It’s been twenty five years since my first depressive episode and there have been many dark periods since. Some of these episodes were so bad, the only relief I could get was to think about my own death. It took me a long time to learn these lessons and now that I am finally well I will remember them for the next time .
Maybe you have learned some of these lessons yourself. If not, I hope this is helpful.
1. We should never go it alone.
When we are depressed and anxious we alienate ourselves and abandon our social lives. Not only that, but we often refrain from speaking about our problems with family, friends or even our doctors. It is so important to be open and honest about your illness. This way you can avail yourself of loving help, support and medical care. This makes all the difference when fighting a devastating illness like this.
2. We should only take baby steps.
Rome wasn’t built in a day — and depression and anxiety will not go away overnight. It takes time to get better and the best way to approach this process is with baby steps. Focus on feeling a little bit every day. Sometimes it might be a case of two steps forward and three steps back, but with determination and a positive attitude you can get better over time.
3. Positive thinking is possible.
I have first hand experience of positive thinking in depression. It can be done and it is effective; I’m certain it prevented me from slipping further into depression and it kept me in a place where I could function. Writing down positive affirmations and statements of gratitude are well documented to lift mood — just because you’re ill doesn’t mean you won’t benefit from this.
4. Look forward to a bright future.
We are never depressed ‘forever’ — it just doesn’t work that way. Every cloud has a silver lining. Of course, when we are depressed we don’t see the silver lining; it has to be pointed out to us. There is no reason for us to believe that there aren’t fantastic experiences and sunny days ahead for us. Keeping that hope alive can save us from severe illness or help us through it.
5. We can make the most of melancholy.
You heard me — it ain’t all bad. We can be at our most creative at certain times in depression; some of my best drawings were done when I was deeply grieving. Many poets, artists and writers produce fine work when they are depressed. Working with music in the background can help to get the creative juices flowing.
6. Be there for others.
When depressed and anxious, we tend to think too much about our own problems. When we let this go and look outside of ourselves we see that others have needs too. It becomes clear to us that we can help other people and not spend all of our time focusing on our own problems. Now we have a sense of purpose and belonging — this helps with our self-esteem.
There is great value in this principal when you are without direction and living with depression.
7. Re-training our thoughts is invaluable.
Replacing negative thoughts with more positive and rational thoughts is invaluable when dealing with depression and anxiety. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy applies this principal and many of us have benefited from putting it into practice.
8. Detach from your illness.
For people with depression and anxiety, frequent negative thoughts and feelings are experienced, but we should bear in mind that they are only thoughts and feelings — symptoms of the illness. They are not who we are. We are the person that is literally carrying around these thoughts and feelings. If we can remember who we were before we became ill we can detach from the feelings and try to ignore the thoughts.
9. Don’t react to your thoughts and feelings.
We have little control over the endless flow of negativity that enters our mind all day when we are ill. In CBT, we learn to stop these thoughts and introduce better one. But we can also be careful not to react to them — thereby reducing anxiety and further negative feelings. This allows us to keep control.
10. We have endless inner strength.
We have as much inner strength as we need to get us through every given situation; we just have to believe it . When we find our courage, we can do anything we want.
Once, I was so ill I thought I was losing my mind. I dug deep down to my soul and found my inner strength. I made it out of that situation because I believed I was strong enough to do it.
11. We are worthy.
People who are depressed and anxious lose sight of how wonderful they really are. They lose all self-confidence and they feel that they are not worthy. On recovery we all realize that those feelings were just part of the illness and nothing more.
12. This was just our turn to be ill.
Everyone gets ill sometime. We each have our turn. Sparing a thought for those who suffer from terminal illnesses — and even mental illnesses worse than our own — can be humbling and help put things into perspective.
I would have made great use of these lessons had I been given them when I was a teenager. Life doesn’t always work out the way we plan; in fact, it never does. There are always stumbling blocks along the way.
What’s important is that you learn valuable lessons as you go. These lessons will help you prepare for the future.