Depression, for me, has been a couple of different things - but the first time I felt it, I felt helpless, hopeless, and things I had never felt before. I lost myself and my will to live.
- Ginger Zee
You may be reading this article because you are depressed. You may have struggled with it for a long time, not knowing what to do to stop the pain you’re feeling. You want to know that you are not alone and are looking for a way out.
Or maybe you are wondering if you are depressed. You normally feel fine, but you can’t help but feel that something is missing from your life. You wonder how you are supposed to live a “good life” when you have almost given up on hope.
Whatever your situation is, you’re not alone in this. Most people go through life thinking that they should feel better. They escape this by either remembering better times or dreaming of happier moments. But you don’t have to look to the past or the future to find happiness again. You can feel good in the present. By the end of this article you will know how you can achieve that!
First of all, I want to say that I don’t think of depression as a disease or a problem of the brain.1 I think that depression is a normal response to a challenging situation or prolonged stress.2 In some cases, depression is a signal that something is wrong and you need to reassess how you live your life. So if you are depressed, please do not feel ashamed. There is nothing wrong with you. You just need to make some changes in your life.
People usually think that if you are depressed, you are just sad. But that’s not really true. When you suffer from depression, this affects everything about yourself. It starts in the mind by making you focus on the negative side of life. This causes you to feel pain and eventually despair. Your thoughts and feelings also influence the way you behave and what you do or don’t do.
You see, thoughts affect feelings which influence behavior (actions). When depression strikes, it usually corrupts all three: thoughts, feelings and actions. Let’s try to understand how it affects these three areas and then see how we can improve each of them.
What you think when you are depressed
Depression affects both what you think about and how you think about it. When you are depressed, you tend to focus on the negative side of everything. You become the “glass-half-empty” kind of person, even if you were normally positive and cheerful.
You are more likely to notice risks and problems in your life. Some of them are real and some of them are imagined. When bad things happen, you worry that your situation will never improve. For example, if you get a bad grade or negative feedback at work, you think your performance will always be poor.
You tend to complain a lot, blame others or blame yourself. You feel that you are being punished by God or the entire Universe is against you. You feel terrible and you cannot understand what you have done to deserve this. So you punish yourself by thinking about what you are bad at, what mistakes you have made and why you deserve to suffer this way.
You need to find a reason why you would deserve this to stay sane. You need it to make sense somehow. And you are stuck, studying yourself through a lens that is dirty, scratched and smoky. Your mind becomes your own nightmare. It takes the role of a judge, jury and executioner who wants to hurt you. And, unfortunately, it does – but only because you let it.
What you feel when you are depressed
If you let your thoughts roam free and take control of your mind, they will. The problem with thoughts is that they are not limited to the mind. They spill over and affect your emotions too.
When you are depressed, it is normal, or rather common, to feel sad, down or “under the weather”. You may feel discouraged, defeated or inadequate. You may worry or be irritable and get angry easily. You may feel lethargic and not interested in anything. You are no longer excited about the things you used to love.
But the worst part is that depression takes away your hope. Since you are in pain most of the time, you get used to this. Slowly, you begin to think that this type of pain will always be a part of your life. And you get to a point where you cannot remember being happy and cannot imagine being happy ever again.
You think that nothing you do matters.1 Nothing will heal you, take away your pain and bring back the happiness you once felt. That’s when you begin to lose hope. You feel helpless, as if you are stuck in a prison you cannot escape.
Have you seen the way sad or depressed people are portrayed in cartoons? They usually wear black and they always have a dark cloud hanging above their heads. Wherever they go, the cloud follows. And it rains on them all the time! You probably think that real people don’t have that, but you would be wrong. The difference is that the dark cloud is usually inside people’s head, not above it. Imagine escaping that!
What you do when you are depressed
We’ve seen how depression starts in the mind and then affects your feelings. Well, those thoughts and feelings affect what you do. And when you feel sad, hopeless and think that nothing matters, what do you do? Not much…Most people just survive. They know they have to or want to keep on living and they do what they can.
Thoughts and feelings also have a direct impact on our bodies. And when we are depressed, we feel tired or exhausted all the time. But here’s what most people don’t get. If you are happy and go hiking for a day, you feel tired. You come home and your feet and legs hurt from all the walking. You go to sleep and wake up the next morning feeling refreshed.
Well, if you are depressed, you are always tired. You wake up after sleeping for 9 hours and you feel exhausted. You feel a certain type of exhaustion that never seems to go away. It does not matter how much you sleep. I think that this is your body’s reaction to the things you think and feel.
The body seems to just slow down in a way. You feel very low on energy and you sometimes think and move slowly. And very often you don’t even feel like moving. It feels like doing normal tasks takes every bit of energy and power you have. It gets hard to get up in the morning and get out of bed. Eating, showering, going to buy food, studying, working – everything becomes exhausting.
If you have never been depressed, it’s impossible to imagine what it’s like. And if you are or have been depressed, you know this all too well. And when you feel that your body is slowing down, you begin to shut down too. You stop going out with friends, going to events you like and you ignore your hobbies. You give up sports and you stop going to the gym. Little by little, you shrink back from your life.
But just because you are depressed now, this does not mean that you have to continue to be depressed forever. There are ways you can heal and become happier. But as it goes with any problem, if you want to find a solution, you first need to understand the problem you are dealing with. This article was meant to help you with that. I will soon post the next article in which we explore ways to overcome depression and find happiness again.
I think the saddest people always try their hardest to make people happy because they know what it’s like to feel absolutely worthless and they don’t want anyone else to feel like that.
I’ve dealt with depression myself. I’ve seen and felt the way it seems to take away everything that you hold dear. It felt as if my life was slowly being sucked out of me and I couldn’t do anything about it. But I did not give up hope and I looked for a way out. I was able to find my happiness and enjoy life again.
But that experience was so painful that it pushed me to do more. It fuels my ambition to help other people heal and enjoy life again. That’s the reason why I write articles like this one and share insights and information on social media. And that’s why I wrote my first book “Happy by Choice”. I wanted it to be a book that reminds people that happiness is a choice and one we can all make – even those of us struggling with depression. Choose happiness!