You haven’t been feeling like yourself lately. Suddenly, you don’t feel like doing the things you love to do. Your friends invite you out (which normally lights you up) but now you find the idea exhausting. You barely have any energy, even though you sleep a lot. You have trouble focusing and all you can think about are how things seem really bleak. You know something is different, but you aren’t sure what to do about it.
What’s going on?
You may be struggling with depression. Depression can often appear during a stressful period of life and affects almost seven percent of U.S. adults in a year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, making it one of the most common mental health issues.
Many people mistakenly think that depression is just “feeling sad” but it is more than that. It affects you physically, emotionally, and mentally. The signs of depression include experiencing some or all of the following over a two-week period:
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Changes in appetite
- Difficulty concentrating
- Loss of energy
- Lack of interest in activities once enjoyed
- Feelings of hopelessness and guilt
- Suicidal thoughts
If you do think you’re struggling with depression, how do you even begin to know how to ask for help?
First of all, it’s important for you to know that there is absolutely no reason why you should be afraid to speak up and seek help. Because of the stigma surrounding mental health, many people are embarrassed to tell others that they are having a hard time and need support. Never let the fear of what others may say prevent you from getting help.
You may actually be surprised to find that when your close friends and family hear that you are struggling, they will more than likely be glad that you opened up to them and are eager to support you. In fact, they will probably become some of the most important sources of support for you as you figure out this part of your life.
In addition to letting go of the fear of what others will say, it’s also important to be gentle with yourself. When you are coping with depression, you may not be able to do things at the same level you’ve been used to. For example, you may find that you get tired more easily and so you have to limit the number of commitments you put on your calendar.
It can be easy to beat yourself up over having these limitations, but that isn’t helpful. Instead, remind yourself that you have to take care of yourself, which may mean taking it easy. When you are struggling with depression, self-care is critical. This means taking care of your physical, emotional, mental, relational, and spiritual needs as much as you can. Get enough sleep, eat regular meals, go for a walk, talk to friends and family, spend time in prayer and meditation, etc. Your body, mind, and soul will feel much better if you are practicing self-care.
It can feel isolating as you start to take steps to address your depressive symptoms, but you don’t have to go through the experience alone. Staying connected to your family and friends is an important part of the process. Spend time with supportive friends and family as much as you are able to and, as mentioned earlier, don’t be afraid to lean on them when you are having a rough day. You are most certainly not a burden to them. They want to help make life a little easier for you as you seek professional help for your depression.
In addition to leaning into the support of your family and friends, it is also important to set up an appointment with a mental health professional. Therapists are trained to use treatments based on research to help you cope with your symptoms and heal from your depression. Your therapist will gather some background information from you about your symptoms and when they first appeared. He or she will then put together a treatment plan that is personalized to your needs.
Just like you would go to the gym regularly to build up your physical strength and endurance, going to your regular therapy appointments helps you gain skills and strategies to manage and decrease your depression.
Depending on the severity of your depression, you may also benefit from medication. This is a decision that your therapist will help you navigate if they think it will be beneficial. If it is a course of action you agree with, you would schedule an appointment with a psychiatrist. Like your therapist, your psychiatrist will gather information about your symptoms. Then they will suggest a medication protocol to treat your symptoms. For many people, the combination of therapy and medication is the most effective treatment for depression. Your therapist and psychiatrist will help you determine what treatment methods are best for you.
Though experiencing depression can be overwhelming at times, the most important thing to remember is that it is okay to ask for help. Your family, friends, and mental health professionals are all waiting to help you feel better. Be courageous and simply say, “I need help.”