If you suffer from depression, it’s likely you feel utterly, desperately — sometimes unbearably — alone. It is, after all, an illness of alienation. It drags you down, steals your joy, robs you of your energy and enthusiasm, and distances you from others.
But the truth is, you’re far from alone. More than 20 million people in the U.S. suffer from mood disorders. That jaw-dropping number is proof positive that there are millions of other people who share your pain, and I’m one of them.
I suffered from depression for 16 years. Though there were times I came close to giving up, I didn't. And for those of you who feel you’re suffering alone, I want you to know that you’re not. There is help. There is hope. And there is a light at the end of the tunnel, I promise. Here’s how I found mine.
1. Be kind to yourself.
Negative self-talk is depression’s modus operandi. It’s all about hating yourself, turning your anger inward and being nasty to the most important person in your life, YOU. You’d never treat a suffering loved one that why, so why yourself? Be kind. Be forgiving. Love the wondrous creation that you are. Therapy helps here, too.
2. Get enough vitamin D.
Via sunshine, that is. There are few things that can boost a mood like a little time in the sun. Human beings were born to be outdoors, and in our overly sedentary society, we don’t spend nearly enough time in nature. Even when all you want to do is hide under the covers and cry, force yourself to go outside. It helps.
3. Eat good food.
Bad food makes you feel bad. Trust me on this. And while junk food, sugary crap and caffeine may make provide a temporary boost, they’re hurting your emotional health in the long run. Don’t worry about overhauling your entire diet immediately, but try to start making better choices.
I can’t stress this enough. I’ve learned that without proper sleep, my entire equilibrium gets screwed up. Try to normalize. Avoid electronic devices in your bedroom, go to sleep at the same time every night, and try supplements like melatonin if you have trouble falling asleep.
5. Explore holistic treatments and supplements.
While traditional medicine has its place, holistic medicine works on the mind-body connection. Holistic practitioners will look at the big picture and customize a solution via supplements, acupuncture, energy medicine, or whatever works best for you.
This is HUGE. Meditation changes your brain, and it’ll change your life right along with it. It helps to stop negative thoughts, reduces stress and heals you from the inside out. If you’re new to it, start small — a few minutes a day.
7. Lean on your friends.
Having a support network can make all the difference in the world. And while a lot of folks may not understand your suffering, I guarantee that there are people in your life who will (or at least they’ll try to). Don’t shut them out. Talk to them, share with them and reach out when you’re in despair.
8. Ask for help.
Always, always, always ask for help when you need it. It’s out there, but you have to be the one to take the first step. And the second. And the third. People want to help you, but you have to help yourself first. There are doctors, therapists, hotlines, friends, family members, support groups and countless other ways to get assistance. Explore them.
9. Avoid drinking and drugs.
Sadly, this is one of the first ways people with mood disorders tend to cope. But short term relief leads to long-term suffering. Try to cut these influences out of your life and replace them with other things on this list.
10. Move your body.
Exercise is the most underrated antidepressant. Incorporating regular activity into my routine absolutely changed my life. I’m not saying you need to be the next Jillian Michaels, but your body wants to move. It was made to move. When you’re depressed, I know it’s the last thing you want to do, and the first thing you need to do. Force yourself. Walk, run, play, skip, swim, cycle — the activity itself doesn’t matter. Pick something you don’t hate, and start moving on a daily basis as best you can.
I’m no doctor, so please, don’t forget to ask for medical help when you need it! But I am someone who’s been where you are, and this is how I got through. Hang in there, you gorgeous creature. There’s sunshine up ahead.