Note: The post contains mentions of abuse.
If you or someone you love has depression, it's important to recognize that you or they are not alone.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, an estimated 21 million adults in the United States have had at least one major depressive episode. And the prevalence of reported depressive episodes is much higher among adult females (10.5%) compared to males (6.2%).
Whether you are currently dealing with depression, have experienced it in the past, or know a loved one who does, the stories below can possibly provide a bit of comfort, validation and/or guidance during this time.
1. "Making my environment more pleasant to be in. In my case, it was simply changing my beige dull room into a brightly colored and white room."
"When I was younger and struggling with finding joy in the environment I had no choice to be in, I changed my music and colors. My room went from grays to all colors; my clothes went from all black to whatever color or print I could thrift. My music went to something more upbeat, even if not necessarily happy. That change made a difference in my outlook, and changed my long-term trajectory."
2. "I needed a mixture of antidepressants and therapy for my depression to get better."
"I know that's not what everyone with depression needs, but I struggled for YEARS, trying literally everything I could think of to "fix" myself and get it under control. I tried eating healthy, I exercised extensively, I stopped drinking, I prioritized getting good sleep, I drank tons of water, I tried meditating, and while my body was in really good shape and I felt physically great, my mind felt like it was drowning. I had resisted meds because my mom had a terrible experience with them decades before, but I finally caved and gave them a shot.
I started out on Lexapro, it took a few weeks to kick in, but the first thing I noticed was that I remembered to do a second task after I finished the first one without writing it down. My depression brain fog made it impossible to remember what I needed to do next, I relied heavily on written lists. The very first time I actually remembered to do something else was a HUGE milestone for me.
Medication makes me feel like myself again."
3. "Fire your therapist if they're not helping. This may not be everyone's experience, but I have seen five different therapists, and only one I've really gelled with. I've seen her for about 15 years now, with breaks. Some of the different therapists happened during those breaks due to husband preference, insurance BS, etc. Find the right therapist."
4. "At age 40, I changed how I thought about life. I used to see life as something that happened to me, with bad things that made me feel horrible, and good things that made me feel better — but cut off from the world and in my own grey bubble, just drifting through it, always with a great, heavyweight in the pit of my stomach, and a feeling of hopelessness. I looked for things to make it feel better: moving to the right place, getting the right job, and finding someone who would love me. I felt like I had a great hole in my life, something not right, something missing, and if I could just find the right thing to fill it, everything would be alright. Then I had a breakup, and I thought about the relationships I had. I thought how I could go around and around in my head, thinking about what they had done wrong, but that they were gone now, so there was no point."
"Instead, I thought about myself. It was a good time for me to do it. I thought about what I wanted from life, and which of those things I could provide for myself. I noticed my inner voice.
It was pretty mean and critical. I would notice each little thing I did wrong in life and berate myself for it. I'm never that mean to anyone else! I started to treat myself as a valued friend, with encouragement, kindness, and sincerity. It was hard to break my old habits.
Instead of pointing out all the scary stuff that might happen, I started to comfort and reassure myself, [which were] the things that I had wanted someone else to do for me. I gave myself hugs. I felt like I had discovered a great secret, but I learned people aren't always in a place where they want to change.
I noticed all the good stuff in my life: my home, my autonomy, those who love me, my strengths, my education, my privileges. I think many things are neutral in the world. We perceive them through a filter that we put in place. For example, it might rain — and one person will think about how this has ruined their weekend, and another person will think it is good for the garden.
Of course, if bad things happen in life, you might feel down. It's not bad to feel sad. But because I take responsibility for comforting and reassuring myself these days, I catch it early, and never get to that dark, dark place. And a surprising number of things really don't seem 'bad' anymore."
5. "After I started making more money. Mental wellness is a privilege."
6. "When I surrounded myself with better people. My depression started with my abusive family so I didn't realize I had moved on to a manipulative boyfriend and unreliable friends. Finding new friends and a new partner did wonders for my mental state. It was really lonely for a while because I had to cut off a lot of people (both friends and family) — but in the end, I had to do what was best for me."
7. "When I moved out of home, had my own money, made my own decisions and could live my life however I chose."
8. "Find out the roots of your depression. Mine is more than likely a mix of ADHD and depression, plus premenstrual dysphoric disorder for real bad fits every month or so before my period."
9. "I finally started making active decisions for the better. The worst of my depression was after I graduated college and was stuck working retail while seeing my friends and family be successful (especially in an overachieving family). Basically, I had to make peace with my circumstances and actively work to get out of them without the self-loathing I carried with me — so putting my health first and then my career finally let me get out of that pit."
"The worst of my depressive funk was about four years. In that time, I was promoted up to assistant manager so I had to constantly reframe my thinking: 'Ok so I’m not working in my field, but at least I can accomplish career growth in a high-volume store, etc.' That reframing took several months of me basically not letting my current path get to me and a lot of sheer willpower to apply for jobs in my field and accept the rejections that happened.
Once I got a job in my field, it didn’t go away overnight but it was definitely about a year after that that I was finally comfortable with where I was and my coping strategies."
10. "When I stopped just 'accepting' things, people, and places that made me miserable."
11. "When I finally acknowledged and felt it as depression and not just the 'way life is' or a 'personality trait.' That's the only way I was able to treat it and continue to keep up with it. Mindfulness meditation is how I started with a side of light Buddhist teachings. I acknowledged there is suffering and forced myself to feel it in my body instead of turning away by drinking, eating, overexercising, or running to a person that wasn't good for me."
12. "Trying to make new friends makes a huge difference."
13. "When I stopped drinking alcohol. Made a huge difference in both depression and anxiety."
14. "Life got better when I ended an abusive relationship with my boyfriend of eight years. Ever since then, I have not needed antidepressants or my anxiety meds. Not being constantly verbally berated and sexually assaulted does wonders for the psyche."
16. "Journaling helped me a lot. I could be completely honest with myself with regards to my thoughts without any judgments. I could reflect on my thoughts. It gave me a broader perspective to understand the situation in a better manner."
17. "When I learned to be kind to myself."
18. "When I got a new job somewhere I’m actually appreciated and valued — like TRULY valued. They make it known not just by affirmations, but also monetarily as well. I actually enjoy my job and the people I’m around, and I’m compensated more than fairly for it."
19. "When I quit taking birth control. I had tried therapy and countless antidepressants but found one BCP that worked when I was 18 and never changed it. I read an article about three months after going off the pill that talked about the link between hormonal birth control and depression — and it all just clicked. I was really upset."
"My doctor told me that while that link is known by doctors, usually by the time a patient comes in and says they're depressed and asks for help, they need the more immediate help of antidepressants and not to take the time to tweak all their other meds to find out if the depression is a side effect of one of them.
Obviously, I don't advocate for women to stop taking their birth control willy-nilly but always point it out as a possible source when anyone I know talks about sudden, irrational depression (like, for me: I'd be overwhelmed with depression when nothing in my life warranted it — everything could be perfect and I felt horrible.)"
Have you had — or do you currently have — depression? If so, what helped make life a little bit better? Tell us in the comments below.
Note: Some responses have been edited for length and/or clarity.