If you’re struggling with depression, the first person who should help is your spouse.
He or she needs to know about your struggle. You can’t really hide it anyway. If you’re battling depression, your husband or wife has probably noticed something different about you. They are also the person who loves you the most and are likely the most well-equipped to help you and give you support.
Second, your friends can help.
You need friends whom you can lean on when times are tough. As a man, I confess that it’s not always easy to maintain close relationships with guys. But it’s worth the effort.
And third, you need to help of a larger support network.
This can include pastors and therapists (which we’ll get to later).
Lie #2: Self-medicating my pain is an effective coping strategy.
We all have our “drug of choice.” It may be alcohol, gambling, too much TV, illicit relationships or any number of other vices both big and small. When we are suffering, it’s easy to medicate the pain with things that make us feel good in the moment, even if they will destroy us in the long run.
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.