Depression is a weight you carry with you- no matter where you go or what you do. It kills your passion, inspiration, and enjoyment in life, leaving you with only your self defeating thoughts. It can be both humbling and scary to learn just how easily your own mind can work against you.
If you have depression, and you aren’t actively seeking ways to put it in the past, you are a fool. I know you probably think that this is your burden to bear, but it isn’t so. You absolutely can fight and even beat depression by arming yourself with the right knowledge and tools to get the job down.
Now depression is not a simple disorder; it has many potential root causes and can be intertwined with many other conditions and disorders. Understanding your situation is the first step to conquering it, and everyone’s situation is a little different, so let’s start there:
I refer to these as such because their root lies in your life circumstances, not your brain chemistry itself.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
The most apparent cases of past trauma causing problems are that of war veterans and victims of childhood abuse, but there are a LOT more than just this. Something as simple as experiencing a bad injury and being forced to endure a lot of pain can be traumatic and eventually manifest itself as a stress disorder, revolving around the scenario that caused the trauma. Depression is just one symptom of many when it comes to PTSD.
“Just get over it” is some of the worst advice someone can give you when it comes to PTSD. Understand that PSTD is a result of a survival mechanism designed to learn from past events to better steer clear of danger in the future. This is normal, but in the case of this disorder it is taken to life-crippling extremes which you can’t just digest and move past like you would a lesser traumatic experience. PTSD ruins many lives, and can ruins yours too if you don’t address it directly.
Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is the most popular treatment for PTSD. It is gradual exposure to the thoughts, feelings, and situations surrounding your traumatic experience. This can lesson or even eliminate the disorder given time, and allow you to truly move on from whatever happened in your past.
Feelings of hopelessness can be caused by, well, a lack of hope. It is when you feel trapped in your situation, with no way out. The irony in this is that depression is not conducive to change- you are shooting yourself in the foot getting depressed over a bad situation, but I understand.
Guess what? This time around, “just get over it” applies. You want hope? Create it! Get pissed off about the way things are going and vow to make things better. Work everyday to create opportunity and make it a habit to see the possibilities in a bad situation.
“In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity” – Albert Einstein
Stress- the fight or flight response- does not have a “slow burn” setting. If you stay under heavy stress for more than a few days at a time, you’ll begin to experience burnout. Your adrenal glands will be shot, and your body will be filled with cortisol(the stress hormone). There’s many health problems associated with burnout, depression included.
Dealing with burnout is as simple as dealing with the root cause- stress. A big cause of stress in our day to day lives comes from “clutter.” In other words – having a disorganized and unnecessarily complicated daily schedule. Remember: a few minutes spent streamlining your daily life will save countless hours of wasted time and frustration.
But lets say that the cause of your stress is an external factor that you can’t control. You need ways to “decompress” and better cope with the onslaught you face. There are three simple things you can do to healthily deplete built up stress.
The first is meditation. Meditation is not just some new age hippie crap. It serves many useful functions and strengthens your mind and improves your overall health. It can take a bit of practice before you really “get it” and reach a meditative state for the first time. You have to learn how to recognize intrusive thoughts and allow them to pass- not put up a wall to all thoughts. Focusing on a part of your body or a basic sound pattern(such as the chants many monks use) will be helpful in achieving this.
The second it music. Loud, heavy music is best for recognizing that feeling of being overwhelmed and allowing it to pass. Find music that you can really feel, and crank it way up. Get into it and let yourself get lost in it. You will feel much better afterwards.
The third and most important is exercise. Our bodies have a need to be challenged, and not experiencing a regular challenge causes a lot of built up tension the wreaks havoc on your body and mind. You can release all of your built up stress in the gym, and have a stronger, more healthy body as a result.
Abuse has many faces, not all of which are as apparent as a punch to the face. It can be that one person in your life that loves to shut you down and make you feel stupid. It can be that one person who loves to destroy the things you treasure.
These are not simple situations to deal with- and it goes without saying that you should eliminate and abuser from your life as quickly as possible. It all starts with recognizing them for what they are, and seeing past all the guilt and fear they have instilled in you.
Abusers can be very persistent and meticulous, and you should know from the start that this isn’t going to be easy. Confide in those that you trust and come up with a plan of action to put a permanent stop to this torturous way of life.
Depression is also caused by a variety of disorders in your overall health and brain chemistry. If you can’t link your depression to one of the above causes, it is likely a chemical imbalance in your brain causing you to be depressed.
Before We Go Any Further…
What is your diet like? Are you getting enough sleep at regular hours? How about your social life- are you lonely, or overwhelmed? Are you getting regular exercise? Cover the basics before getting into anything specific. Even if getting all these factors in check doesn’t fully cure your depression, I can guarantee it will help.
Seasonal Effectiveness Disorder
The “winter blues.” Your body needs sunlight to stay healthy. During the winter months(and sometimes as a result of spending too much time indoors) you can start to feel down.
Luckily, SAD is easy to treat using diet and light therapy. Regular consumption of fish has been attributed to the non-prevalence of SAD in certain seasonal countries like Iceland and Japan. You can also expose yourself to full spectrum light during the day time.
Proper Hormone Balance
In some of us, the disorder lies in a problem related to the production and the strength of receptors to certain key hormones. This is very often a hereditary condition, so you can use your relatives as a guide to the likelihood and nature of this disorder.
If you suspect you have hormonal issues, talk to your doctor about it. Mentioning any family history of depression and any mood disorders will help speed up the process of finding your particular issue. Even after you get prescribed medication(s) for your particular disorder, continue to research and learn about it to better arm yourself with solutions.
Your brain can go out of whack simply by a combination of aging and being knocked around too much. This is made apparent by recent tragic incidents related to football and pro-wrestling- both sports known for causing high levels of brain damage.
Unfortunately, brain damage is very hard to reverse, and scar tissue in your brain tends to spread. Certain supplements, like turmeric, can reduce or stop the spread of scar tissue in the the brain and maybe even allow for limited healing. Both human growth hormone injections and stem cell therapy show a lot of promise in treating and reversing brain damage, so not all hope is lost!
More General Tips
Thinking Long Term
Depression will come back if you let it, so long as you haven’t dealt with the root cause. You need to stay consistent in your efforts and not slack off or this beast will blindside you and take you out of the game again just like that. A pinch of prevention is worth a pound of treatment.
Being realistic about treatment: taking advantage of modern science
It’s a sad fact that pharmaceutical companies make a killing off of peoples misery- preferring “treatment” over cures and often causing a boatload of other symptoms in the process. This can be disheartening, but don’t let it make you jaded about the scientific approach to curing depression.
My only suggestion is that you take ownership of your situation by doing your own research into your particular problem. You will be empowered with knowledge and be able to make up your own mind about what will work best for you.
Having a Purpose
Lethargy, or minor depression, is often caused by a lack of purpose in life. Not having a purpose that you attribute to your life can leave you feeling empty. A strong sense of purpose will wake you up in the morning, feeling fresh and vibrant and ready to kick some butt. It will make everything that much better and eliminate a lot of confusion over the choices you make. “How does this decision fit in with my purpose?”
Honestly, losing that purpose can be crushing and take you to some pretty dark places, but eventually, you will find another if you earnestly wish for one.
As you can see, there is always a way to fight depression. The most important thing is taking it seriously, and taking ownership of your situation. From there, you can work out the best path to making things better- and there’s always a way, even when there isn’t.