When he found that I had already changed into pajamas and washed off all of my makeup by three o’clock on a Friday night, my dad sat down beside me and said “Elizabeth, you can’t just give in – you have to keep fighting”.
I was tired and sick of fighting depression. I hated that after two years of doing everything I could to be physically and spiritually healthy, I was still fatigued, sad, hopeless, numb, and empty all the time.
I hated the person I had become – irritable, isolated, cold, and selfish. I hated that I couldn’t think of a single thing that I wanted to do, and I hated feeling like all my efforts to fight depression were in vain. I was fed-up and frustrated, and through with wasting my incredibly limited energy on a futile fight.
I stopped wanting to take little, seemingly useless steps toward recovery.
So when my dad walked in that day, he sat down beside a girl who, without even realizing it, had begun to quit taking small steps and started waiting around for some magic or ultimate solution – whether it be healing or “escape” from the pain of this life.
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In that moment, I began to understand something I’m still in the process of learning: even in the lowest moments, it is the little, daily steps (like finding something fun to do instead of going to bed in the middle of the afternoon) that will ultimately make the difference.
It is saying no to giving in to despair that will ultimately lead to recovery.
Several years into a battle, it becomes almost as hard to avoid giving in to despair as it is to fight depression, so it is crucial to find people to remind you of the truth, to keep a progress journal, and to set yourself up for success.
Here are some tips:
Find someone to remind you of the truth!
Whether it is a family member or a friend, choose somebody who you trust to be brutally honest with you when your thinking and perceptions are completely twisted by depression.
Choose somebody close enough to you (in proximity and relationship) to hold you accountable on a daily basis, and choose someone you know will keep telling you the truth in love even when you become defensive.
When depressed thoughts creep in and tell you recovery is hopeless, when you are so tired you feel like you just can’t fight anymore, or when you start to question whether life is worth it, having somebody beside you to remind you of what is really true – that things will get better – is essential to helping you say no to giving in to despair.
When you are so depressed and numb you can’t even bring yourself to cry despite the sadness that radiates throughout your whole being, it becomes very difficult to think about life ever being any better. Irrational thoughts start to creep in, coloring all of your memories and thoughts and trying to convince you your life isn’t worth it because of all the pain.
But if you have a journal to look back on, one filled with the stories of the ups and downs of your life, you have solid evidence to continually remind yourself that just like every other time, this despair will pass. You have solid evidence there have been times when you were happy – and it is worth fighting for more and more of those times.
Looking back on the journal can also help you see patterns relating to your depression, specifically what triggers good days and what triggers bad ones. Journal about whatever is on your mind, things you have been thinking about, your mood each day, questions you have, good things that happened that day, the feelings and thoughts you have been having, etc.
If you need extra help, look online for journal prompts – there are thousands!
Set Yourself Up For Success!
Studies have shown the best way to improve your confidence in yourself (and therefore in your ability to recover) is achieving success – so set yourself up for success! Set small goals that are challenging but achievable, and keep track of them in your journal. When you meet a goal, reward yourself.
For example, set a goal such as choosing to spend time with a friend when you are tempted to isolate on a really bad day. When you do, treat yourself to a bubble bath afterwards! Also, put yourself in situations that highlight your strengths. Maybe you are a really good artist – sign up to teach art classes to young children or to participate in an art show.
Even though you have depression, you are still a unique, wonderfully talented person with so much to contribute to the world. The more you see yourself making a difference, the more you will be able to believe it.
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