Depression (or Major Depressive Disorder) is a serious mental illness that affects the way you think, feel and act. According to the World Health Organization, there are more than 300 million people who suffer from depression worldwide.It is also more common for women to be diagnosed with Major Depression than men. Reading the statistics I learned that depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide. Sadly, close to 800,000 people die due to suicide every year, mostly people who were left untreated. Suicide is the second leading cause of death in 15-29 year-olds.
Depression is serious and finding treatment and getting help is going to make your chances of recovery much better. It is the uneducated people who think this mental illness is factious or can be overcome if you just “change your attitude”.
Understanding the symptoms of depression is going to be important to determine if you are struggling with major depressive disorder. Some symptoms of depression described by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) are:
- depressed or sad mood
- loss of interest in things you once enjoyed
- significant weight loss or weight gain
- insomnia or hypersomnia
- loss of energy
- feelings of worthlessness or inappropriate guilt
- difficulty concentrating
- indecisiveness and suicidal thoughts
These symptoms can cause serious problems in your occupational, personal and other important areas of your life. In order to qualify for this diagnosis, your symptoms need to be present for at least two weeks.
Depression is not a sign of weakness or something you can just “get over”. Many of those who suffer from depression experience a sense of loneliness because this illness can isolate you from the outside world. There is a big stigma that is attached to depression.
Many people find it hard to talk about with others because of the lack of education about depression and the lack of compassion. People suffer every day in silence which only makes the depression worse. Understanding and learning to cope with your depression symptoms is going to be unique to you. Having compassion with yourself and finding “safe” people in your support network is going to be key.
Determine Fact vs. Opinion
It is unfortunate that there are many judgments about depression and because of that, there is a lot of misinformation out there. Most of this comes from people who have not dealt with or been around somebody who has struggled with depression. Some people do not understand why somebody cannot pull themselves out of depression, that entire belief system of “pull yourself up by your bootstraps”.
If it were that simple there would not be millions of people struggling with depression every day. Telling somebody who is depressed to stop feeling depressed is like telling somebody who is diabetic to stop being diabetic. It is important for you to hear this, you are not any less of a Christian if you are dealing with depression; God does not love you any less and your depression is not a reflection on “the kind of Christian you are.” God CAN help you heal but you are not any less than your neighbor because you are struggling with depression.
Ways to Fight Against Depression
It is important to remember that people experience depression symptoms differently and each person is going to find the way that is best to treat their depression. Not every case and person is the same. So be patient with yourself and allow your mind, body, and spirit to heal the way that is best for YOU. I have several suggestions of ways that I have learned and witnessed how people have fought their depression.
Do not isolate
When you are fighting depression it becomes very easy to isolate and keep to yourself. Being around others can be exhausting. It can also feel defeating seeing others enjoying life while you are feeling sad and trapped with no way out. It is important to know that you are not alone. Many people feel this way and want to isolate themselves in the depths of their depression.
That is why it is so important to make sure you are reaching out to people to connect. Connect with family and friends, have that face to face time with those that care about you. Even meeting for coffee or a meal would be great. It is ok to have time for yourself. It is a matter of balance because too much time to yourself can feed your depression. Getting outside of yourself and your depression symptoms will help.
Get out of your house
When we make sure we do not isolate it is important to leave your house. I have worked with many people dealing with depression who just lock themselves inside their house as a way to isolate. This is actually counterproductive. Do what you can to get out of the home even if it is for only a short period of time.
Do not believe everything you thinkFor most people dealing with depression, it is accompanied by various thoughts and belief systems. For example, many people start to think (then believe) many things that are simply untrue. These thoughts could look like: “I am no good”, “The world would be better off without me”, “Nobody cares about me”, “I am worthless”, “I am never going to get better” and even “I am better off dead”.
These thoughts are the depression talking and are not coming from God. It is hard to believe that these thoughts are untrue when they feel like they are real. That is why it is important to run these thoughts through somebody else.
Making sure you can get some movement in your day is going to be challenging but will help support you getting out of the depression you are feeling. Exercise will release your body’s chemicals that help you feel better. This is probably one of the more challenging things to do.
For most people, the depression has really affected their ability to get motivated and their energy levels are at an all-time low. Even if you can walk around your neighborhood for 10-15 minutes is a great start or even walking to your mailbox.
This might prove to be more challenging than you think but it will pay off. The fresh air and getting some movement will feel good. Some people find it helpful to go with somebody to keep themselves accountable.
Eating and drinking right
What we put into our body matters. If we are fueling our body with unhealthy food or drinks we cannot expect that our body will be running well. So by making sure you do not skip meals and are eating healthy by getting enough protein and vegetables in a day is important, as well as making sure you are drinking enough water.
These might seem silly and obvious suggestions but I have found when people are depressed they are skipping meals and not drinking enough water. Many times their energy level is low and trying to cook a meal for yourself seems like a big, unattainable task. There are prepared foods you can eat that are actually healthy and easy.
Drinking alcohol and drug use is also counterproductive. At the moment you might enjoy drinking alcohol, however; alcohol is a depressant and is only going to make your depression worse. Any illicit mood-altering substances should be avoided. Some individuals choose to self-medicate in hopes of relieving the depression but I can promise this will only make things worse.
Talk to God and prayMany times when somebody is feeling depressed their connection to God starts to become more and more distant. You might question why you are going through this. God does not want you to feel depressed and it is important to continue to seek Him when you are struggling. God will not always save us from our troubles but we do know that we never have to walk alone on this journey. Seeking God and praying is so important. Engage with God, lean into Him.
Reach out within your church
There are many programs available within the Church. This could look like Celebrate Recovery or finding a Stephen Minister. Also seeking guidance from your Paster. The Church is there for the tough times and the good times. Having people pray with you and for you is such a blessing. Use the resources your Church has available. They are there for a reason.
Turn to God’s Word
Use the Bible as a tool, get into God’s word. God is able to give us hope for a future through Him. Here are a few of my favorite verses to see God’s promise.
I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him. – Psalm 40:1-3
The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. – Psalm 34:17
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. – Jeremiah 29:11
Try therapy for depression
Many times people will start therapy to try and get a handle on the depression. This is always a great tool to have. Working with a professional can help you in many different ways. Having an outsider perspective and their knowledge of depression can help steer you to the best healing.
If things get worse or better the therapist is going to be able to guide you in the right direction. There is also a lot to be said about being able to share in a safe environment. A therapists office would be just that, a safe place.
Talk with a Medical Provider
Sometimes having a medical intervention like medication management is necessary. This does not mean that you have failed or that you will need to take medications forever.
The brain is the most complex organ in the body and sometimes people are in need of medications. This is something you would want to explore with a psychiatric medical provider. There are also other options to treat depression that a medical provider would be able to review with you.
One of the most important things to remember is to take the judgment and comparison off the table. Depression is hard enough to fight but being your own best advocate is much more important than being your own worst critic.
Reach out today to a friend, family member or professional. You do not have to go through this alone. Help is here when you are ready. There is always hope.
“Sea Water View”, Courtesy of Lukas Rychvalsky, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Coffee Chat”, Courtesy of Andrew Lloyd Gordon, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “God’s Word”, Courtesy of Free-Photos, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Woman Praying”, Courtesy of LoveToTakePhotos, Pixabay.com, CC0 License