guilty for leaving. Just because someone has a mental illness does not mean that you need to be a punching bag. If you need to talk to someone or seek out help for yourself, that’s ok too. Just try to do it without holding anything against them if you can. You did not cause what they are going through. It isn’t any more your fault than it is theirs. Please keep that in mind.

I want to thank the people on Twitter who helped me with the suggestions for this post. You are all awesome people! As always, my DMs are open on Twitter. I am @Samanddeanfan_1. Reach out to me if you like.

2 thoughts on “Depression

  1. Ashley L. Peterson – Canada – I'm the author of four books: Psych Meds Made Simple, Making Sense of Psychiatric Diagnosis, Managing the Depression Puzzle, and A Brief History of Stigma. These are informed by my professional experience as a former pharmacist and mental health nurse, as well as my lived experience of major depressive disorder. My goal with Mental Health @ Home is to challenge mental illness stigma and provide a safe space for open dialogue to empower others to share their voices.

    “You are not at fault for your depression.” – This is so important.

    1. Mickey Gohl – I'm a Lackawanna College graduate, a transgender male, a poet, a mental health advocate, and an animal lover.

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