How I Thrive Despite Depression
By Christine Elizabeth
Depression is something I’ve battled for most of my life. I didn’t always know that I was experiencing it, but I finally learned what I was experiencing when I was about 18. I am 26 now and sometimes wish I could say it wasn’t still a part of my life.
However, it is a part of my journey still, but not in a way I thought was possible. Instead of crippling me and discouraging me, it is a constant motivational reminder to take proper care of myself.
Depression isn’t always something we can control, but we can have a say in how we react to it. Sure, it can be very hard to fight in the midst of experiencing the symptoms, but I wanted to share some ways I have personally been able to combat these moments in hope that it might be useful to you.
I’m sure anyone reading this might already know this, but the symptoms for depression don’t always suddenly appear. Often there is some kind of build up or triggers that weren’t acknowledged properly. Even the smallest stressors can actually lead to increased nervousness if we don’t sit down and acknowledge the reaction we experience to the stressor.
I completed a form of Trauma Therapy last year, and it’s important to accept the parts of ourselves that we don’t always like. I found that getting to know the feeling or emotion in difficult moments by asking that part of yourself what it needs, why it feels the way it does, and trying to make it feel safe again is important. You can even write down a dialogue between your rational self and this emotion. We can’t reject what we feel and it will only consume us if all we do is just try to rationalize with ourselves.
Another useful tool for me is intentionally planning time for self-care each day. For example, something I want to do for myself this year is committing to more writing, to having a good prayer life, and to learning a new language. I planned it out so it looks like 5 minutes or so of a language app, at least 10 minutes of prayer, and 20 minutes of writing. It’s not set in stone for how long I do these activities, which relieves the stress of having to follow a strict routine.
I think we live in such a structured world and it’s impossible to control absolutely everything. We need some flexibility and why not learn that while benefiting yourself with less stress? Self-care doesn’t look the same for everyone, but I do believe God needs to be a part of it always. Our souls need rest and where better to find it then in God and the beautiful Sacraments. I also believe that challenging ourselves to learn something new helps us grow and see that we are capable of more than depression or the lies we hear in our heads. Also, creating is something we should all do. It helps to externalize and make visible an idea, emotion or story we know internally. I think it helps me personally understand myself better.
Often times there are moments where it seems like we can’t fight the depression and anxiety but these moments don’t mean we have failed. Somewhere along my journey, I learned that it’s okay to reach out to someone I am close to. I don’t have to go into all the details with this person or explain myself. I can just say, “I’m having a bad day. Could you pray for me?”
Sometimes it’s enough just knowing someone else knows it’s a difficult day and other times when they ask a follow up question I try to open up and just be honest about whatever is bothering me. My friends can’t always respond right away, but I still send the text and know that someone will see it eventually. I send the text before I can even rethink it, which is why I keep it simple.
We aren’t meant to face life alone. On a practical level, I also know my personal bad habit of pressing snooze. If I am pressing snooze more than once, I can already tell you it’s going to be a rough day lacking motivation. Knowing this about myself, I try my very best to get up when my alarm goes off. It’s hard to do some days and often I fail, but I try. We can’t start to change something if we don’t try and try again, even after we seem to fail. The only failure is to not try again.
I firmly believe in people taking care of themselves. I support anyone who desires extra help in healing. This could mean going to therapy and possibly taking some medication. I have done both of these in the past and have never regretted it. I feel like my choice to make healing my priority has only strengthened the belief – I can not only survive life, but I can thrive.
Depression has been a part of my journey and I am grateful that it’s given me the chance to know myself even more. I am also grateful for it showing me that I need other people in my life. I grew up thinking I had to be this independent woman who did everything all by herself. In many ways I have become this woman but this woman gets tired of doing it all alone. This is why I rely on the strength of God, my friends, family and the Sacraments. These 3 things fuel me up when I am empty and help me go beyond my own limits to succeed in more ways than I thought possible. Keep fighting the good fight, and remember you are never alone.
P.S. You are enough.