For me, it’s food. When I’m angry, upset, or just plain bored, I’m quick to drown my sorrows in a calorie-packed McDonald’s meal or half a dozen sliders from White Castle. It feels good and makes me forget my problems for a while, but this kind of behavior creates its own set of problems and makes your depression worse.
It’s a vicious cycle where you feel unbearable pain and try to medicate it with your drug of choice. But the “medication” only causes more pain, so you continue the downward spiral, wondering when you’ll hit bottom. Perhaps even hoping for it.
This isn’t a good coping strategy because it’s just that—it’s only coping, not healing. When you’re going through a painful time, it’s hard to see beyond the next day or even the next hour. You just want to feel better now.
You can’t run from yourself. You must face your pain and ask the hard questions about the behavior that is making things worse. Despite what our culture says, there are no easy solutions. Managing depression effectively is not a neat and tidy process. It’s messy, it’s real, and involves lots of zigzags and curves in the road. Sometimes you have setbacks. I still do. But that’s a normal part of the process.
Lie #3: Depression is only a mental issue and is not related to my physical health.
Depression, by its very nature, means that you lack energy and are not in an “up” state. When you’re depressed, you don’t feel like expending the energy to take care of yourself, which in turn puts you into an even unhealthier state. There’s that vicious cycle again.
In my early 30’s, I lost about 30 lbs. and felt great. But then I stopped working at it, gained all that weight back (and then some), and sunk deeper into a state of inaction and lethargy. For most of my 30’s, I didn’t pay much attention to my weight (other than watching it gradually increase). I completely ignored the fact that exercise could be a big help to me.
But when I turned 40, I have been exercising more and paying attention to my health. I can honestly say that aside from medication, exercise helps alleviate the symptoms of depression. Nothing else even comes close.
Exercise is one of the best things you can do combat depression. It has an amazing number of benefits, including stress reduction, better sleep, and improved self-esteem. This one choice alone can have an overwhelmingly positive effect on your life.
Exercise is one of the best things you can do to combat depression.
Lie #4: I won’t benefit from professional help.
There are many reasons people avoid counselors: it takes time, it often costs money, and in the Christian community, there is sometimes judgment associated with going to counseling. But there’s one major reason to do so: a counselor can help give you insights and strategies that can radically help in recovery.
I’m not ashamed to tell you that I saw a counselor for a time in my mid-30’s. I felt lost with no direction in life like I was wandering in a vast emotional wilderness. The counselor didn’t give me a magic pill, but he helped me process what was going on in my life, which was very helpful.
Doctors are also an indispensable resource, not only because they can prescribe appropriate medication, but also because they are trained to assess your level of depression and whether medication is needed in the first place. It’s probably no exaggeration to say that medication saved my life. It took time and patience to find a medication that worked really well for me, but it was worth the effort.
Seeing a doctor and/or counselor is an investment of time and money, but I will be the first to say that these professionals have been indispensable in helping me manage the symptoms of depression.
Lie #5: Depression is a weakness I must hide at all costs.
In 2004 I accepted a new job and we moved to St. Louis. We were also having a baby. For some strange reason, I decided to stop taking my depression medication. I decided I should “man up” since I was getting ready to turn 30. This was a terrible decision as I went through a period of withdrawal and my depression came back with a vengeance.