The phone rang. I lifted my head up off the tear-soaked pillow and searched for the phone under a mess of tissues and blankets.
Hello, I said, doing my best to sound as if I hadn’t just finished crying.
Hey man, how are you doing today?
Damn him. I felt the tears welling back up, begging to be released.
*cough* I’m ok. You know…just taking it one day at time.
But I hadn’t been able to take it one day at a time for weeks now. My world had been shrink-wrapped and all I could manage was to pray that the next 60 seconds wouldn’t send me over the edge. Minute by minute, hour by hour.
I wasn’t battling my depression; I was trying to survive it.
You Don’t Get Out of Depression
Depression is terrifying. It looks like sadness, feels like exhaustion, sounds like defeat, but in truth it’s a monster much bigger than the sum of its parts.
I had encountered it on a smaller scale half a dozen times growing up. However, this last time it didn’t hold anything back. Yes, circumstances were difficult: unemployment, relationship troubles, and health problems among other things. But for those of you who have ever faced depression you know that it can seem like it towers over every area of your life, regardless of circumstances.
I wracked my brain for months on how to get out of depression. I read books on the subject, watched videos, and even attended professional counseling. Some things helped, most didn’t.
Now, after a year of being depression-free I can see that I was aiming at the wrong goal.
I was consumed with the idea that I had to get out of my depressed state. That if I could just escape somehow then I would finally be “normal” again. It doesn’t work that way.
What I learned was that you don’t get out of depression, you get the depression out of you.
How To Overfill The Cup
My counselor described it like this. We all have a cup. This cup is filled with the different parts of our life. We get depressed when the cup is filled with more bad than good.
I want to offer you some ways of filling the cup back up with good stuff. The more good you put in, the more bad stuff gets pushed out. This is not a magic cure, just one human talking to another.
1. Read Positive Influences: quotes, non-fiction and fiction books, uplifting stories from the new paper. Show your mind over and over again that there are good things happening in the world.
2. Listen To Uplifting Music: This does not necessary mean religious music. Anything that’s upbeat and can put a smile on your face will do. Just make sure the lyrics are putting good material into your mind.
3. Find Good Atmospheres: I had to force myself out of the house during my month of depression, and it only got more difficult towards the end. But this is also one of the most effective ways to speed up your recovery. Find places you enjoy being with people you enjoy being around and spend time there. Even when you feel like your going to break down, go to the bathroom – cry it out – then come back and stay another hour. Just the presence of certain people can help cure a damaged mind.
4. Talk About Anything: A lot of the time I had no idea what was wrong or what I was actually sad about. I just felt heavy and dark. Find someone who will listen to you without having to offer advice or cast judgment. Talk about anything; just get your mind active in speaking. It will help loosen its grip on the heaviness.
5. Exercise Your Body: During those difficult months my body felt as if it had picked up an extra 100lbs. Even doing everyday tasks had grown exhausting. How was I supposed to exercise? Truth is this really does help. Start small. Walk around the block twice a week. Spend 5 minutes in the morning stretching. These small blocks of activity will give your body and mood a kickstart in the right direction.
6. Sleep Whenever Possible: Trying to sleep a full 8 hours during my depression was impossible. I’d wake up after 3 or 4 and then feel guilty about not being able to rest. Don’t beat yourself up. Sleep whenever you can. If that’s a few hours a night mixed with a nap or two during the day, that’s fine. If you need supplements to help you sleep, ask the doctor and don’t feel bad. Sleep is a scarce friend when depression hits, so welcome its presence when available.
These are all things within your control. Coming to grips with the fact that circumstances are always changing and that we cannot control the world is a huge step towards feeling better and bouncing back.
Focus on the things you can control. Food, exercise, conversation, your free time. Chip away at your depression, activity by activity, and take your life back inch by inch.
The depression slowly grew over time, before I felt like I was completely consumed by it. In the same way it will take time to shrink back down again. Be patient and believe that there is a better tomorrow down the road.
I promise you, you will be happy again. And you will be stronger.
If you’ve faced depression, what things helped you survive and overcome that period of your life?
About the author: David Ramos is a serial blogger and author of the upcoming book Builder Chaser Dreamer. His goal in writing and sharing what he has learned is to become a dream enabler – helping people create the lives they want from the passions they have. Read more of David’s writing on his blog.
Bobbi’s note: David has some really good ideas here about dealing with depression, but please note that he realizes depression is complicated and what worked for him may not be a “cure” for you. However, all of his ideas are healthy and helpful and I encourage you to give them a try!