So when I got onto Twitter this morning the way I usually do, I saw that #HowIFightDepression was trending in Canada.
An interesting thread, to say the least. I took the time to read through some of them — some from famous folks, but for the most part, it was ordinary people sharing their own unique thoughts on the topic.
I'd be remiss if I skipped over the topic just because I have some thoughts! People have asked me in the past how I deal with it, espeiclaly given the unique context that I live with depression.
At the time of writing and publishing this blog post, it's been about 8 months since I started taking anti-depressants. At the time I was really worried about taking medication, with a great deal of it due to stigma and a lack of education around medication and how it works. I was worried that I would get addicted or over-reliant on drugs. I was worried about what people would think. But most importantly, I was scared that taking medication was me accepting defeat and failure.
For a long time, I had always viewed myself as a self-starter. Someone who is independent and doesn't need help. The past few years have been an exercise of humility, learning how to accept help, and recognizing that help does not mean that you are unable to do anything. Taking medication and overcoming my own barriers to that is a deeper dive into the practice of humility and self-compassion.
I had an incredible medical team behind me and I never felt like medication was the only option, and ultimately I chose to pursue this on my own decision making power. And I came to see that medication was the start of a solution that I didn't know was available to me. Anti-depressants aren't an all-encompassing magic pill that will cure my depression in an instant, but it gave me an opportunity to starting finding that solution.
So, let me share #HowIFightDepression in two ways:
Practice self-compassion: I didn't know that this was a thing. It makes so much sense to practice compassion outwardly towards other people. It's what makes us great human beings. But that same compassion that we give to others should also be given to ourselves. There's the old adage that you are your own worst critic, and that is absolutely true. The thing is, if we can't (and don't) expect others to be perfect, then we also can't expect ourselves to be perfect. It's good to have standards for yourself and your work, but also make space for your own mistakes and to slow down. Give yourself the same compassion that you give to others!
Find that healthy habit and stick to healthy boundaries: This is HUGE, and it happens in two parts. The first is that you need to find a healthy habit — that is, something that works for you that won't put your life/health at risk. For example, my coping mechanism for a long time was stress eating. Eating in itself is not a problem and is necessary, but over eating is dangerous and unhealthy. I found that I was using this as a coping mechanism for my depression and anxiety, and I wasn't eating because I was actually hungry. Now, I try to find different habits that are a little healthier. For me that has become going to the gym and writing out my feelings. And this brings me to the second half — setting healthy boundaries. Taking both of these examples, going to the gym is great, but I needed to find that balance so that the gym wasn't my life and I wasn't overdoing my workout. Same with writing out my feelings — It was helpful, but sometimes it would be triggering to re-live painful past experiences. Whatever your healthy habit is, find your balance and develop those boundaries so that you can work within them without hurting yourself physically and emotionally.
Ultimately, your fight with any kind of mental illness is a very real and personal thing. Taking the time to do a deep dive of self-reflection and figuring out what works for you is a worthwhile, though sometimes scary, practice. If you're struggling with anything at the moment, remember that you don't have to struggle in silence, and that there are people around you to support you, help you, and love you.
If you ever want to reach out, please don't hesitate to do so.
For now, nice work, Twitterverse.