Have you heard the old expression, “bad things happen to good people?” Because it’s true. I find that the better person you are, the more tragic life, in general, you have. Struggle makes us stronger.
Had abusive parents? You know what not to do, and what to look out for. Got cheated on? You know how it feels, and so won’t do it to someone else. Lost your loved one? You’re now better at coping with loss.
Depression doesn’t work that way.
I had self-diagnosed myself a long time ago. In my view, I don't need a doctor to tell me what I already know. When I was a young teenager my life was hard, not so much because of outside pressure, but because of a fucked up chemical reaction in my brain.
According to webmd.com (which we all know is a great resource and is never inaccurate at all), depression can be a very tricky thing to diagnose. Some symptoms include habitual daily sadness, either too much or not enough sleep, no energy, and problems concentrating.
That covers a lot of people, doesn’t it? Still, though, I believe that if you have it, you would know. Sometimes people just get sad for no reason, and that's fine, but it's not fine when it happens every other day. My depression was severe when I was young, but I’ve learned to whittle it down to just messing up one day every now and then, and I’m going to try to help you do the same!
The opposite of depression is happiness. I'm not religious, and I believe that there is no inherent meaning to life. But if there was one, it would be happiness! Think about it.
Why do you do anything? For happiness. When we help other people out, we feel good about ourselves. When we masturbate, we feel happy (except for immediately afterward). When we exercise, we're doing it for ourselves and because it releases endorphins and dopamine. Happiness is the true meaning of life, and depression is its antithesis.
If you have depression a lot of the time, simply living day by day can be enough. Making it to the next day is taken for granted by so much of the population. The struggle every night and the straight-up resentment of having to live again the next day is exhausting. I understand. Wondering every night if tomorrow you'll finally feel better.
Any time my depression acted up, I attributed it to something. I felt like I can't be sad for nothing, it didn't make sense, so I made something up. Oh, maybe I'm sad because my girlfriend did this, or because my dog looked at me this way, or blah blah blah. You know what made me feel a little bit better? Admitting that, yes, I'm sad for no fucking reason, and it's okay. It's okay to be sad for no reason. But as soon as you admit it, that there's no reason (other than dumb chemicals), it opens up some possibilities.
Say this to yourself right now: "It's okay to be sad, whether I have a reason to be sad or not."
Every day is a war with yourself. Are you upset with yourself? Resent yourself for your depression? Raging mad that every day is a constant struggle?
Let go. Forgive you. It's not your fault. Bad things happen to good people, but it will make you stronger. The biggest thing I obtained from my depression is wisdom. I know better now. Not to sound uppity or like I'm better because of X, Y, and Z, but it made me a better person. I know how to console people because I needed it. I understand what people go through because I went through it. I have that compassion and sympathy that a lot of people who’ve never struggled don’t have.
Once you stop fighting yourself and accept that it's not you, then taking actionable steps towards a healthier life becomes possible.
If you get .01% better every day, you will be 3.65% better in one year. That may not sound like much, but give it a couple of years. By the way, once the ball starts rolling, a couple of years will blow by. But hang on to that 3.65%, because you'll feel it.
You don't have to do significant things every day to progress your mental health. As long as every day you improve just a tiny bit, you will get there. Let's talk about how.
Mel Robbins, one of my favorite speakers, talks about the five-second rule. Essentially, when you have an idea, your brain will dismantle it in about five seconds. Say you see the dishes are piling up, and it makes you feel like a slob, so you decide to wash them. If you wait to start your brain will realize you don't have the energy, and will come up with an excuse. "Oh, but my show just came on. I'm feeling hungry. I should call my friend. I'll wash them later."
Wrong. You have to move within that five seconds. No thinking allowed. Literally, count down from five, and on one, do the thing. I guarantee that once you start, it'll be fine. You just need that activation energy. Apply this to every area of your life. Places where you know that if you put in the work, your life would improve. Keep a clean house, and your mind will be less cluttered.
Another thing that I’ve found helps with depression is goal setting. Throwing a marker down the field and chasing after it. This is a hard thing to do when it’s difficult to see past tomorrow. It doesn't have to be a big goal. Start small. Make a plan to walk around the block once a day. When you can make a habit, you'll realize how powerful you are. Habits form us, and when you understand that you can create habits, you can make yourself.
Use Mel's five-second rule for this. Make a time to walk, and within five seconds, simply get up and move. Once you start, you won't want to stop. When you walk around the block for four days in a row you'll feel amazing! When you build that momentum. It's a fantastic experience. Don't like walking? Weird, but okay, let's try something else.
Read one chapter of a book every day. Choose something you can easily repeat. A bad example would be “clean one part of the house every day,” because it’s not repeatable, it requires a conscious choice. “Which part should I clean today? Maybe the kitchen, but what should I do in there?” BOOM, five seconds are up. Idea killed. Choose something repetitive, something you don’t need to think about.
Once you have that going, set a bigger goal, because now you'll have confidence and the knowledge that you can.
I know You Can
Every single day might be bad right now. A fight. A struggle. Once you set your mind to improving your life by .01% every day, drastic changes, drastic changes will occur automatically. Small things add up to mountains. It obviously doesn't happen overnight or within a week, but it's worth it, and I know you can.
You can get to the point where you can help yourself and others. You’re already valuable and loved by those around you, but I know you can become valuable to yourself.
I've been at the top of a tree looking down, watching my tears fall and my knees go weak, trying to build up the courage to jump too many times in my youth. I never thought I would love myself, or even have big goals, because I couldn't see past the next day.
Look forward to going for a walk tomorrow. Every single day, look forward to going for a walk tomorrow. Eventually, you'll look forward to more things past tomorrow. It's possible, and I know you can.