Finding joy in the midst of depression

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I get it. I really do. Depression and anxiety feel like they have taken over your life. Maybe you know why or maybe you aren't sure what caused this. All you know is that life sucks and you hate it. I know it hurts.

I know it hurts because I am you.

And because I am you, I have some advice to help you have some hope. Even if it's just a sliver of hope.

I know others don't seem to understand you and it frustrates you more when they say, "Just be happy". That's like telling someone with cancer to "Just be healthy"—it's not that simple.

You probably still have no desire to do the things you love to do. You don't like taking pictures anymore. You don't have the energy to dance. Nothing excites you.

Depression is a constant cloud hovering over your head. It feels like a never-ending winter and your soul craves to huddle in bed with the weight of blankets so you can feel secure and separated from the pains you are feeling.

And since you are me, the worst part is that you can't even pinpoint how and why the depression is there. You only know that the voice of depression that is all too familiar to you.

When you add the weight of anxiety, it creates a whole new dimension to your suffering. It's complicated and confusing and utterly exhausting.

I'm sure this inner tug-of-war battle is familiar to you:

Anxiety: You need to be worrying right now. There is something not right about this situation and you need to panic.
Depression: Don't worry about it. If you just don't care, then you won't feel anxious anymore.
Anxiety: But remember what happened last time? I'm afraid to go there again.
Depression: It doesn't matter. There's nothing about life that is exciting anyway. If you just don't care then it's not that bad.
Self: This is exhausting.
Depression: Then stay in bed.
Anxiety: PANIC PANIC PANIC!!!
Depression: Shhhhh just go to sleep and you won't feel any longer. Self: You're right. If I just don't care, it doesn't hurt as bad.

 

While depression and anxiety are becoming less taboo subjects, they are now topics being tossed around with little thought into the deep pain and heartache that they produce in each soul they consume.

Overcoming depression and anxiety does not happen overnight. Every person struggles with it differently and will use varying techniques to get out of the slum.

I want to help you because I am you. I know what will help you and I want you to feel happiness again; because I now know it's possible.

Aside from doctor prescribed treatments that might be necessary, the following suggestions might help you get to a place where you can see some light at the end of the tunnel.

1. Realize that depression and anxiety DO NOT define you.

Just because you have this illness does not mean that you are a depressed person. You have a struggle—just like anyone else—that you have to learn to deal with. It's not something that just gets better by saying you are better. It's a real illness that needs proper treatment.

2. Find your core values.

Taking some time to figure out what your core values are will help you to realize what really is important to you. Is it family? Religion? Adventure? Self-respect? Wisdom? Love? Whatever they are, figure out what is most important to you and use these values to create some goals you would like to achieve.

3. Accept ALL feelings.

You need to embrace all emotions—even negative ones. Once you give them the attention that they deserve, it helps you to get closure and eventually move on. If you try to avoid negative emotions, then you won't be able to feel the ultimate joy that you deserve.

4. Do your hobbies.

There are things that used to bring you joy. Even though you don't want to do them, try it. Pick up that camera again. Go out and start dancing again. I promise it will boost your energy enough to make you feel some hope.

5. Don’t forget to laugh.

You love to laugh, don't forget that! Remember your sense of humor and do things that make you laugh. Whether it's hanging out with friends or watching a cat video, it will give you those moments of joy.

6. Help others.

Getting out and helping those in need may be difficult because of your low energy and low desire. But if you can just do something small for someone else, you'll be amazed at how refreshing it can be. It can be as simple as keeping the door open for someone or stopping the person in front of you to give them a glove that dropped out of their bag.

7. Write a list of things you are grateful for.

You might think you don’t have a lot to be grateful for, but I promise that if you just start writing you'll be amazed. It will start to clear the fog in your mind and help lift your spirits.

8. Talk with someone.

You are someone that needs to talk through your thoughts. You are a deep thinker and sometimes you get wrapped up in your own head. Finding a good friend, or even a counselor, will be very beneficial for you. You will feel understood and validated and it will help you feel some hope.

9. Go outside.

It's easy to stay inside when you feel depressed, but challenge yourself and go outside. Feel the sun on you and look at the natural beauty all around. It will be very therapeutic.

10. Keep a journal.

Writing can also be very therapeutic. Having a journal is like having a best friend that doesn't judge you. The best part is that you can also look back on your journal and learn from yourself.

Depression and anxiety are selfish. They crave attention and want you to focus on them at all times. They don't want you to feel hope or excitement. Just as the old adage "misery loves company", it's accurate to say that "depression loves depression".

I know that you are probably thinking that this is easy for me to say because I'm not currently in the depths of despair. Yes, it is, but remember that I'm you. I know what can help.

I hated when people would tell me to "suck it up" so I'm not going to say that to you. It's not that simple. But it's important to remember that your freedom to choose is very real and very powerful. Others (and even ourselves) can help and give you advice, but it's ultimately up to you to decide what you do and if you will do it.

Depression and anxiety don't get fixed overnight. It's a step-by-step process that requires effort and desire on your part.

I know it's hard, though, because depression yells at you and wears you down to the point that you have no energy to even try to get better.

But I want to tell you something. You are stronger than you think. The very fact that you have this debilitating mental health disorder shows the unforeseen power you have. You have the power to overcome this.

Yes, bouts of depression and anxiety may make some future visits, but the sooner you learn how you deal with it best, the sooner you can learn how to kick it when it comes around again. You will be amazed at how strong you become and how easy it is to handle those visits from your not-so-welcome friend.

Remember to just take it a day at a time. Don't focus on the future. Don't focus on tomorrow. Just focus on today. In fact, focus on this very moment.

Remember that inner battle analogy that I talked about at the beginning? Well, it's time I ask you:

What is one thing that you can do right now that will help you to punch depression in the face?

Love,
Your Future Self