How I Overcame Depression (My Story and Coping Mechanisms)


Lately I've been struggling. You probably hadn't even realised, because I always try to be positive online. But I've suffered with depression the in past, and I'm constantly scared it will come back.

Ten years ago at the age of 24, I became severely depressed. There was no 'reason' for it, no devastating life event such as the loss of a loved one; it just crept up on me and took hold. Depression feels different for everyone. For me, it feels like a literal weight on my shoulders and a dark cloud over my head. It's heavy. It's oppressive. It's overpowering. Everything is an effort, even getting out of bed. I think the world would be better off without me; I'm such a burden, it'd be better for everyone if I was dead. I don't want to feel this way, but I can't allow myself to feel happy. I don't deserve to be happy. I'm a failure and I've let everyone down.

I could see no way out and had constant suicidal thoughts. I was crying all the time. As well as all that, I was having panic attacks almost every night. This lasted about a year, until I begged my mum to take me to see the doctor (I was too scared to go alone). That was the turning point for me. I felt he understood what I was going through - everyone else I had tried to talk to hadn't been able to understand and I was left feeling even more rejected, isolated and alone. To put it bluntly, I thought I was mental.

Even ten years ago, there was more of a stigma around mental health and fewer online outlets to talk about it. I had a blog but wouldn't have dreamed of admitting to my readers that I had depression. I'm so happy that we've come such a long way in the past decade and people can talk openly on platforms like Twitter about things like depression and anxiety without fear of being judged - and that's because brave people have opened up and started the conversation and helped others in the process.

Anyway, my GP - who I'm eternally grateful to; he quite possibly saved my life - put me on Fluoxetine and told me to come back to see him once a week to discuss how I was getting on. The drugs were helpful and I began to perk up slightly, enough to start doing everyday things again. Don't let anyone tell you that antidepressants are a bad thing - for some people, they're a life saver. I also looked forward to my weekly appointment with the doctor as I felt it was the only place I could talk about my emotions without feeling judged. 

I stayed on the meds (on and off, with a higher and lower dosage as needed) for the next 3-4 years until I eventually felt I could cope without them.


Luckily I'm not in that dark place anymore, but occasionally I wake up feeling the same as I used to, or I'll happily be going about my day and all of a sudden the depression will hit me like a freight train. I refuse to return to my former state, so over the years I've learnt a few different coping mechanisms to help manage my depression and keep it at bay, before it consumes me again.

These may or may not work for you - as I said, everyone's depression is different - but please give them a try. I hope one or more of them helps you in some small way. It's also worth keeping in mind that they will only work for mild to moderate depression - if you're severely depressed, you need to seek medical help immediately. It was only by going on antidepressants first to stabilise my mood that I was able to start making positive changes to my life. 

1. Refuse to let the depression win
This is the tactic I use most nowadays. It's not about pretending the depressive thoughts aren't there, but not allowing yourself to believe them. I tell myself that my feelings are just that: feelings. They're not the truth. I've heard emotions referred to as 'mind weather' which I feel is a wonderful analogy. They come and go, changing as often as the weather. Another thing I do when I catch an unhelpful thought entering my head (such as "you're worthless") is to laugh at it like it's the most ridiculous thing ever. That usually makes it run and hide for a while. I also know that the less I want to do something or go somewhere, the more important it is that I do it. I don't let the depression win anymore. 

2. Talk to someone
Whether it's a medical professional, a family member, a support group or strangers on Twitter, talking about and having someone understand what you're going through makes the world of difference. You'll realise that you're not alone, you're not incurable, and you're definitely not crazy.

3. Write your feelings down
Journalling is another way to let your emotions out. If you're not ready to speak to a real person, sit down and write about everything that's troubling you. It can make you feel better just to get it out of your head. Sometimes I write out all the things I'm worrying about so I don't feel I have to 'remember' them. You could also go the other way and jot down a list of every single thing you're grateful for in your life. This will help you realise how much you still have going for you and just how lucky you are.

4. Exercise
There are so many positives to working out; mental benefits as well as physical. Exercise releases endorphins, which puts you in a better frame of mind and gives you a more positive outlook. Even a ten minute walk around the block or lifting a few weights at home can do the trick for me.

5. Go outside
Sometimes just getting out of the house can make me feel so much better. I find that being inside, especially alone, can be stifling. That's when I start having dark thoughts so I remove myself from the situation.

6. Eat healthily
Junk food may be comforting and make you feel better momentarily, but in the long run, it's making you feel worse. The last thing you need when you're depressed is to feel even more sluggish and tired. Start eating lots of whole foods, including plenty of fruit and veg, and your energy levels and mood will both start to pick up.

7. Practise mindfulness
This is something I'm still not very good at. I'm constantly worrying about the future or thinking about the past instead of being in the moment. But I'm trying to get better at it, because it does make me feel calmer and I get to experience life as it happens. You can download a mindfulness or meditation app on your phone and use it whenever you need to.

8. Do something that makes you happy
When you have depression, nothing makes you happy anymore. But if you feel up to it, try rediscovering a hobby you used to enjoy or arrange to meet up with friends for a coffee. I love blogging because it gives me a purpose, I enjoy writing, I have something to do during my free time instead of sitting and stewing and I've met some lovely people because of it.


 

Disclaimer: None of these tips is a cure for depression. They are just strategies I have used to help me manage it. Once again, if you have severe depression or are having suicidal thoughts, seek professional help immediately.

Have you ever suffered from a mental illness? What coping mechanisms have you found work best for you?


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Comments

  1. These are some really good tips. I am so glad you found your way back from the darkness of depression. I have lost several people in my life who did not and wish I could have helped them more.

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    1. I'm so sorry to hear that you've lost people to depression. It's a horrible thing to have to go through. Luckily I stopped short of suicide. I can't imagine what state of mind you'd have to be in to actually go through with it.

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  2. Really helpful tips. I'm happy you're not in that place anymore :)

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    1. Thanks Tia. I hope my story and tips can help someone else who may be struggling.

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  3. These are some great tips! I’ve struggled with mental illness my whole life and it’s something I used to hide and be embarrassed about but I’m not anymore because I know that it’s not my fault. It’s something that I know I’ll have to deal with for the rest of my life so it’s definitely a struggle. I’m glad you’ve gotten to a point where you’re in a better place, I can definitely relate to the ups and downs.

    Afairytaledream.com

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    1. A lot of people struggle with mental illness; that's why it's so important that we talk about it. There's still a stigma attached but fortunately it's getting less and less because more people are opening up. It's definitely not something to be ashamed of or embarrassed about.

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  4. I'm thankful for your GP because you're here today because of him! Glad you've found the strength to battle depression and eventually got off medication! These are great tips for staying strong. Thanks for sharing :).

    exquisitely.me

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    1. Thanks for your support, Nancy. Hopefully my post will help others by showing that there IS a light at the end of the tunnel.

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  5. These are truly great ideas for anyone struggling with mental wellness. Thank you for sharing your story so honestly and openly, it truly does help people to see this happens in many ways and to many different people. I had postnatal depression and still get low days now. My brother had a breakdown that sounds very similar to your experiences, he had it combined with anxiety/panic attacks and insomnia.

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    1. Depression and anxiety are so inextricably linked. They sound like polar opposites but it's common to have both at the same time. I hope both you and your brother are in a better place mentally now. Thanks for sharing your story.

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  6. I suffer from social anxiety and it,like other mental health condition, is crippling. It stops you doing what so I can definitely relate to you in terms of the feeling of being trapped inside your head.

    Im even starting a social anxiety programme next Thursday thanks to a GP who pointed me in the right direction. I'd like more doctors to do the same with mental health sufferers rather than just prescribe medication (not that it is a bad thing) because it comes across as they're treating it like any other physical illness and youe mental health is a completely different ball game altogether. Anyway I'm glad you're dealing with depression and confident enough to talk about it and bring it more awareness.

    Johnny | The Travel Connoisseur

    http://thetravelconnoisseur.wordpress.com

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    1. I wish you luck with your social anxiety programme, Johnny. I'd probably be too anxious to go!

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  7. First, let me say writing this was very brave of you. Second, thank you for sharing. Finally, I found this really interesting because it gives me some insight into this topic that I really wouldn't have since I'm pretty "typical."

    S .x samsramblings91.blogspot.com

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    1. That's great, I'm glad it can educate some people who don't really understand mental illness because they've never experienced it.

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  8. Such a great post -thank you for sharing your own experiences and tips...I'm currently on Fluoxetine and undergoing counselling. I find mindfulness really helpful - when I remember to use it! x www.aimeeraindropwrites.co.uk x

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    1. Thanks Aimee, so happy you enjoyed the post. I know about your struggles with depression from reading your blog. Yes, mindfulness is an effective resource but as you said, it's not that easy because you actually have to remember to do it! x

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  9. Some really great tips. I'm glad you're moving through your struggles and thank you for sharing your experiences. Sending good wishes x

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    1. Thanks, Sophia. It's easier to talk about it now, ten years down the line. If I was still in that situation it would be harder to open up.

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  10. Thanks for sharing these tips on coping with depression and being brave enough to tell us your story :) It must have been very hard on you, this year without the help. I am glad that your GP was so understanding. I have a lot of depressed people around me. I see how much they struggle and try to give them as much love as I can share.
    My partner is chronically depressed and has really dark episodes at times. I give him the love no matter what, but notice I also have to watch myself and take good care of myself in these times. I ran on empty a few years ago because I did nothing else than to take care of him next to the busy life I had. I completely forgot about myself. I feel I've often edged on depression if that makes any sense, and for that I used your first tip. Not to let it beat me. When I felt like I wanted to be in bed all day, I pulled myself out and started the day anyway.
    And told these dark thoughts to go f themselves basically.
    Again thanks for bloggin this
    Lots of love
    www.rainbowsdreamcloud.com

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    1. Sorry to hear that your partner has depression. I'm glad you take care of him and try to help as much as you can. It's really important to look after yourself too when caring for someone else. I'm glad you're able to cope well when those depressive thoughts come to you, and carry on anyway. That's the best thing to do (but usually the hardest).

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  11. This was such an amazing post and I could relate heavily to it. During my lowest, I never had the money or insurance to even see a doctor - plus, antidepressants and mental health in general was taboo to talk about in my family. I have never gone on medication for my anxiety or depression, but I was given the option to that or counseling and I chose counseling instead and that helped - it helped talking to someone that wasn't shunning me for doing so. It is scary not knowing if the depression will come back - but, your tips are all so helpful and are my "tried and true" sort of things that helped me. Keep fighting!

    Thank you so much for sharing your experience - I know it's not always easy to talk about mental health!

    CiCi | Navigation To Happiness
    navigationtohappiness.com

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    1. I know how you feel about not being able to talk to anyone. My family don't like talking about it (although I lost an uncle to suicide/alcoholism) and those who don't suffer from depression just don't understand it. It was only when I went to the doctor that I felt like I was taken seriously and had a real condition, rather than just being a drama queen. I'm glad my tips are helpful to you.

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  12. I am so sorry to hear that you have had a depression but I am glad that you feel better now. All the tips are very helpful. I know a couple of people who suffer with depression so this might help them to feel better!

    http://whatmakesmesmileblog.com/

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    1. Thanks Freja, I hope it can help other people - if only by letting them know that they're not alone.

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  13. Lovely post darling! Super proud and grateful for the tips. Char // https://lunarchar.com/ xx

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  14. Such a brave and opening story. Should be proud of yourself to be able to share this with us. I too suffer and can relate very much so,

    Ashleigh
    www.thestoryofashleighdavis.com

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    1. Thanks Ashleigh, sorry to hear that you suffer with depression too. I'm glad you can relate to my post. I still can't believe I shared it with the world! Would never have been able to do that ten years ago.

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  15. I'm so glad you shared your story, it's so helpful in normalising mental illness. These are some great ideas, I'll try and give them a go when I go through a bad anxiety period.

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    1. I think the more people share their stories, the quicker mental illness will be accepted and normalised. Glad you found the tips helpful :)

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  16. Such a lovely inspiring post to many, I am so happy that you feel better. It is important to remember recovery is possible and to make sure you give yourself enough self care!

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    1. It is definitely possible. Thanks for the kind words!

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  17. Thank you for sharing, Nic! These types of things can be super uncomfortable to talk about, but because more people like you are spreading awareness to depression and anxiety I feel like we're at a point we can freely talk about these problems. Your tips to live a healthier lifestyle are great! Exercise is huge, and not letting depression defeat you. Thank you so much for sharing!

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    1. Yes, they can definitely be uncomfortable to talk about. I was a little nervous to write a blog post like this but the response has been amazing. Glad you liked the tips. I think exercise is so important for your mental health and well as physical.

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