Waves of Depression

I never would have imagined that during my senior year of high school I would find the therapist I had always been searching for. When I first found him, I had no interest in attending counseling. Instead, I was mandated to attend by my high school. I quickly learned that these sessions were the most helpful of any I had ever attended.

I felt understood. I felt comfortable. I felt like I was not being judged for the first time in a long time. I felt safe.

My therapist guided me through the remainder of my senior year of high school into the beginning of college and still to this day. I am convinced that there isn’t a single problem in this world that my therapist couldn’t help me overcome. I will never understand how he does what he does, but I am immensely grateful. I wish I could bottle up his magic powers and give them to you in order to help you in your mental health journey, but sadly, it does not work that way.

It is absolutely true that he has seen me at my best and my worst. I go through phases where I attend therapy multiple times per week. Other times I only attend therapy once a month or on an as needed basis. Sometimes I go in and sit in the chair and think to myself, “What in the world am I going to talk about? Everything in my life is going better than I could have imagined.” However, there are several days where I go in and sit in the chair and immediately start crying because my life is in shambles.

That is because depression comes in waves.

Personally, I struggled with depression for several years before I found the “perfect” therapist and medication regime, if “perfect” treatment even exists. I went through a period of time where I felt like I was on top of the world, but I came crashing down again, just like a wave in the ocean. I walk into my therapist’s office and tell him that I don’t understand where I went wrong. I complain that I feel like I’m losing progress, possibly even regressing (even though that’s not true, it’s how I honestly feel at times).

It is hard to come to terms with your mental health. It is even harder to come to terms with your mental health when it comes and goes in waves. You think to yourself, “Am I really depressed or am I just sad?” You might talk yourself out of getting help because you think it’s silly to get help for something that appears and dissipates so suddenly.

However, I am here to tell you that it is normal for depression (and other mental health conditions) to come in waves. It is perfectly normal to be okay, and it is perfectly normal to not be okay. Your mental health journey isn’t supposed to look one specific way versus another. You aren’t always going to be on the up and up, and you aren’t always going to feel like the world is against you. This is just life…This is how life is. It is confusing and it is difficult to come to terms with. It makes us feel vulnerable. There are times where we want to run and hide and there are times where we want to scream from the mountains. It is unpredictable. However, it is beautiful.

I find comfort in knowing that even though I am currently experiencing a wave, I know that the wave will eventually crash and I will begin to rise again. I find comfort in knowing that I am not alone in any of this because I have all of you, just as you have me. I find comfort in knowing that pain teaches us lessons that, more often than not, turn into something beautiful. I find comfort in knowing that this is temporary.

I am not broken simply because I am experiencing a wave of depression. I am human.

The key to coping with the waves is to keep your eye on the shore at all times. The “shore” can be a dream or a goal (some people call it ‘the bright side’). The “shore” can be a loved one that you know you must stick around for because life without you would be unimaginable. The “shore” can also just be a place in your mind where you feel comfortable and at home. Never lose sight of that. Never give up.

You must keep fighting. You must keep riding the waves (with all of the ups and downs) and make it back to shore.

While you are riding the peak of the wave, stop and enjoy life. Enjoy the view. Enjoy the ride.

While you are coming down, find comfort in knowing that you will rise again. You will reach the shore.

I know that sometimes it feels like you’re drowning, but I will not let you drown. Let me be your life vest and let’s get through this together.

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Here’s a list of 10 tips that can be incredibly helpful when experiencing a depressive episode.

  1. Remember that this is temporary. As I stated before, waves crash upon the shore, but they always rise again.

  2. Do not give up or lose hope. When you experience a depressive episode, you might assume that your life is spiraling out of control. However, depressive episodes are common. You are a survivor. You survived the depressive episodes before, and you will survive them again. Just remember to keep your eye on the shore at all times.

  3. Do not be afraid to ask for help. It can be scary to come to terms with your depression (or other mental health diagnosis), especially if it comes and goes in waves. However, you do not have to face this alone. There are plenty of options out there and people who want to help you get better. Please feel free to seek out the help of a therapist. Additionally, medication can be very helpful in some cases. There are other treatment options available (just do your research!). If you feel like you need immediate help or just someone to talk to, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) or reach out to the Crisis Text Line by texting “HOME” to 741-741.

  4. Practice self-care. Self-care is something that looks different for everybody. For me personally, I enjoy face masks, bubble baths, and writing. Some people find it very beneficial to exercise or practice yoga and/or meditation. Make sure that you find a routine that works for you. If you want, you can include other people in your self-care routine, or you can be alone, if preferred. Remember, self-care isn’t selfish!

  5. Make sure you are getting enough nutrients. One of the biggest problems that accompanies depression is difficulty eating. When you are depressed, it can be very easy to shrug off meals, simply because you don’t feel like eating or you don’t have any interest in getting out of bed. However, if your body is not getting its required nutrients, you may actually feel worse. This isn’t my way of saying that you should be on some super serious diet. Rather, I am saying that you should eat enough to nourish your body and make yourself happy. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself.

  6. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! I know that this probably sounds silly, but I cannot even begin to tell you how important it is to stay hydrated. Dehydration can affect your organs AND your mind! Dehydration plays a big role in cognition, memory, pain sensitivity, motor skills, and mood. It’s a very simple thing to do, so make it part of your daily routine.

  7. Make sure you are getting enough sleep. Another thing that accompanies depression is too much or too little sleep. Trust me, I know how it feels to want to stay in bed forever, but the truth is you will probably feel so much better if you’re up and active. Remember that each individual needs a different amount of sleep, depending on a variety of factors including age and gender, so do your research and try out what is best for you.

  8. Try journaling. I have to admit that this is probably my favorite tip! Journaling is my go-to whenever I feel a wave of depression coming on. There are several different journaling prompts available on the Internet, or you can be creative and make something up on your own. Personally, I try to write down at least one thing that I’m grateful for and something good that happened that day. I do this every night before bedtime. It reminds me to be mindful and positive, no matter how bad things seem. If you are artistic, it can also help alleviate some stress if you doodle on the pages or design them however you wish!

  9. Try to do at least one thing each day. What I mean by this is that it can be really difficult to do things when you’re experiencing a depressive episode. As I mentioned before, it can be difficult to leave bed or shower. Therefore, I want you to try to do at least one thing that you’re proud of each day, whether it’s taking your medication, showering, getting out of bed, making yourself breakfast, visiting your grandmother, going for a walk, or something completely different. If you are capable of doing one thing, then you are making progress.

  10. Above all else, take care of yourself. One of my biggest problems in life is that I am frequently trying to rescue everyone around me. I spend all of my time and energy catering to the needs of those around me, and I am frequently left feeling depleted and exhausted. So, I want to remind you that you are the most important person in your life. At the end of the day, you are the one person who is going to be there to take care of yourself, so you need to make sure that your mental, physical, and emotional health are in check. It is perfectly okay to take a break from prior commitments in order to get your mental health straightened out. You are not letting anyone down. You are allowed to have bad days. You are allowed to have bad weeks, even bad months. Just take care of yourself. Don’t forget to give yourself the same kind of love you give to those around you.

I hope these help.

I’ll be seeing you,

K

Welcome to Our New Mental Health Blog!

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For those of you who do not know me, my name is Kirsten Fox (most people call me "k"), and I will be working as a Mental Health Intern for The Letter Project. I am a junior at Indiana University Bloomington studying Social Work with a minor in Sociology. Upon graduation, I would like to pursue my Master's Degree in Social Work and become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, which will allow me to work as a mental health counselor. Personally, I have struggled for several years with Major Depressive Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and Panic Disorder. Therefore, I know how easy it can be to let your mental health rule your life (and not always in a good way)! However, my struggles have given me a generous amount of insight into how to cope with a mental health disorder, as well as how to live your best life regardless of your mental health status.

If it is alright with you, I would love to share my knowledge and passion for mental health with you. I will be posting weekly blog posts that focus on self-care tips, mental health education, and personal stories or blog posts (from other writers) that I think will help you in your mental health journey. I always welcome questions, feedback, and requests. So, if there is a topic that you would like to learn more about, or if there is a tip that you would like to share with the community, please feel free to reach out to me. My virtual door is always open.

My mission as a mental health intern is simple: I am here to remind you that you are worthy of love and kindness. I am here to remind you that your mental health status does not define you. I am here to remind you that there will undoubtedly be good days and bad days, but that does not mean that you should let the number of good days versus bad days determine your progress. As long as you are staying alive for another day, you are making progress.

With that being said, I want to note that mental health is not something that is simple. It cannot be fit nice and neatly into a little box. It can be very difficult and overwhelming to define, and sometimes, there is no clear definition.

I want to acknowledge that while each individual has his/her/their own mental health journey, that does not mean that we are complete strangers to one another. More likely than not, we probably have something in common somewhere along the lines, whether it be a diagnosis, a coping mechanism, or a situation that helped bring a mental health condition to light. Also, I want to acknowledge that some of my tips may not be as effective for one individual as they are for another, but that does not mean that you should give up. It simply means that there is a different tip out there that may fit you a little bit better, and that is perfectly okay.

It is okay to try different things, especially regarding your mental health. It is okay to feel lost or confused or frustrated with the process. We all feel that sometimes. However, I want you to know that you are not alone in any of this. I am here to support you and remind you of your worth. In fact, there is a whole community of people here at The Letter Project who wants to teach you how to love yourself because we love you and believe in you.

For now I will leave you with this reminder: self-love is not selfish.

I'll talk to you soon,

K