This piece is a collection of personal stories from people who have suffered from depression and how they were able to overcome it, along with valuable comments from various experts on their best methods and advice for dealing with depression. Already we’ve received 12 great submissions (listed below) that I believe could be of great help for people suffering from depression, and it’s my hope that this piece gets shared around a bit and can provide some food for thought.
If you are qualified to comment on dealing with depression or have a personal story to share on how you overcome depression, you’re welcome to make a submission here (I’ll continue to update this article as new submissions come in).
As a disclaimer, this article is intended for educational and informational purposes only, and is not a replacement for proper mental health treatment. Please seek professional help if you are suffering from depression.
About mid-way through college, then through law school, and for a few years after, I suffered from serious bouts of depression. I took medication and received therapy throughout an 8 year period. And I really, really struggled in many areas of my life. Looking back, I really believe that I was overcoming childhood trauma -- and that no pill can really help in that regard.
Thankfully, because I experienced unacceptable side effects with numerous medications, starting around 1998, I stopped taking the medication. But I continued with therapy, from then until now, and still speak with my long-time therapist twice a month. I also started long-distance running. I really believe that therapy combined with running was the cure for me. Life will never be perfect. But I haven't had a real depressive episode in many, many years. I get sad from time-to-time, and grieve when there is a real loss (like death), but those bouts of sadness or even grief are not debilitating to me, as my depression once was.
I really believe that everyone who suffers from depression, whether they take medication, or not, needs to consult a therapist AND engage in aerobic exercise 6 days a week, for at least 30 minutes. I'm a big fan of running in particular, because there is no other aerobic exercise that takes you away mentally, the way running does. And I run for 1-2 hours daily, 6 days a week, something I have done since 1998, when I stopped taking depression meds. Distance running feels like moving meditation to me. And it really helps me sort through my emotions & problems, find solutions, and just feel better from the endorphins, if nothing else. Running also helps me sleep better -- and sleeping difficulties can make depressive tendencies so much worse.
(I also learned to limit my caffeine to ONE cup of hot tea each morning -- which also helps with sleep, which also helps with depression. And I use room darkening shades, and white noise (a fan), which do the same.)
I also believe that good nutrition helps keep my moods more stable. I am an extremely healthy eater -- including about 10 servings of fruits & veggies daily, along with fish, lean protein, nuts, and very little processed food. I can tell a difference in my mood when I stray too far from my normally healthy diet.
I also met and married my now husband around 2000. My husband is truly one of the good guys, who loves and supports me in every way possible. Having a supportive and kind partner also helps a LOT.
We also have 3 cats. Our animals have brought us lots of joy. And I truly believe that they help me specifically with low moods. Two of our three cats come right up to me whenever I'm upset, meow, and try to get me to pick them up. I think animals help offset low moods.
I'm a personal injury lawyer, which means that I get paid to have disputes with people, and clients who are seriously injured, and need me to get medical treatment, and to get back on their feet financially. My clients are often not in a good emotional state. Then the insurance companies and corporate defendants, and their lawyers, fight hard on the other side, often for years. So I have an extremely stressful and emotionally trying job. But, again, I think the healthy combination of running, sleeping & eating well, having a supportive husband, cats we both love, and ongoing therapy, all help me deal well with even one of the most stressful jobs.
One last thing: throughout our marriage, my husband and I have very intentionally structured our lives so that we would work reasonable hours. That allows us to live a truly balanced life, including time for each other, our animals, our friends, and RV trips (we vacation & camp regularly in our RV -- often right on the ocean). For example, I created my own law firm, so that I could set my own hours, and accept or reject cases based on what felt right, rather than what an employer told me to do. Having my own business has been a HUGE help in staying happy. I also formed a partnership with another lawyer, and we divided tasks on cases. That partnership prevents me from having all of the responsibility on my shoulders -- and the ability to take time away when needed.
--Tina Willis, Tina Willis Law
1. Create Momentum. Depression challenges motivation, desire and completion. Exercises, as simple as walking quiets the negative chatter of the rational mind, and opens the creative imagination.
2. Tapping. Learn this technique to open the thought pathways that attack the irrational and distorted beliefs to lift spirits
3. Read. Reread love letters from significant others, handwritten notes and birthday cards. Pull out all the kind words and expressions of gratitude to remind yourself of the love others have for you.
5. Journal. Write down your thoughts and insights. Studies show writing regularly improves mood and helps to manage symptoms. Write your story - pulling out YOUR purpose in showing up and working through the hard resistance of depression.
--Dr. Cheri McDonald, askdrcheri.com
I'm a licensed therapist in Southern California, and I have extensive experience in treating clinical depression.
Some of my best tips:
Maximize flow time: Most people want to focus on being happy. But research shows that some of the most profound happiness comes from being in the zone and working! Flow happens when you're immersed in a project- it doesn't matter if the project is making art or doing laundry or exercising.
Limit social media: Scrolling through everyone else's highlight reels can negatively impact your mood. Consider taking a 2-week social media detox and observe if you notice any differences. You might notice feeling lighter and less concerned about what others think.
Seek cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): Therapy can be such a valuable asset if you're struggling with depression. CBT teaches you how to challenge and change your negative thoughts, which can help boost your mood.
Spend more time in nature: Research consistently shows the benefits of being outside and improved mental health. Just a 10-minute walk around the neighborhood can help boost your mood.
Don't rule out medication: Many of my clients have misconceptions about antidepressants. They worry about becoming dependent on them. They assume that taking medication means they're crazy or really badly depressed. Neither of these is true. Medication can help stabilize some of the chemical imbalances in the brain associated with depression.
--Nicole Arzt, invigormedical.com
People that know me, know that, while every relationship takes work, my wife and I have a pretty solid relationship. So when people ask how I write so many great heartbreak songs, I tell them, “It’s simple. I just look at my CD sales.”
Heartache stemming from the breakup of a once-romantic relationship can lead to a sense of grief that evolves into an extended depressive episode. But breakups and divorces are not the only personal losses that feed depression. I see patients all of the time that have had multiple losses.
Some have lost one or both parents or parental figures in childhood; and that may be followed by additional losses of relationships, jobs and or a loss of health. Multiple losses in life or a single profound loss, can trigger depression. Childhood trauma, also experienced as a loss, on multiple levels, can trigger depression.
Not everyone manifests depression in the same way. However, common symptoms include deep sadness and/or hopelessness, lack of motivation for activities previously enjoyed (playing music; watching or participating in sports; art; taking in concerts, plays or movies, or going out for dinner); listlessness, insomnia; and irritably. One person may turn inward and become angry at oneself, while another person may take it out on others. Either way, depression is extremely painful and difficult to endure—-so difficult that some turn to suicide as a way out.
Depression glass is a special type of machine-pressed, often thick, and tinted glass, that was distributed free or at a low cost during the Great Depression. When you try to look through it, your vision often becomes blocked, and/or blurred.
When we become depressed, our focus, and our sense of purpose and meaning, is often blurred, as is often the case when looking through depression glass. Moreover, as with depression glass, when we go through periods of depression, the light is often partially, or fully blocked, along with our ability to find meaning in the midst of our suffering. Drawing meaning from our experiences becomes an oft-illusive endeavor, at best.
So, are those of us that have looked at the world through windows made of depression glass stuck with depression, and all that goes with it? The answer is, unequivocally, NO! In fact, NOW is the best time of all, to begin finding relief from “window pain,” and shattering to bits, the “depression glass” that leaves you depleted and defeated.
The following are a number of ways that you, with a little help from others, can begin to participate in the amelioration of your own suffering.
•Distract and process
Though remaining in a continuous state of distraction is counterproductive and contraindicated as a way of overcoming depression, going from periods of distraction, to periods of processing, is clearly a beneficial path to take.
Many patients (whom I call mental health athletes), and many people, in general, experience depression as being trapped in one’s head. And that head, while consumed by the “demon” of depression, is not a pleasant place to live. Distraction can play a key role in getting a depressed person out of his/her head.
Some surf, some paint, some cook, some (like me) write songs. Some hit the gym or swim, to get slim. Some read. Whatever your go-to method of distraction is, go for it. Anhedonia will be your biggest obstacle. It is a symptom of depression in which the activities that you once loved, and found pleasure in, now longer offer much in the way of appeal.
It is doubtful, though not impossible, that you will be able to distract yourself completely out of a depressive episode. Because depression is often fueled, in part, by unresolved internal conflict, the unresolved conflict, and difficult emotions that often accompany such conflict, must be addressed, and that must occur through processing, not distraction, or denial. So, what can you do to address and to process this mental and emotional baggage? How about journaling?
Journaling is like creating a thought/feeling diary. It is a record of your innermost thoughts and emotions.
For those who, like me, prefer to journal with songwriting, you will not get an argument against that, coming from me. The same goes for those artists that prefer to journal with pictures. Be my guest. Let it out!
When you are writing, be it with words; with music and lyrics, or with photos, drawings, or paintings, using these as means of processing difficult often unconscious material involves something called sublimation. Sublimation is the process of channeling what could otherwise become negative, toxic and destructive, and turning into something beautiful and expressive.
Eating healthy, exercising, avoiding excessive stress, and getting regular medical checkups will prove exceedingly beneficial for your mental health. Your body is a temple. When you fit it with toxins, you’ll reap what you sew, and that horrible harvest may include the rotten grain of depression and its dreadful symptoms.
Before one can even begin to smash depression glass one must swallow one’s pride, and reach out to trusted family members, and friends. Get it out.. Constant catharsis is what it’s all about. If the depression glass is too much to bear, even with the support of family and friends, it may be time to seek out professional help, by reaching out to priests, pastoral counselors and mental health professionals.
Here‘s one final tip. Be your own mental health coach. Give yourself a pep talk to lift your spirits. Find a song that will augment your pep talk and lift your spirits. I wrote this song as a letter of encouragement to all that suffer from depression. I’m hoping it helps to shatter your depression glass.
--Bruce L. Thiessen, drbltmusic.com
The cognitive-behavioral triangle indicates that our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors all influence on another. If we change one, this will likely impact the others.
A huge component of recovering from depression is something called behavioral activation. When we're depressed, we usually stop doing things we enjoy. Behavioral activation is all about acting your way out of depression; essentially, doing the things you would do if you weren't depressed. This might be getting out of bed at a reasonable hour, working out, spending time with friends, dancing, etc. It can feel like a chore to do these things at first and you likely won't experience an instant joy from them, but the more you behave as you would if you weren't depressed, the better you will begin to feel.
Another big component of depression is self-defeating thoughts. When we're depressed, we often think like we're depressed. Thoughts like I'm not good enough, I'm a failure, I'm incapable, I'm a bad person, etc. keep us down. It's important to change our way of thinking. Try to find a more balanced view. This will likely be difficult to do when you're just starting, so it will be helpful to work with a therapist to learn how to change your thoughts.
--Nikki Winchester, Cincinnati Center for DBT
When people have clinical depression, working with a mental health professional can be key to making a successful recovery. However, sometimes people have difficulty accessing professional help due to finances or waitlists. Even if you aren't seeing a professional, you can still take certain steps to improve your situation.
First, critically evaluate your daily schedule. Are you eating adequately and regularly, getting enough sleep, and exercising? If you're not meeting your physical needs, you will have difficulty getting enough energy and stamina to recover from the emotional challenges. Create a plan for your ideal day, get a calendar app or daily checklist app to help you ensure you're working through it, and patiently work towards your goals. Don't be too hard on yourself if you don't meet all your goals right away; Rome wasn't built in a day, and you can't change unhealthy patterns in a day either.
Next, reflect on where the depression is coming from. Do you feel low for no apparent reason, when your life is objectively good and you don't have much to complain about? Then the problem may be mostly chemical - so even if you aren't seeing a psychiatrist, ask a general practitioner physician for antidepressant options. Alternatively or in addition, are you filled with negative self-talk, negative interpretations of your experiences, and many complaints? Then cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) can help. You can seek to do this on your own with some free CBT worksheets available online, where the idea is basically to identify negative thinking patterns, their impact on you, and to challenge your negative thinking with more positive alternative possibilities. Practicing with these worksheets long-term can actually lead to physical changes in your brain so you automatically think more positively over time. Making a daily gratitude list before bed also has similar benefits!
Finally, consider behavioural activation, which means pushing yourself to engage in activities that can make you feel better. List several activities that you think would boost your mood or self-esteem, such as a walk, reading a book, painting, and more. Rank them in order of least difficult to most difficult, and slowly work your way through this list. By succeeding at activities that make you feel good, you may find your depression begins to lift.
--Patricia Celan, PatriciaCelan.com
With substantial amount of experience in doing yoga I have helped many people around me to come out of depression.
Here are the answers to your question:
Firstly, we must understand why depression is caused!
It is simply because a large part of your life energy is happening compulsively, not consciously. It is happening as a reaction to external situations. Once you are happening compulsively, becoming depressed is very normal, because external situations can never happen one hundred percent your way.
So what's the solution?
As we work on the outside, we must also fix the inside. It is just your inability to handle your own mind, emotion, thoughts & energies that causes depression, anxiety, stress etc. And we must take charge of these 4 dimensions as quickly as possible.
What should one do to handle this?
1. Do intense physical exercise that sportsmen do. But not gyming as it will make the system more rigid.
2. Unwavering commitment & action towards some activity.
3. Spend more time with nature. This will bring a certain level of ease & freedom within you.
4. Above all, the most effective & the best way to handle depression is to turn inward. We must engineer the inside. Intense yogic practices can easily bring one out of depression.
--Goutham Narayan, androidfist.com
I'd like to share my story of how I overcame depression. I turned my life around and came out of it reborn, this is a very uplifting story.
It started when I had a demanding job, was a vice-president of an NGO, and I was in a toxic relationship. The combination of hese three led to my depression, which began with memory blackouts. At first I couldn't remember what happened at work, and after a few weeks, on a Monday, I simply didn't get out of bed. I was diagnosed with depression on the next day and struggled with it for the consecutive 18 month, unable to work. That was only a few years ago. Since then, I built a strong mindset, got rid of all the emotional baggage that got me to my depression in the first place, and started a successful online business as a confidence coach. I look at life and the world completely differently and I consider my sickness the biggest gift I ever got.
I want to share what helped me get out of depression. The most important thing was to let go of any obligations, musts and shoulds. To stop thinking that I am irreplaceabe at work and to stop pushing myself into doing anything. I just let myself exist, without feeling shame or guilt The second thing, which probably saved my life, was contact with nature.
Two days after being diagnosed, I got a puppy and we created an incredible bond. I was spending all days with him. Just looking in his eyes was soothing. Having him fored me to get out of bed every day and I was very grateful for that. I started enjoying nature, no, I fell in love with nature, for the first time in my life.
The third thing that helped me was believing that depression was temporary. I never quit on myself, I was always thinking: this is temporary, I will get out of this.
These are the most important, I dare to say life-saving tips from a depression survivor.
--Alex Tomaszewska, alextomaszewska.com
Ask for help: The most common misconception about depression is that people with depression should just put a smile on their faces and get over it, when in reality it’s nowhere near this simple. When suffering from clinical depression, the first step in digging themselves out of the hole is seeking professional help.
Find a way to cope: A psychiatrist should be consulted, as sometimes depression is the result of a chemical imbalance in the brain. Yet it is also necessary for a person to speak with a therapist in order to better understand their emotions and the causes in order to understand how to start moving forward. It’s a difficult road, one which can only start once a person feels truly motivated to get themselves help.
--Claire Barber, Treeological
A response on behalf of Dr. Brian Wind, Ph.D., and Chief Clinical Officer at JourneyPure:
Clinical depression is different than feeling down from time to time. A lot of people who have clinical depression are, understandably, in a hurry to feel better quickly but most medical and therapeutic treatments for depression take several weeks to months to start working. What's more, is that a majority of people with clinical depression have to try multiple medications before they find the one that works best for them.
It's hard to be patient and keep up with treatments when it feels like nothing is working, which is why it's so important to have a strong system of family and friend support in place. It's so important to have people you trust that you can talk to about how you're feeling. These friends and family members don't have to try and make you feel better - but they can simply listen to help you not feel so alone.
Focus on improving your lifestyle in any way possible, whether it's eating healthier, getting more exercise, or going outside more often - but don't beat yourself up. If you completed just one goal today, celebrate that small success. If that's overwhelming to you, start with one 10-minute walk outside each day. These small, self-care activities (that a lot of people don't put much thought into) are critical when it comes to coping with depression.
--Brian Wind Ph.D., JourneyPure
I was diagnosed with depression and PTSD after a trauma. I was spiraling out of control over time. But something unexpected happened one night.
A moment of laughter I had on a suicidal night began a now five year cross country journey of recovery and involves a mission to reach a symbolic goal..
My mission has involved meeting total strangers each day for 8 hours per day for the last five years.
I've shared my story with all these people and these 32,058 strangers I've met one-by-one have shared their written stories of trauma and triumph in 94 languages on 494 of my giant foam poster boards.
It's been an incredible mission. I have now spent 12,000 hours of my life to get on a comedy TV show for five minutes. So I can one day deliver this massive collective story of hope to that show.
This has given me a purpose in life. I have been vulnerable with these strangers and they in turn have been vulnerable with me. That has really helped me process my trauma much better and been important in my recovery.
A sense of accomplishment has been so helpful. I have spoken at 27 colleges.. I gave a TEDx talk about this odyssey. I have written Op-Ed pieces for over 20 publications. And there was an Emmy nominated documentary produced about my journey of recovery.
I also testified before a Senate Judiciary Committee and helped pass a rape survival bill. I was able to take my trauma and turn it into something positive that will help others. Quite powerful that was for my recovery.
I share my story so that others with depression can find hope in what I've done. And possibly apply it in their lives.
--Ron Blake, BlakeLateShow.com
I began my trip through depression when I started to work after college. Before, school, work, and playing basketball were the only things in my mind during my early 20’s. After graduating, I began to feel lost and hopelessly depressed, so much so that I went to a psychologist who helped me unearth my feelings and ways that I could help/alleviate my feelings of depression. One of those actions (which I still do today) really stuck with me. Every night before I go to bed, I have a journal that I recount my day in. After I make journal entries, I reread it and pick out the positive things that happened throughout my day. Even if I had a bad day, I would then write what I am grateful for. There are three things which I usually write about - my kids, my wife and my pet dog, Roofus. I write about how grateful I am for them, how much they make my mind be at ease, and what joy they fill my life with. I believe that through writing your feelings, you can basically paint a picture of your day. You can see all the wonderful things you have done that day, even if you didn’t do anything. I remember writing down “Made a sandwich” as a journal entry once, and I recounted how delicious that sandwich was. I feel like depression is giant shadow casting over us, and we need to poke small holes through it to make the light enter in. I found writing as an escape for my sadness, and I know that there are many other mediums one can use to make themselves happier. I would say that in my late thirties, I have mitigated the effects of my clinical depression - without the use of drugs. My family is my anti-depressant, even if they can be a little annoying at times. 🙂
--Eugene Romberg, We Buy Houses in Bay Area
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