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Living with depression is real and serious.
You often feel like you have no purpose, you can’t concentrate, and you constantly feel sad or empty all the time. Daily tasks become hard to accomplish because you can’t seem to get enough energy to even move.
It can make you hard to live with and be around because you can’t display happiness, don’t have the same energy level as others, and because you are constantly talking negatively .
I have had ups and downs with my depression throughout my life, and had many times where it felt like the depression would never go away.
However, I am happy to say that I have finally felt what happiness feels like, what being excited feels like, and what it feels like to live with hope.
I am changing and depression no longer rules my life.
I want to tell you how.
I always felt like an outsider.
When I was a kid, my cousins played together, and I would be over in the corner by myself because I didn’t know how to play with them. At home, I pretty much played downstairs or stayed in my room reading because my dad was always working at his desk and needed quiet. At school, I would pick one person, and that’s who I would seek at recess time.
It’s possible my depression started as lack of self confidence. I didn’t have any. I felt like my voice didn’t matter. When I would talk, it felt like everyone would either make fun of me or I would get criticized for it or told to shut up.
When my extended family got together, I was constantly the brunt of many jokes and nicknames that everyone found funny but me. I got labeled as being ‘too sensitive” because I already thought something was wrong with me, so would take their jokes too seriously. As I got older, I found myself surrounded by “friends” who were catty and were the type to always put me down.
As an adult, I went through traumas that made me feel like I was nothing and made me want to die. I constantly was judged by others and was told I didn’t matter or that I was stupid. Any time I tried to be positive or try to succeed, people would make it their mission to bring me down and insult me. Any time I tried to get close to anyone, others would tell me I’m not as important to that person as I think.
All I wanted was to be accepted somewhere, with anyone. But I didn’t feel like I was.
Which made me sink even deeper into depression and questioning why I am even here.
I Didn’t Want To Live
When I was about 12, I decided I didn’t want to live anymore.
I didn’t want to kill myself. I just didn’t want to live because I didn’t see the point.
Pretending I was okay became normal for me. But as the years past, I couldn’t do it. I didn’t have interest in anything and just moved through life on autopilot.
Never being excited about anything. Never really being happy. Feeling more numb than anything. I was just here. And I felt like no one understood me or wanted to be around me. I didn’t really want to do anything anymore.
When I was about 19 or 20, I told my mom I was still having issues and felt something was wrong with me, and she finally had me see a Psychiatrist.
Unfortunately, that particular doctor made me feel like I was even more worthless than I already did because he would roll his eyes when I would talk about my life, he would take personal calls during our meetings, etc.
I began taking medication after medication that made me feel even more empty more than it helped me. I wasn’t sad, but I didn’t feel ANYTHING.
Being depressed for so long, then going through an abusive relationship, and then having a Psychiatrist treat me like an inconvenience may sound like I would have given up, but it actually did the opposite.
I knew I needed help, and if medication and doctors couldn’t help me, I wanted to help myself.
I saw people who were happy and outgoing. Watching them made me want to be like that.
I was already enrolled in college and was just taking general courses and some criminal profile courses. It was into my third year that I decided to switch my major to Psychology.
I needed to understand why my previous boyfriend abused me and why I constantly went back and forth between depression and anxiety. I needed to study every aspect of the brain and find out what was wrong with me. And I needed to learn how to help myself with the new knowledge I obtained.
It is really hard to study and pay attention when I have depression. Because my mind isn’t interested in anything, so it makes it hard to absorb information. But I read and reread the textbooks until it sunk in.
And it was the best decision I ever made.
No, I do not have a career as a Psychiatrist. But it did help me learn ways to cope to where I could have a life. A happy one.
Finding A Cure for Depression
I know many people don’t want to hear this, but there is not a magic trick to immediately stop being depressed. It takes a long time and hard work to re-wire your brain.
Yes. I said re-wire your brain.
It is 100% possible to do it without drugs, because our neurotransmitters fire where you tell it to. So if you think a positive thought, you will activate that portion of the brain, even if it doesn’t get used very often.
The more positive thoughts you have, the more it fires in that direction. Until your neurotransmitters automatically fire that way out of habit.
I am not against anti-depressants. I think they are fantastic and they are necessary for some people to take.
They are great for getting a jump start to where you need to be, but truly are not cures. They were never meant to be a lifetime thing because you can build tolerances to drugs to where they don’t work anymore.
Anti-depressants were designed to be taken in conjunction with therapy. Therapy is what will truly help you. Changing your life is what will truly help you. Being willing to put in the time to do those things will help you.
Therapy is a long process and you need to be patient. Too many people give up after a couple of weeks or months, thinking it doesn’t work. It’s not going to unless you put in the time and effort. You didn’t become depressed in one day, so you aren’t going to get better in one day.
So don’t give up on it.
But I’m Wired That Way
I want to take a second and say no one is really born with depression. And just because you have a chemical imbalance, doesn’t mean you are doomed.
This is something I hear all the time and it simply isn’t true. You can be genetically predisposed towards depression, but it doesn’t mean you will get it or stuck with it.
Just like there can be a family history of cancer, but it doesn’t mean you have it or will get it.
Babies don’t come out with their brain fully developed. It is around the age of 3 when your neurons really start connecting and your brain begins wiring.
Your environment is what will determine if genes/portions of the brain activate or not.
How your environment teaches you to react to things will flip the switch one way or the other to what activates in your brain. Which is why you aren’t doomed to suffer just because you have a genetic predisposition for depression. And why you can re-wire your brain.
A thyroid problem can make it harder to lose weight, but it doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Just like rewiring the brain is not impossible. You just have to work harder to do it.
I do have a genetic predisposition. I was a sad and anxious child. Half my family has depression and anxiety disorders. But that doesn’t mean it is the end of my story.
Finding Happy in 12 Steps
So how did I find my way out of the darkness and re-wire my brain?
It took some hard work but it is paying off. Getting excited about things is a new feeling I experience. I feel happy.
I was finally able to accept myself and I view the world completely different than I did years ago.
Here is how:
1. I Changed Who I was Around
The people who constantly criticized, put me down, judged me, and made me feel bad about myself? I don’t see them very much. And some of these people are family.
Yes, it hurt very deeply to cut some of these people off and not see them. It doesn’t mean I don’t love them. That I don’t wish them happiness. But it will have to be without me.
Me wanting to die had to be put as priority over them constantly cutting me down and making me feel like I am worthless.
This may seem like a bitchy move to some people, but when someone makes you constantly feel like you would be better off dead, you need to see less of that person.
I surrounded myself with people who clapped when I achieved something. Who didn’t judge and criticize others. Who didn’t blame the world for their problems. People who didn’t seem to be negative about everything. And with people who genuinely seemed like they were good people.
When I changed my circle, that is how I found Aaron. He became my best friend and then my husband.
Related Article: 20 Unmistakable Signs You Are With “The One”
2. I Listen To Upbeat Music and Watch Comedies
When you get in certain moods, sometimes it just feels you can better relate to some types of music and tv. But just because you relate to it, doesn’t mean it will make you feel better long term.
Having something to relate to automatically increases our serotonin level….temporarily. Which is why the sad stuff seems to make us feel better when we are sad, and the angry stuff makes us feel better when we are angry. But there is a huge dip once you turn it off.
I realized this when I would go right back to feeling the way I was about 10-15 minutes later. So I found another way to do this.
I would first start out listening to the music that most identified with how I was feeling. Once I felt a little calmer, I would switch it to watch comedies and listen to upbeat music from the 50s, (like the stuff my grandma listened to).
I started to feel better longer. Almost like my mind is willing to look for ways to be happy and stay there now.
There is something about watching people smile and listening to people sound like they are smiling to make you want to smile.
3. I Adopted a Dog
Anybody who knows me, knows how special Brownie is to me.
I treat her like a child. Wherever I go, she goes. There is nothing I wouldn’t do for her.
We even planned a vacation just for her recently, where we went to Michigan and visited dog friendly beaches.
Brownie is the best thing to ever happen to me.
When I am sad, she comes and lays by me. She is always excited to see me. When she wags her tail, it is hard not to be happy. She is my little therapy dog.
She also motivates me to get off my rear and spend some time outdoors.
I highly recommend dogs for anyone who thinks they can treat them as special as they treat you. Because when I felt my lowest, Brownie was the reason I stayed strong and wanted to fight for myself.
4. I Changed My Diet
If you read my other articles, you know how much this helped me. I started eating more things with Omega 3’s, Iron, Potassium, and B Vitamins (all of which are linked to depression if we are deficient in them!).
We quit eating out so much and quit drinking soda. I quit buying things that had ingredients I couldn’t pronounce and ingredients like High Fructose Corn Syrup. I eliminated added sugars.
Chemicals and sugar in our food changes our brain chemistry! Literally!
They throw our hormones out of whack and make us obese. Serotonin and dopamine levels become disrupted. They affect the messages from the brain to our body. They cause inflammation.
Don’t believe me?
Read Dr. Mark Hyman’s book 10 Day Detox: The Blood Sugar Solution. He goes into great detail on exactly what happens in your brain when you eat sugar.
Here is a real life example:
My husband and I both have a history of depression. Since we both have done the things I have listed out in this post, we haven’t had any symptoms.
However, a couple weekends ago, we decided on a whim to get some donuts and eat some ice cream. Things we haven’t had in a long time.
For the next four days, neither one of us wanted to get out of bed. We didn’t feel like cooking, cleaning, going to work, or even going outside. We had no interest in anything. I had crying spells (for zero reason whatsoever) and would just lay in bed, playing Candy Crush, and I wasn’t even interested in doing that. He withdrew into his tablet the same way I withdrew into Candy Crush.
We were depressed.
Just from that.
Luckily we are feeling better now because we decided the treats weren’t worth feeling like crap and started eating our normal foods again.
5. I Got Back To Nature
Nature is a cure for mental health.
It has helped my depression, it has helped my anxiety, it has made me more positive.
I’m not a fan of camping, so I’m not talking about that. I mean I would find a lake, sit in front of it and just watch the waves and the ducks. Sometimes it sounds like the ducks are laughing, which is hard to be sad or anxious when you hear something like that.
I started taking walks or just sitting outside, watching rabbits, squirrels, ducks, other dogs walking by. I would look up and pay attention to the clouds and see if I could find any neat ones with interesting shapes. Sunrises and sunsets began to be my obsession.
Just being outside also increased my Vitamin D levels, which is also related to depression if you are deficient.
Here is the kicker. I would leave my phone in my pocket. I just sit and watch nature. Watch how it works for just 20-30 minutes a day.
And I found out how beautiful it was.
6. I Found a Hobby
Having a hobby was like a foreign language to me.
Never really had one.
I always drowned myself in books, but that’s about it. I guess that’s a hobby, but it was more of a way to escape and something to keep my mind occupied than anything.
But I never really collected anything. Never was interested in anything.
But that changed when I found nature.
When I started realizing how beautiful nature was, I started wanting to capture the things I saw, so I could always see the amazing sites all the time.
I started taking pictures of sunrises and sunsets, of animals, of flowers, just about everything I saw that I thought was beautiful.
Now, my husband and I seek out new parks and scenery, just so we can see something beautiful on the weekends and I can capture pictures.
I recently began sharing the photos of what I captured publicly on my personal IG. If you would like to check them out, follow the link below:
7. I Started Doing a Checklist Each Day to Retrain My Mind
Everyday can be a battle when you have depression.
So it is important to have a simple checklist of things I must absolutely get done that day, whether I feel like it or not. And this checklist helped me retrain my mind.
- Take a shower or bath
- Take a walk or sit outside for 20 minutes
- One small goal of something I want to accomplish that day
- 3 things I love about life
- 2 things I like about myself
- Cook dinner
- Do a load of laundry
- Thank someone
- Think about the last thing that made me laugh
- Do a load of dishes
- One thing I can do to help others
This is important to do this everyday. It helps retrain your mind and start seeing things more positively. It helps me tremendously.
Why is it important to have daily goals?
Because your dopamine is activated when you achieve a goal. Even something small. So when you activate your dopamine, you will feel a sense of accomplishment and a sense of satisfaction. Keep making your goals, keep activating your dopamine and feel good parts of your brain. You are re-training your brain already.
And by doing the other things on the list, you are activating your serotonin by teaching yourself how to feel good about yourself.
If you would like a printable of this, subscribe to my email list below and I will send you one I use, as well as an example how I would fill mine out.
8. I Started Keeping up on Hygiene Again
People who don’t have depression won’t understand this, but staying on top of hygiene is HARD when you are depressed.
You don’t care and don’t have the energy. It’s one extra thing you have to do and makes you exhausted just thinking about it, so you don’t do it.
So get up and force yourself to.
You will feel a little boost in confidence when you are clean and smell nice.
Take 10 minutes to do your hair. Buy a new outfit that you think is nice. It will make you feel a ton better.
Yes, you depleted your energy while doing it, but once you have that new outfit on and look and smell nice, you will get a new boost of energy because of the serotonin that was activated by making yourself feel better.
9. I Prep Cooked
My depression isn’t cured.
I still have days that are hard to get out of bed. But I went from having those bad days 95% of the time, all the way down to 5% of the time.
That is a massive improvement.
I live with chronic pain from a spinal deformity I was born with, along with car accidents that caused other spinal issues. So between chronic pain and depression, it was very important I figure out what to do for food and meals when I have a bad day.
I got into the habit of meal prepping.
One day a week (usually the day after I do grocery shopping), I wash all my produce and chop. I use my storage containers to store it. I make any seasonings I will need that week and put that in the small storage bowls. If I am making a pizza or casserole or a bunch of salads that week, I will cook up the ground turkey or chicken, cut the chicken, and store in the fridge.
This helps a TON. When I have a bad day, most of my meal is already made! Pretty much just grab, throw together and heat. This works even when I don’t have chronic pain or depression. It makes life so much easier.
10. I Found Purpose
You always hear that when people are depressed, they try to make others happy because they never want people to feel the way they do (or did).
This is true.
I never wish what I went through on anyone. My thoughts were if I could help one person not feel as hopeless as I did, life in general would be great.
This is also true.
I started this website because I overcame so much trauma, pain, mental health issues, physical health issues, that I wanted to find a way to make sure others could learn from my experiences.
I saw so much being shared on social media about certain mental illnesses that aren’t even close to being accurate. So I wanted to help give people accurate information.
At first it was rocky and nearly made my depression worse.
When I started this website, it felt like a rock on my chest because all I heard was crickets. My friends and family didn’t understand what I was doing, never shared my posts (except for my mom), and according to my analytics, never even read them.
How could I make this work and build on it if I didn’t have any support?
I almost gave up. Until finally one person came forward to tell me how much she is learning from my site. She told me she loved my posts and how much she is is enjoying learning from my experiences and knowledge.
And I found my purpose. I helped one person. That’s all I needed to know to keep going.
So I recommend if you are depressed, try new things until you find your purpose. It took me a long time, but I finally found mine.
Mine just happened to be the desire to help others.
11. Help Others
This kind of goes along with the last thought.
However, even if your purpose isn’t helping others, I highly recommend to do something each day to better someone’s life.
Ever hear the saying that you can’t pour from an empty cup?
I’m going to say I highly disagree with how many people interpret this.
If you are running yourself so much that you aren’t getting at least 7-8 hours of sleep and aren’t giving time to care for yourself properly, then you definitely need to make those things a priority over anything else.
But I disagree that when you have depression or anxiety, you should focus on yourself completely. I have seen a lot of people take this saying to mean they should not do anything for others at all.
When you are depressed, when you help someone feel better, or feel like you did something good, it helps activate your chemicals in your brain. It gives you a sense of satisfaction. It makes you feel good that you made a positive change.
This also helps improve your relationships, which increases your serotonin even more!
I was one of those people who thought I needed to concentrate on myself to get better. It didn’t work, and in fact, got worse.
Yes, I cut out the people who made me feel like crap, but that’s different than just concentrating on myself.
Someone else has a random problem and wants advice? I will give it and it makes me feel like I helped make someone’s life better.
You can find someone in your office who had a bad day and bring them a cookie or flower to cheer them up. This works! It makes you feel like you changed a day around for someone who needed it.
Give someone a compliment who seems down that day.
Showing you care is the ultimate mood booster because you know you did something good.
12. I Donated My Stuff
I use to sell my furniture and clothes on buy/sell websites. It was stressful. People don’t show up, they wait 2 days to respond to you, they want to talk you down on prices that are already a steal. It is enough to make you go crazy.
So my husband and I decided to start donating our stuff instead.
We researched charities and found St. Vincent De Paul.
They have a thrift store and profits go towards helping people pay their rent and bills if they are going through a hard time.
People in need call them and tell them they need stuff, and they send someone out to their house to determine if they are actually in need. They then give them vouchers to pick out things in their thrift store or they write out a check if it’s money they need.
This sounded wonderful to me that I knew my stuff would be going to someone who truly needed it. So each donation we made, I felt amazing afterwards.
There are people who need our stuff more than we can ever imagine. And there is nothing quite like knowing you helped them out.
Sure, we needed the money and could have made hundreds of dollars selling our stuff, but every time we drop off something to donate, I feel a surge of happiness. I can almost feel my serotonin activating.
Living without happiness for so long, feeling happy is priceless to me. So I highly recommend to donate your stuff that you don’t use or need, to a charity you find to be the most beneficial.
There are homeless shelters, domestic violence shelters, Habitat for Humanity (which accepts all household items except clothing), churches, kid charities, etc. Find which cause you are passionate about and donate things you don’t need to them.
Living Without The Dark Cloud
It took years to finally see happiness. In fact, it was just within the last year that I felt the change from depression to happy.
I still have bad days, I still find myself around people who like to bring me down, but I can keep going now instead of sinking into my hole.
I used to look around and never understand what made people excited, because I could never get excited about anything..
However, I now understand. I have finally found out what it is like to be excited about something. To feel like my life has a purpose. And to smile. Often.
I can say I am finally happy. It took a LONG time. It took hard work. But I did it.
I retrained my brain by doing everything I listed above and it worked.
I hope it works for someone else.
Let’s all be happy.
Disclaimer: I have a degree in Psychology, but I am not a Psychologist or Psychiatrist. Everything on this page is for informational purposes and is what worked for me. If you are under the care of a Psychiatrist/ Psychologist, please talk with them to make sure these steps are right for you. If you are on medication for depression, please do not stop taking your medication without discussing with your Mental Health professional.