This is a personalized post from the desk of our founder, JD Arbuckle.
One of the most rewarding things I do is crawl online forums and try to respond to those looking for help. This person’s post stuck out to me, and so I wrote a detailed response to them. Perhaps some of you may find this information useful as well! Even if many of you have never felt this level of depression, everyone needs to get out of a funk once in a while. Good luck out there.
Original Post: “I’m scared I’m going to lose my entire life to depression. Please help me.”
“Hi everybody. I’m a university student. I’ve had depression for as long as I can remember and have self harmed since I was 9 years old. I’ve struggled with suicidal thoughts for years and it’s pretty much a miracle that I’m still here. I’m taking antidepressants and going to therapy but my moods fluctuate all the time and I’m in the middle of a pretty bad relapse at the moment.
I want help. I’m tired of feeling like this. I’m tired of being way behind on my classes and I’m tired of staying in bed all day because I don’t have the will to get up and I’m tired of torturing my poor boyfriend who selflessly deals with all of my bullshit. I’m terrified of losing him because if he leaves me it will be the final straw and I don’t know how to cope after that without him.
I’ve tried everything. I’ve tried the no zero days and the excuse journal and I’ve tried celebrating small victories like cleaning my teeth or taking a shower and I’ve tried just forcing myself to be a functional adult but none of it works. I’ve lost my whole life to depression and I want it to go away.
Please help me. If you know any way that I can start getting my act together then please tell me. Depression is an illness that tries to push everyone you love away and it gets you on your own and then it kills you and I’m scared that’s the way I’m going. I want to be normal. I want to be able to go more than one day without crying and I want to be able to do my homework and I want to be able to go to my classes and I want to be able to be happy. I want to have good days. I want out of this mess. Thank you for reading.”
“Hello friend. I don’t know you but I promise that I care about you, I truly do. From a 25 year old finally finding some stability, here is what I can offer:
YES to therapy. All of it. And not just the stuff that gives you tools on how to manage your depression, but the deep, deep childhood Jungian stuff. If I didn’t learn why I was how I was, and then go through this year of anger and sadness, and then take the necessary steps to change what I needed to change, I would never get out of the pit. Good therapy is swimming through the river of sh*t so you can get to the dry bank on the other side.
YES to medication. It’s a booster, it won’t change everything. You might have more luck with mood stabilizers instead of anti-depressants. And, we are currently in an anti-depressant epidemic, so that always felt a little more comfortable for me. But that is just ego, don’t let it get to you.
YES to regimented sleep. I mean this. You know the word lunacy or lunatic? It comes from luna, the moon. And it’s because during full moons when we didn’t have fully dark homes would keep people up, and it would trigger mania in bipolar. If I sleep 5 hours, I’m a wreck. If I sleep 9 hours, I’m a wreck. I need 7-8 like clockwork, and it seriously takes me from a 2/10 to a 7/10. Do whatever you can to manage this: yellow light glasses, sleeping medication (stay away from benzo/opioids), job changes, anything. The studies on this keep on coming.
YES to exercise. It works, it works, it works. Don’t do sh*t you hate: if you hate running, lift. If you hate lifting, do yoga. Do it, celebrate every workout, breathe in the endorphin freedom.
YES to finding self responsibility. You will never heal without it. I recently talked to a woman with a 35-year-old bipolar son living back at home. I told her, “Sorry mom. I know you want to love him, and I know he is in pain, but he will never heal if he is still under mom’s roof.” It’s just how male psychology works. I know you are female, but there are equivalents to this; such as you saying losing your partner would be the end of it. I am absolutely in LOVE with my current partner. I feel the same way. But technically, I do not NEED her. She doesn’t feed me, or pay my bills, or organize my hiking trips (now if I didn’t have those, that’s another story…). So you must find self-reliance. You can, and you will.
YES to long term goals and short term habits. This is called Kaizen. Your small victories are not working because they aren’t going anywhere. I know we are told to celebrate the showers and the little stuff, and sometimes that helps, but you need to celebrate the showers because that means you are one step closer to X. Being self-reliant. Volunteering for a cause. Travelling. Getting in great shape. Start with your values, create a self-mission statement, set five year goals, and break those all the way down to literally what you have to do TODAY to reach it. Write one sentence of a book. Do one pushup. Now these things have meaning.
YES to sobriety. I don’t drink or smoke and I’m very bored and it sucks. But I am stable. And I don’t have breakdowns. And I don’t have binges. And it is so, so much better. You’ll find a whole new world of health and friendships to explore.
Do not flail your fists violently at depression. It is a fog, it cannot be beat that way. You must be calm, collected, slow and steady. You must wake up to good music, cook a good breakfast, get out the door. Get out the door, every single day. Go to a coffee shop and read, whatever.
You must confront your ineffective thoughts with questions. Not “I’m NOT a terrible person!” but, “OK, sure brain, I’m a terrible person. Here, I’m going to get up right now and knock this person’s coffee out of their hand because I’m terrible. Wait, of course I’m not going to do that. Can I really be terrible? Hm…”
YES to trusting others. Everything I just said above, depression has given you reasons and excuses why it will not work. I’ve been there. “That’s all great, but…” You are in the fog so you can’t SEE. We can see you, though. I can see you be happy, healthy, stable, strong. I can see you get down like we all do, but knowing how to manage it correctly and knowing it will end. Be well, I am here.”
Responses to Us and Others:
“I read your comment and I immediately called my school’s counseling service to make an appointment. Something resonated with me and made me realize that I’m not okay, but that things don’t have to be this way. Thank you so much.”
“Exercise. It doesn’t matter what you do: walk, run, jog, whatever. It doesn’t matter how out of shape you are. Just get outside and do something physical. You will be amazed at how good you feel after a hard hour of exercise.”
“This advice is amazing. Do this. Do all of this. You can do it! Don’t forget that alongside your habits you need to change how you speak! Speak in positives. That was what finally got me off of the medication. Don’t say, “I can’t.” Say, “My obstacle is…” Don’t say, “I don’t think I can…”, say “I think the thing standing in my way the most is”. Quantify your enemy. The enemy is not you, the enemy is your brain making you think negatively. So fight that. Fight it in every sentence you form.”
Leave a comment: What advice would you give this young conqueror?