Mental health, is a subject that has previously been rather taboo but is slowly becoming more openly talked about.
During my first few years of university, I suffered from depression. It took me a while to finally admit to two of my closest friends that I needed help. I had become increasingly sad, sat in the shower and cried, socialised a lot less, missed lectures and often spent days in bed sleeping, crying and not doing much of anything. I started to become withdrawn and one night, after considering swerving my car on a dual carriageway, I pulled over and told myself that I needed to get better.
My steps for combating depression
After seeing my doctor, I made the decision to avoid anti-depressants and tried the self help method. Don’t get me wrong, I could talk for ages about how I felt and how depression consumes you – but I’d rather focus on the ways that I pushed myself to overcome depression.
Everyone is different, different people will feel differently and react to different things. But here are my self help tips for regaining some control:
Exercise is one thing that really helped me. For one, it helps get you out of bed and out of the rut of staying inside and ignoring people.
Second, exercise has been scientifically proven to release endorphins which triggers a positive feeling. Exercise can help to combat stress, anxiety and indeed depression. You do not need to head to the gym and spend an hour lifting weights or sprint on the treadmill. Find a form of exercise that you enjoy and start off slowly. It soon becomes addictive and I always found that if I was feeling a bit crap a quick gym session would give me something else to focus on and make me feel better.
The other benefit is obviously that exercise will keep you in shape, which in turn will make you healthier and also make you feel less self conscious.
2. Take time to look after yourself
It is vital when trying to mend yourself that you take some time out just for you. Do the things that make you happy, whether that be reading a book or going for a spa day. To get better you need to start looking after yourself and you need to start valuing yourself – so fuck everyone else and do what you want every now and again!
Depending on how crazy your schedule is, aim for at least 3 hours a week that are dedicated purely to you. No phone, no distractions and no chaos.
I love reading and I love baking, so I found that spending a Sunday baking a cake made me feel really happy, especially when people I love enjoyed the treats I’d made.
In June I treated myself to a solo trip to Rome for my birthday, to get away from the chaos of life and do a bit of exploring!
I also try and treat myself to one treat a month now – nothing too crazy, but just a little pick-me-up.
Trust me, I know that when you are drowning in depression, this can be really really hard. The thought of getting dressed in to tight skinny jeans and a wired bra and venturing out into the outside world can feel impossible – but it will make you feel better.
Being around friends and family will make you feel happier and will show you how many people there are who care about you.
Go for a drink or dinner with friends, go to the cinema, go bowling – just do something, even if you don’t want to.
I’ve got a group of close friends who are in a band (Verdisa), and I can honestly say that those guys combined with my best girl friends were the ones who made a whole lot of difference to how I felt and how I coped. Going along and singing my heart out, being social and having a bit of fun made a whole world of difference and made me realise that the good always outweighs the bad.
4. Explore “why?”
Depression can be caused by a huge range of things. Trauma, past experiences, hormonal imbalances, medication or other medical issues.
When you start to understand why you feel a certain way, it allows you to understand your reactions and your own feelings better. After seeing a counsellor for a few sessions, I began to analyse why I had suddenly hit the lowest point in my life and from here I was able to realise what I could control (my emotions and thoughts) and what I couldn’t control (the past and the actions of other people).
If it is because of medication or hormonal imbalances, you could try having a chat with your GP to discuss options.
5. Open up
Opening up is extremely daunting. The thought of telling others how you feel and potentially breaking down in front of them is scary, but opening up can really help you feel less swamped.
I’m lucky that I have a group of incredible and understanding friends, who immediately offered me support when I finally admitted that I was depressed. They listened when I was having bad days and being able to tell them how I felt helped me to get things off my chest.
My family were a little more tricky, they did not and still do not really understand how I felt and what I was going through. Obviously they still offered their love and support, but it was definitely a little more awkward! It’s often harder for parents, grandparents and siblings to see you in pain.
I also began writing to open up, I wrote fake letters to people or wrote in a little journal I had. This was a way of me expressing my feelings and thoughts when people weren’t around to share them with – this was suggested to me by a counsellor who I saw a few times at uni and it surprisingly helped a lot.
6. Don’t be hard on yourself
This is so important. Please, please, please just give yourself a break.
Hundreds of thousands of people across the globe suffer from some form of mental illness – you are NOT alone.
You do not need to feel happy every day or go to every social event. The important thing is that you start to feel like you again.
There are still days when I undoubtedly feel, for lack of a better word, completely shit. The methods above have helped me completely transform myself and I have come such an unbelievably long way, but I have also accepted that depression will always be part of me. I will always have bad days and have a melt down over silly things like my duvet cover not going on my duvet (genuinely happened), but there is always light at the end of the tunnel.