Depression. There’s hardly another life experience that so many of us go through and yet, while going through it, feel so utterly alone in it.
Did you know that according to Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA), major depressive disorder affects approximately 14.8 million American adults annually (or about 6.7 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older) with a median onset age for this at age 32? And did you know that as many as one in 33 children and one in eight adolescents have clinical depression? Moreover, did you know that women are twice as likely to experience depression as men?
Clearly, huge numbers of us – particularly us adult women – will experience depression at some point in our lives.
And yet, for something that so many of us experience, there’s still a great deal of collective stigma and social shame in admitting that we personally struggle with depression, stigma that often makes us feel isolated, disconnected, and like the only ones going through depression, through our own often hellish Dark Night of the Soul.
So if you’ve ever found yourself struggling with depression, today’s post is dedicated to reminding you of five important things I think are critical to remember as you journey through depression.
1. Depression is not a sign of weakness, brokenness, or anything to be ashamed about. Period.
Let me repeat this again: Depression is not a sign of weakness, brokenness, or anything to be ashamed about. Depression or, in other words, intense and persistent sadness, is, to a certain extent, actually a normal part of life and an entirely appropriate response to the losses, grief, stressors, etc. that we may experience in our lives.
Honestly, I think that most of us don’t get through this human experience without dealing with depression at some point.
But of course, when depression and its accompanying feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, and even worthlessness persist and interfere psychologically and physiologically with your ability to function in your life, depression may take on the form of a persistent disorder (for more information on classifications of depression check out this article from the National Institute of Mental Health).
And whether your depression is situation dependent, short term or long term, remember that your depression is not a sign of weakness: it’s a literal chemical imbalance in your brain and a pain in your soul that’s calling for your attention and attentiveness.
2. For many, depression IS treatable.
According to DBSA, “up to 80% of those treated for depression show an improvement in their symptoms generally within four to six weeks of beginning medication, psychotherapy, attending support groups or a combination of these treatments.” And yet, what’s also true is that nearly 2 out of 3 people suffering from depression do not seek treatment for it!
Please. If you’re dealing with depression, reach out and get support. While it may seem hopeless from inside depression that this feeling state you’re in could ever get better (that’s the depression talking, it wants you to believe this!), the truth and reality is that things can get better if you get the right supports in place.
There is absolutely no shame whatsoever about needing medication, therapy, or other professional supports to help you get through this time. You deserve a chance to get through your depression with help so please, reach out to your doctor, a psychiatrist, or your therapist if you’re struggling with depression. Start a conversation about medication, alternative treatments, more intensive therapy, and other interventions that you and your professional providers think could help you.
You don’t have to do this alone. Depression is treatable and can be managed and, again, you don’t have to do this alone.
3. You can live with depression and still live a wonderful life. It just may look different than you imagined sometimes.
Depression doesn’t mean you’ll never feel better or be unable to do the things you want to in your life. But it may take extra care to manage your mental health along the way and to live a life that supports you instead of triggers your depression (more on that in point #4).
Depression doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t build a fulfilling career, a loving relationship and family, a connected community, or joyful hobbies. But it may mean that you have to have more supports and the right kind of expectations in place as you work towards cultivating these things in your life.
And while I may be biased, I think that therapy is one of the very best resources you can employ in helping you learn to build and cultivate a life that feels good even while you manage your depression.
4. Depression looks differently for everyone so find out what your version of depression needs to be managed.
While depression certainly has some tell-tale clinical indicators – persistent sadness, loss of interest in things that used to delight you, lack of energy, increase/decrease appetite or sleep, and more – the way that depression shows up for each of us may look different depending on how we learned to cope with it.
Moreover, there is no one prescriptive formula for what may help you manage and move through your depression.
Your therapist, doctor, and/or psychiatrist can work with you to help you understand what you may need physically, pharmacologically, and psychologically, but at the end of the day, no one is the expert of your depression experience but you.
Definitely take the advice of experts about the evidence-based advice on medicines, exercise, diet, therapy interventions, etc, that may support you but also become a rigorous student of your own experience as you seek to manage and heal your depression.
Be deeply curious about what you personally need to manage your depression. Is it a certain kind of diet? A certain amount of sleep? A certain reduction of work or downtime on the weekends? Do you need to be deeply involved in creative or expressive activities? Do you need more or less contact in order to manage your depression? Do you need a radical lifestyle change? Do you need a media fast? Do you need bodywork and therapy and exercise and [fill in the blank]? You get the idea…
So practice deep curiosity about how you can manage and move through your depression. Educate yourself about how your own personal depression experience shows up and what’s helped you in the past and what may help you now. And always ask for help and support in figuring this out.
Much like someone who might have a chronic injury may have to learn and be vigilant about what helps and hurts their weak ankle, bad back, etc, when you live with or are experiencing depression, it’s your job (along with support from your health care providers) to understand what possibly triggers your depression and what helps it.
5. You are not alone in your depression.
As I’ve said before, when you’re in a depressive episode or living with depression, you may feel like you’re the only one who’s going through this. But you are so not alone! For starters, re-read those statistics at the top of the article to really deeply see in black and white just how many people actually deal with depression.
And then, moreover, there are scores of examples (and more surfacing everyday) of people who are disclosing that they live with depression (or anxiety, or bipolar, or other mental health challenges) who have also journeyed through depression and who have crafted lives for themselves that, presumably, feel full and good to them.
Some of my very favorite examples of celebrities who have experienced depression and/or who live with it persistently and spoken up about it include author J.K. Rowling, blogger Glennon Melton Doyle, and actress Kristen Bell.
And then there are the stories of the “non-famous” who live with and manage depression everyday of their lives. Reading their stories on sites like The Mighty (among other sites) can help remind you that even if you struggle with depression, you are not alone. But sometimes it may really feel that way.
So when you’re going through a depressive episode or living with depression, read the stories of others who live with it, too, so that you can feel less alone.
Moving forward. (because moving forward with depression IS possible.)
Depression is a common experience that so many of us face and yet is something that so many people still hold stigma and shame around admitting.
Please hear me: Experiencing depression is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. It’s a normal and natural human experience that many of us go through in life. You are not broken, less worthy, or less capable because you deal with depression. And you don’t have to go through it alone. Reach out for professional support. Read the stories of others who have also gone through it. And learn what you personally may need to manage and move through your depression. You can do this.
And if you live in California and are interested in working with us, we can provide in-person therapy sessions for you if you live in the Bay Area and teletherapy (online, face-to-face therapy) if you live outside of the Bay and can’t make it into our offices. And if you want to book something with me right away, feel free to use our online scheduler or contact us directly at [email protected].
And regardless of whether you choose to work with us, or with someone else in your hometown, I’m proud of you for taking this big step and investing in yourself by pursuing therapy. You’re so, so worth it.