Depression is a hot topic in our community. I get asked about my personal experience with depression all the time. It had taken me a while to get around to this but on this week’s episode of The Anxious Truth I will share my experience with depression. Let’s talk about how I handled it then, and how I handle it now.
Disclaimer: I am not an expert on depression or is this a substitute for therapy. I can only share my own experience with this topic and what I’ve learned both from the community and from people far smarter than me. As always, please consult your medical and mental health care providers with questions or concerns. Of course, if you feel that you are a danger to yourself in any way, please reach out immediately for in-person help in your area.
Do I Deal With Depression The Same Way I Deal With Anxiety?
The answer is yes, and no. There is an element of acceptance in how I deal with acceptance. But this is not a matter of passively accepting, floating, or tolerating depression. I can accept that it is happening so that I don’t fight it in unproductive ways or engage in obsessive scanning or checking on my mood, but that is where acceptance ends for me. Dealing with depression becomes much more of an active, activated approach based on challenging the depression on as many fronts as I can manage.
Did I Ever Take Medication For My Depression?
I did. I explain this in today’s episode, I’ve talked about it in episodes 145, 146 and 147, and I wrote about it in An Anxiety Story. I do not deny that an antidepressant was helpful in lifting me out of a major depressive state. I give it full credit for that. I support anyone that choses to take medication as part of dealing with depression. But this podcast episode is not about medication. It is about the behavioral approach I take to my depression and what has worked for me in the long run.
What Does My Depression Feel and Look Like?
Depression is not feeling sad or low. Depression for me feels like … nothing. No feeling. No emotion. No connection to anyone or anything. I often describe depression as having all the color and meaning flushed out of the world. It is an inhuman feeling that will tell me that I an incapable of doing anything. It will also tell me that there’s no point in even trying to do anything because without meaning, connection, or value, what’s the point?
Can you see how there is a BIG difference between feeling sad, and feeling THIS way? Depression is not sadness. Being sad of feeling low does not mean you are depressed or might become depressed.
In my case, I can say with 100% surety that my depression never “grows out of” sadness or low mood. Not ever. They have no connection whatsoever.
How Did I Deal With Depression In The Past?
Activation, even when I was sure that I could not activate.
That meant behavioral activation.
Even the smallest tasks like putting my feet on the floor, washing myself, or drinking a glass of water.
When my depression was telling me to just lay in bed for another day because there was no point in anything, I had to act anyway, even when it felt pointless. On some days just basic hygiene was what I could do, so I did that. Sometimes I might sit outside in the sun for a few minutes at a time. Other times I might have managed to take a short drive or even run an errand or two. It would vary from day to day or even hour by hour. But when I kept challenging depression and doing even when it felt like I was completely empty and faking it, things began to change for me.
Activation – challenging and doing – pulled me out of my depression when I needed to pull out of it. In some ways, faking it until I was making it was an accurate description, but it worked for me.
I had to accept that I was depressed. Denying it, wishing it away, or being angry about it didn’t help me. Once I accepted my situation, I had to get moving, even when that moving involved tiny steps taken at a snail’s pace.
How Do I Handle Depression When It Comes On Now?
Depression comes to visit me now and then. It’s been a while since the last visit, and I am grateful for that. When I do feel depression begin to creep in, the same principles of activation and challenging apply for me. When depression creeps in – which can happen almost randomly in my life – I run an almost pre-scripted routine.
- I begin to feel like the world is losing its meaning and context. The color begins to get flushed out of life. That’s when I know its time to start challenging myself and pushing myself.
- I will push myself to lift more in the gym.
- I will run more. Bike more. Do more strenuous cardio workouts.
- I will take on bigger challenges in my work in the form of ambitious challenges and tasks.
- When depression appears, I push and challenge myself. This appears to work for me. Engaging MORE with the world in this way steers me out of that depression slide and back to a “normal” state.
Trust me, when I begin to feel depressed, taking on challenges is not really what I want to do, but I know that it is what I HAVE to do.
Can This Help You With Depression?
Honestly, I can’t say. This is my experience and what has worked for me. Maybe it can help guide you in your approach to depression. But above all else today I want you to remember that being afraid that you will be depressed has nothing to do with actually becoming depressed. Being sad does not equal being depressed. Feeling low does not mean you will be depressed. But if depression does set in, know that there are ways out with a good plan and the proper help.
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Podcast Intro/Outro Music: "Afterglow" by Ben Drake (With Permission)