How Overcoming Depression Made Me a Better Person
Let me begin by saying depression is not something to glorify. It is a serious, life-altering condition. Depression comes in many forms, making it hard to notice it in those we care about if one only looks for the “typical” signs. It is crucial to listen to the people around us and offer support when something doesn’t seem right.
I’ve struggled with being hard on myself my whole life. By the time I was 20, that was nothing new. And I was also well aware that putting just a little bit (sometimes, a lot) of pressure on myself – at school, work, and my relationships – was not depression. That was me always wanting to be in control.
When this pressure multiplied during my last semester of college and got out of control, though, that was depression. When I went from having a certain, healthy level of stress to frequent panic attacks, loss of appetite, and a constant feeling of being defeated, that was depression. Depression isn’t like the flu – you don’t just wake up one day and have it. It comes on gradually as things start to stack up in different areas of life. The thing is, it goes away gradually, too.
Somewhere in my darkness, I realized I couldn’t feel stuck forever. That was no way to live. But, I just felt like there was no way to go. I didn’t know how to make the changes my soul was craving. That desire to change, though, was the switch. It was the first step to recovery. With the support and encouragement of loved ones, I slowly started making small adjustments in my life. I still had no idea where I was headed, but I felt like I was in motion again. And that was enough.
Here’s what I came to discover from that realization:
1. There is always a choice.
No one chooses to fall victim to depression. But, everyone who suffers from depression can choose to do something about it. We can choose to get out of bed in the morning, we can choose to care for ourselves and for others. Most importantly, we can choose gratitude. Gratitude is one of the most powerful forces against hopelessness, discouragement, and fear. It shifts the mind from focusing on big, scary thoughts to simple things that are easy to appreciate. Gratitude doesn’t get rid of stressors – it can’t erase student debt or the loss of a loved one or a history of self-harm. But it can make it easier to deal with such issues. This is just one choice you have the power to make. The more you make a habit of it, the easier other positive choices become.
2. One circumstance is not the whole story.
Even though depression tends to come on as a combination of different things, it has a way of making us dwell on one or two things. Whatever that may be, it is just one piece of our life. Even if it is a major piece, it’s still not the whole story. This means depression is not the only thing that defines the person it affects. On top of living with depression, we are much more. We have the capacity to be better, stronger, and happier – despite this battle
3. Change is constant.
My depression was a result of many life changes at once, none of which I felt like I knew how to handle. I wanted many of those parts of my life to stay the same, or to at least slow down. Having to face them head-on, though, gave me a newfound appreciation for change. It shifted the relationship I have with fear, too. Now, instead of being afraid of change – or of heartbreak, failure, etc – I learn to make decisions and move forward in spite of my fears. This helps me welcome change and navigate its ebbs and flows, for both the planned and surprise changes in my life.
Choice. Circumstance. Change. These are the lessons of my depression, and the roots of my well-being now. They are things that I’ve learned to live within my life and to not give more power to than they deserve. They’ve liberated me and given me the strength to continue pushing forward, no matter what life throws at me.
Sometimes, it’s not that simple. I still have moments of breaking down or feeling overwhelmed. Those are natural, healthy spurts of emotion, though. The ability to step back and see them for what they are and then decide my reaction is what keeps me at peace. It’s what has made me a more relaxed, happier person, which I consider to be a significant improvement.
Moral of the story? Depression does not define you. You have the choice to change your circumstance(s) and change your life.
Please feel free to share your own success stories!