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Coping With Depression

“There is hope, even when your brain tells you there isn’t.”

– John Green

Depression is a mood disorder that can lead to emotional paralysis in your daily functioning. Severity of depression can fluctuate from mild to severe and causes you to feel enervated. Depression can make you feel as though you are in a lonely dark pit, hopeless, and desiring change but lack emotional reserves to improve your situation. Clinical depression can make it difficult to get out of bed and complete basic tasks such as taking a shower, brushing your teeth, getting dressed for the day, or leaving the house. This type of depression can sneak up on you, from feeling sadness, fatigue, and irritability in which you are optimistic is just a phase, until those symptoms intensify and you may start isolating yourself from friends, having less and less energy to do things, and eventually the depression completely disrupts your ability to function. Severe depression can lead to changes in your appetite causing you to lose or gain weight, sleep problems that can lead to insomnia or sleeping too much, and thoughts of death or suicide.

Not all sadness is depression, sadness is a normal emotion that everyone feels once in a while. Sadness is usually triggered by an event and eventually passes and does not disrupt every crevice of your life. With sadness, you still enjoy moments of laughter and can be comforted. Depression invades all aspects of your life, making it difficult to enjoy life’s pleasures. Depression is difficult to shake off, whereas, sadness is intermittent and fades away after a short time. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM-5), identifies criteria for depression as lasting for at least 2-weeks, with at least one of these symptoms (1) depressed mood or (2) loss of interest or pleasure in doing things. Symptoms of depression include the following:

  1. Feeling down or depressed most of the day, or nearly every day.

  2. Diminished interest or pleasure in doing things and activities, most of the day, nearly every day

  3. Changes in sleep patterns from difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, or sleeping too much

  4. Changes in appetite such as weight loss, or increase in weight gain from overeating

  5. Changes in physical movement or thoughts slowing down, which is observable by others

  6. Feeling fatigued

  7. Feelings of worthlessness

  8. Having a difficult time concentrating, decision making, and thinking, nearly every day

  9. Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide, with or without a plan

Sometimes, life events trigger depression such as the loss of a loved one, loss of career, changes in health such as chronic illness or disease, experiencing abuse of any type, or weather conditions, but sometimes depression has no identifiable cause at all. Depression can also have a correlation with feeling a lack of purpose. Sometimes when we feel as though we have lost a sense of purpose, it can impact your self-esteem and hope for the future. This loss of purpose can present itself in many ways from feeling as though you are starting over either from a losing a career, retirement, empty nest syndrome, loss of relationship, or feeling as though you have not ever had this sense of purpose. It can be easy to dismiss depression as a phase or something that we will snap out of, but ignoring symptoms of depression can be disastrous.

When it comes to clinical depression, I encourage my clients to adopt the phrase, “today I can do one thing,” as an approach to negate feeling defeated and overwhelmed. Action has to start somewhere, and it is accomplished one task at a time. Do not evaluate the entire day, just evaluate the moment and what is one thing you can do in that moment that will help. Work to eliminate negative filtering, adopt the belief that each moment leads you one step closer to a more positive and productive outcome. Identify ways that you are more than your accomplishments, particularly if you find yourself living in the past. You are so much more than you produce. We are continually learning and growing and that is the hope that the future always holds for us, the opportunity to learn and develop one moment at a time.

You may find that asking for help is difficult and it can be difficult for a wide variety of reasons. Some people fear that others may judge them, or see counseling as a sign of weakness, but asking for help is a sign of power and courage. Sometimes people who have not experienced depression may not understand the stronghold it has on your life, and although that is painful to not feel understood, it’s okay, no one else has to understand it for you to seek the help you need. Whether you believe it or not, you deserve to feel better, so be gentle with yourself, you are justified in wanting to be happy.

If your depression is too intense to seek help, there are other resources you can connect with for help, such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 so you can reach out for help from your home. Your local emergency department can also connect you with resources to help you with depression or suicidal thoughts. If you think you might be depressed, don’t’ wait, reach out for the help you need and find a mental health professional that you trust. Give yourself some time and another chance to find your courage, there is always hope in a situation, even when it seems hopeless. If all you did today was hold yourself together, then you achieved the phrase, “today I can do one thing,” which is quite an accomplishment already.

Neisha Potter

Neisha Potter is a happily married mother of four children with extraordinary compassion. She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states of Wyoming, Montana, and Florida, with well-rounded professional experience including the areas of physical and mental disabilities, substance abuse recovery, long term care, mental health and now operates her own private practice, Fern Ridge Counseling, LLC.

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