Depression can be incredibly confusing. Sometimes, it feels like the mind does things that don’t make any sense. One minute I could be crying because I feel completely alone, and the next minute I refuse to answer the phone because the last thing I want is to talk to anyone. These conflicting emotions can cause a lot of anguish. How do we manage our depression while we are struggling to understand it ourselves? We definitely don’t want to do it alone, that’s for sure.
Trying to manage depression without help is risky business. A good support team can help you get on track with managing your symptoms, and offer the comfort and motivation you need to keep fighting for better days.
The first and most essential member of your support team should be a trained medical professional who can help you navigate your options and better understand your depression. When I first sought help for depression, I went to my family doctor. She is an incredible person who has always been honest with me, and is someone I trust to listen to my concerns and point me toward the best possible solutions. When I began to feel like my depression symptoms were too much to bear, I reached out to her, and she was able to get me in front of the next person on my team: my therapist.
Therapy can help you work through negative emotions, recognize patterns in your depression, and teach skills to put into action when you feel like depression is getting the best of you. With my therapist, I was able to put together a list of signs and symptoms that let me know when my depression is flaring up. For instance, if my house starts to get messy, I know that it is time for me to look at my moods and see if this is part of a pattern or if it’s caused by something benign, like being out of town for a while.
Having professionals to back you up means that you’ll have people who are highly trained to identify what steps you can take immediately to manage your symptoms.
Family and friends
Most people would assume your family would be your first line of defense when battling a chronic illness, but this isn’t always the case when you have depression.
Depression can make you feel ashamed of your sadness, or make you feel like a failure and cause you to hide from the people you love the most. There was a time when I was so depressed that I didn’t talk to anyone for two weeks. Then one day, I flung open my front door to run to work and almost trampled my mother, who was coming over to check on me because she was concerned. I didn’t even see her. Sometimes, family can be really intuitive. They might know what’s going on before you’re able to put it into words yourself.
The same thing can happen with close friends. You may not tell them you’re depressed, but they start to pick up on the signs. If you’re avoiding making plans with them, you don’t want to talk, or you just seem to have fallen off the radar, it’s more than likely your friends will notice and come looking for you.
Hopefully, you have the kind of persistent and observant friends that I’ve been fortunate enough to make. Even when depression makes me feel flaky, they come to find me and make sure that everything is going well. They don’t take my disappearances personally. They don’t expect me to be somebody else. They just love me for who I am.
Others in the depression community
There are things that can be difficult to share with your friends or family because you don't want them to worry or think you’re weird. And honestly, there may be things that they just don’t understand because they haven’t lived it themselves. When you feel like nobody else “gets it,” this is when a network of people who are working their way through this life with mental illness come into play.
I have a friend who called me a few weeks ago and just burst into tears. I stayed on the line quietly while she cried for a little while before we could get to the root of her problem. A week or so before that, I’d called her and shared how frustrated I was over having isolated myself to the point where I wasn’t sure how to get out of the rut I had put myself in. We didn’t have to worry about people thinking we were strange or not knowing how to respond or relate to what we consider an average experience. We could just talk it out and give each other support and solutions without judgment.
That is the beauty of having a network of people living with the same condition as you. I discovered this for the first time in group therapy, where I met a variety of people who were there describing their experiences, and I realized how closely they matched mine. The importance of this type of community can’t be overlooked. There’s power and safety in numbers, and having your experience normalized can go a long way in helping you feel like a normal person again.
Managing depression isn’t a one-person job. If you’ve been trying to do it all on your own, ask yourself what you can do to allow some help in, and take the first step at finding professional help and building your network from there. It can be intimidating at first, but learning how to ask for — and receive — help is the first step on your path to managing, and potentially improving, your mental health.
For more information on how to manage depression, reach out to your doctor or healthcare team.
DEPR-US-NP-00055 MARCH 2019