This is going to be a little bit different than the upbeat stuff that I normally post. Bear with me.
May is mental health month, and something I’ve always been comfortable speaking out about are my personal experiences with depression and anxiety – I think talking about it is the most important way for us to reduce the stigma around mental illness.
I have the chronic kind of depression – the kind that isn’t triggered by a certain event or difficult time, but is always just kind of… there. In fact, growing up, I never clued in that there was something wrong with me – I genuinely thought that everyone else also hated everything about themselves, hurt themselves, and felt an all-encompassing sadness at all times. I genuinely thought that everyone fantasized about dying and that everyone else also was looking for an “out” – It was in grade 8 that my mom picked up that something was wrong and sent me to a doctor, where I got therapy and medication – the same medication I’ve been on for 6 years now. I’ve made countless strides since clutching a bottle of painkillers in my 12-year-old hands, but I will always have depression. The cloud will always loom behind me.
To be quite honest with you, I don’t want to get rid of it. I don’t know who I am without depression – as the phenomenal poet Neil Hilborn once said – “the sadness is like the old paint beneath the new… I’d still be me without it, but God, I’d be so boring.”
That being said, I struggle quite frequently with things that are seemingly normal for others – getting out of bed at a normal hour, showering/taking care of myself, eating, etc.
Here’s some tips I’ve found help me when I’m in a pretty weird place with my depression and help me get back into the realm of “high-functioning.” (don’t forget that if you or someone you love is struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts or anything really that you can check out this list of hotlines to help you work through it! be safe please ♥)
1. Write stuff down.
A common symptom of depression is forgetfulness – the most effective way I’ve found to combat that is to write everything down. I’m obsessed with my bullet journal – it’s a one-size-fits-all planning system where I can jot down any appointments, when I work, etc. Plus, writing in it and decorating it is very therapeutic, and it helps me to really feel on top of my life and what I’ve got going on.
2. Try your hardest to get out of bed.
Most days I find it hard to peel myself from my sheets before 3 pm – not because I’m lazy, but because my mind is working in overdrive trying to convince myself that it actually is a good thing that I woke up and it’s exhausting.
Set an alarm. Physically get up – that’s the hardest obstacle. As soon as your feet hit the floor you’re going to want to crawl back into bed – fight the urge. Make a cup of coffee. Get your shit together.
3. Remind yourself what’s great about you.
Something that really really helped me get through my worst period with my illness was sitting there and thinking about 5 things I like about my appearance, and 5 things I like about my personality. Write them down, so they’re different every day. Doing this really helped me learn to love my stretch marks, rather than hate my “fat” thighs – I found something I hated about myself but found something I loved within it – I think my stretch marks make me look like a tiger!
4. Call or talk to someone you trust
One of the best parts about living on campus was that I was always down the hall from my boyfriend, Peter, who is a giant teddy bear and is incredibly comforting when I’m sad or having a panic attack or something of the sort. However, since the summer started and we both went back to our hometowns, I don’t get the comfort of the fricken heat that the man radiates at all times – calling him is the next best thing. Hearing his voice has become almost as soothing, and it’s what’s really been helping me cope with the whole LDR thing. Call someone, talk to your mom or your sibling, talk to your teacher or your friend or a therapist or your cat – just talk. It helps if all of the negativity is out in the open and not in your chest.
5. Work out
As disgusting as this sounds, get your body MOVING and SWEAT (sweat is fat crying, after all.) I DREADED working out when I first started, and now I get excited to go to the gym. We all know that exercise releases endorphins or whateverthefuck, but if you actually take care of your body and start to see results and take that time for yourself, you’ll feel a hell of a lot better – it helped me start to love my body and gain my confidence, which in turn helped me feel worthy of literally breathing and living, something I struggled with a lot.
6. Find a creative outlet
When I first got diagnosed, I was writing A LOT – stories, One Direction fanfic (barf), and really depressing and strange poems. I LOVED writing, and that’s what lead me to a degree in journalism and starting up a blog. I still love writing, obviously, and I could do a whole post about how writing helped to drag me out of the deepest pits of my depression. Something else I found really helped was actually makeup – sitting down and doing a big avant-garde look, spending hours just getting as glam as possible, it all not only helped my skill as a freelance MUA, but helped to center me and calm me down – I was able to focus my attention on something other than the fact that I wanted to die. It helped in so many ways – some people sketch, some perform music… for me it was a combination of makeup and writing, which lead me to create a beauty blog.
I hope this helped someone at least a little bit – I know that everyone’s illnesses are different and everyone will find that different coping strategies work for them.
Let me know what your favourite coping mechanisms are!