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:
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!
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).
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. I’ve recently expanded my office hours so if any of my new open time slots work for you, I’d love to assist you in learning and experiencing how you can live a wonderful life even with 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.
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.
Now I’d love to hear from you in the comments below: What’s one thing you would tell someone else struggling with depression? What would you want to remind them of if they’re in that place? Leave me a message in the comments below and I’ll be sure to respond.
And until next time, please take very good care of yourself. You’re so worth it.
(Disclaimer: This article and accompanying content (links, etc) is for informational and discussion purposes only and should not be construed as psychotherapy or psychotherapeutic advice of any kind. Annie Wright, LMFT assumes no liability for use or interpretation of any information contained in this post. The information contained in this post is intended for discussion purposes only and should not be an alternative to obtaining professional consult from a licensed mental health professional in your state based on the specific facts of your clinical matter. Annie Wright is licensed to practice psychotherapy in the State of California only.)