Illustration by Mary-Lourdes Lasala
Living with a mental illness is not easy.
As someone living with depression, there are many times when I feel like I’m drowning, desperately and constantly trying to come up for air. With a physical illness, it’s easier to recognize when someone is hurt, or needs help. Most often, the pain shows up on the surface. Mental illness is a bit harder to see, because everything is internal. This also makes it much harder to judge. What makes it harder is when everyone around you, including the media, gives you advice that they think is best. The problem is, until you experience something yourself, it’s hard to know what it’s actually like.
I hope this helps anyone struggling with depression. Speaking from my personal experiences with depression, I appreciate genuine advice from someone who might be going through a similar experience., and sometimes you have to realize that they are giving you that advice because they love you, but, sometimes it just isn’t helpful when they don’t understand what’s going on and they just tell you to “go for a walk” or “just try not to think about it”.
This is advice from someone who has been there, and I am currently dealing with clinical depression. I know what it’s like to feel as though no one gets it, so hopefully this helps you remember that someone does.
As I am still dealing with my depression, I know that none of these tips will magically cure it, but they have really helped me learn how to live with my depression.
The first tip I have when you are faced with depression is to accept it. I know that this doesn’t sound like a “tip”, but just trust me on this one. When my depression is at it’s peak, and I’m having a really bad day, I have learned to just accept it. I have found that sometimes the best thing to do is to take the day off, and even, though you feel unproductive, it will help you in the long run by giving your body some time to just recuperate from feeling down and stressed out. In my experience, sometimes fighting it makes it worse, and I have accepted the fact that sometimes all you need is a day in bed to get you out of your slump.
The second tip I have is to find something to channel your energy into. Of course, when you are having a really bad day the last thing you want to do is to do anything. But, I have found that staying productive with an activity on my good days really helps calm me down, and it makes my bad days less frequent. I personally write all my thoughts and feelings down, and it’s how I channel all my energy and feelings without bottling it in. So whether it’s a new Netflix series or painting, I found out that that staying productive and keeping busy on good days really minimizes the bad days.
My third tip is to talk to someone. Yes, you have probably heard this one thousand times, whether it’s from your psychiatrist, your doctor, or your loved ones. But until I actually started making use of this tip, my depression was getting worse rather than better. It’s really important to talk to someone when you are feeling down, or just to update them on your mood. It helps to talk to someone and vent out your feelings rather than dealing with it alone. There are honestly so many people that care about you, and they are just one text or phone call away.
My fourth tip is to cut down on coffee and caffeine. I know when we have a lot on our plates it’s easy to get overwhelmed, especially if you are dealing with a mental illness. I used to turn to caffeine and coffee when I wasn’t getting enough sleep due to my depression to help me get through the day but it just made things worse. It caused me to always be on edge, and constantly jittery and stressed. It also made nights really difficult because it made it harder to sleep and increased my anxiety. I think it’s really important to pay attention to what you put in your body, and to maybe go for a more natural fix than coffee to keep you going throughout the day. After I dropped coffee, I began to feel a lot more relaxed and slept a lot better.
My fifth tip is to do things that make you feel good. It’s important to find happiness even in the simplest of ways. When times are rough, I find happiness in doing things that I enjoy, whether it’s going out to dinner with a friend, shopping or going for a walk. Even when i’m feeling down, doing things that make me happy make it a little easier to deal with, and even if it’s a temporary fix it still helps a lot.
I hope you read these tips and find that they can assist you when you are faced with your depression or any mental illness. I know they aren’t a magic cure, but they do help. And if you are reading this and you know anyone who struggles with mental health issues, I really encourage you to reach out to them and let them know that you care about them, and that you’re there.