At the age of 15, I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder.
For 27 years, my care has been consigned to a total of eleven psychiatrists or psychologists who have treated my illness with counseling and/or Prozac/Wellbutrin/Zoloft/Klonopin/Cymbalta/Xanax. Daily treatment is necessary for me to maintain a balanced mind, yet even still, I can (and often do) relapse.
Having so many years of experience with depression and knowing there are so many out there suffering, I want to share a reliable list of actions you should take if you experience depression, too. You don’t know me, and therefore, you don’t know if you can trust my advice. I can’t fault you for that and commend you for being a smart reader. But feel free to take whatever advice you need and leave the rest (though I am pretty adamant when it comes to the soundness of this article).
1) Seek help from a trained and certified professional. Here is a list of people you should not entrust with the treatment of your depression. Your friends, your family, your cat (honestly, it could not care less), that person you opened up to while drunk at a party that one time, that blogger you found online that said he/she cured him/herself with vitamins they will gladly sell you for three easy payments of $19.99 plus shipping and handling, your evangelical minister that believes in demon possession, any random Scientologist, or Paula Deen. You can trust anyone to support you through a difficult spell (except maybe the cats), but never trust anyone that tells you that you don’t need professional help. Rewiring the intricate operations of your mind should not be delegated to a person who has never been paid to say the word “clinical.”
2) Stop searching online for articles on how to treat depression. Self-helping real depression is like fighting a 5-alarm fire with a water pistol; it can become overwhelming, and depression is an illness that is sometimes bigger than your will. Seek assistance from a professional. They can help you determine if you really have depression or are just enduring a typical case of sadness.
Researching help from the sea of articles slapped together by an unqualified source looking to increase their internet traffic can be detrimental. Anyone that proclaims (and I’m paraphrasing here) “all you need to do is get off your butt and exercise or eat better or get plenty of sleep or go out more” must never have experienced depression themselves. Rather than helping, they are downplaying and undermining the seriousness of what many have ended their life over. Seriously, there would be more survivors of depression if a cure was as simple as hanging out with your friends.
3) Find something that will get you through the bad spells. Distraction helps me through times when I experience a flare-up. I have two distractions of choice: attention-whoring and my favorite television show, Mystery Science Theater 3000. The attention-whoring (e.g. posting a flattering picture of myself or a witty comment online) has provided the temporary yet uplifting validation I need to feel better about myself without requiring personal interaction. The Mystery Science Theater 3000 reminds me that it is still okay to laugh. This “something” is different for everyone, but it’s important to find one. This “something” is not a replacement for treatment.
4) Keep the suicide hotline number saved in your contacts. 1-800-273-8255. You never know, and it’s better to be safe than sorry. In case your significant other likes to snoop, I suggest masking the name “Suicide Hotline” by saving it as Susie Hawtleen or Sidney Hawtleen. This way, Parker Nosey won’t become alarmed if he/she happens to “accidentally stumble” upon it, and you’ll have it available in the event things take a nasty turn for the worse.
Depression, for me, comes and goes. My therapist noticed a 6-month cycle. When I am in a funk, I flip on the TV, read the letter to myself, and hang in there until it passes or I can see my doctor. If it doesn’t require you harming others, do what you need to hang in there, too.