Full disclosure, I wrote this a few months ago, but didn’t have the courage to post it.
I feel a little squirrel-y writing this one, because it is deeply personal and despite the massive strides in fighting stigmas around mental health, I’d be deluding myself if I thought the stigmas were entirely eradicated. BUT, this month marks an important anniversary for me, and I couldn’t let it slide without some sort of comment.
I have struggled with and managed my depression for as long as I can remember. Ten years ago this month, I sought help for the first time. After therapy, trial and error, and incredible support from my family, my friends, my SO, and one particularly great college professor, I’ve found depression management tips that work for me.
*Caveat: Everyone is different. Everyone’s mental illness is different. What works for me, might not work for you. But, if you want to talk, I’m available.
After 10 years, there are a few things that stand out from this process:
1. A doctor told me that I was “too pretty to be sad”. That is a stupid and demeaning thing to say. If you are ever talking to someone who is struggling with depression, don’t say this thing. Jesus H. Christ.
2. I found friends who stuck by my side, who held my hand when I needed it, who sat on swings in the playground and played endless card games at the local coffee shop with me. These friends didn’t treat me like I was a fragile, broken bird, and for that and to them, I’ll be forever grateful.
3. The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that managing depression is a process. Despite the title of this blog post, there’s no such thing as “kicking it”. Some days are better than others. Hell, some months are better than others. It’s not easy and it takes a lot of self-awareness and self-care.
How You Can Support Friends and Family Struggling with Depression:
1. Hear them – Listening is way more important than providing advice. Let them know that they are important to you, that you’re there for them, and ask them what they need. Don’t downplay their feelings or tell them to “look on the bright side”.
2. Be there – Sometimes, not talking or expecting them to talk is all you need to do. Be a physical presence. If they give you permission to touch them, hold them or their hand.
3. Encourage them to seek help – If they’re anything like me, they won’t want to reach out for help. The idea of seeking out a doctor is exhausting. Help them. Tell them it might make them feel better to talk to someone. Find resources in your community and send them the info. *If you are afraid for your loved one’s immediate well-being, don’t hesitate: call the Suicide Hotline (1-800-273-8255).
To learn more about depression, here are some great resources:
–EveryDay Health List of Orgs, Hotlines, and Medical Info
–Anxiety and Depression Society of America
If you’re struggling with depression, I recommend reaching out to your insurance provider to find in-network therapists or counselors who may be a good fit for you. If you don’t have insurance, many cities provide free or sliding-scale psychological support.