To Overcoming Depression
I’d like to start off by acknowledging the positive feedback and kind words I’ve received thus far for Mental Health Week. I’m excited (and mildly nervous) to strip away masks and coping mechanisms and get real. That being said, today’s post is one that has affected me for quite some time. It’s not with me every day like anxiety, but every once in a while I slip into a funk and have to climb my way out.
Disclaimer: I rarely speak about this — in fact, there are people that I’m close with that don’t even know this facet of the diamond that is me. 💎
You know the old saying about which came first — the chicken or the egg? Depending on the day, that’s how I feel about my anxiety and depression. I feel that these two (very energy hogging) issues go hand-in-hand. There’s a chance I may wake up feeling down, which makes me anxious about how long it’s going to last, what I have scheduled, etc. — or — I could be under a lot of stress, wind up in a fit of anxiety and slip into Inside Out’s "Sadness" before I can even comprehend what’s happening. Either way, it blows.
Before we dive into the thick of it, I’d like to say that I have come leaps and bounds in my battle with depression in the past year to year and a half. As previously mentioned, I no longer feel down on a daily, or even weekly basis. There are moments, especially when the twenty-something panic starts to kick in, that I start to beat up on myself mentally — but usually I can work through that relatively quickly.
Rewind three years, please.
2013 was the year of the dead-end. I was working for a company that can only be compared to the wonderful Wizard of Oz — shiny and exciting from the outside, but a crock of shit on the inside. I dated and even tempted my fate with a long-distance relationship; and much like dominos, dead-end, dead-end, dead-end. My eleven dollars an hour barely covered my car payment and gas, which meant that my credit card(s) became my best friend (and worst nightmare.) My phone was shut off more times than I could count, I borrowed money from friends, lovers and parents just to keep my head above the water. I knew I needed an out — but I didn’t know where to start.
Between the collection calls, ego blows from dating and lack of passion in my work — I felt my will slipping from my fingertips. At first, I fought the current and tried to grasp it once more; but eventually, I gave in. This series of dead ends lasted for a majority of the year, until the depression I’d been trying to avoid consumed me whole.
After ten long months of mood swings, irritability and immense discontent, I decided it was time to make some real changes. The veneer had worn off the exterior of my role within the company I worked for, and as if wearing glasses for the first time, I was able to see the environment for what it truly was: a gaggle of cliquey 30-40 year old "high-schoolers" that prey on young energy. No more my friend, I was o-u-t.
It’s worth noting in hind-sight that I most likely shouldn’t have jumped at the first role I found to escape the one I was in. (Learn from my mistake, the grass isn’t always greener.)
Seven hours into my new job I had my first “Oh shit” moment. Despite the lights and sirens in my head, I held my smile, collected my salary and got my ass on every career site I could find. I interviewed at numerous companies, but being the year of the dead-end, nothing came to fruition. Moving into 2014, I thought that this is what adulthood was. Waking up, hating life on the commute into the office, fake laughing at your CEO’s jokes and trying to keep it together just long enough to make it to lunch — and then again through the afternoon. It was during this time, in which I thought my depression would float away like a dark rain cloud, that it opened the flood gates and began to pour. (To be fair, there were a couple of upswings — one, I became deeply connected with a coworker, one who shared in my misery (after all, it does love company) and two, my joke of a salary was a bit more than what I needed to keep my phone on, my gas tank filled and the creditors off my back.
I feel fortunate enough that while I knew I was depressed, I always knew in the back of my mind that it had to be temporary. I never contemplated suicide, which so many people do. I thank God or whatever higher power is out there for this every day. I did however, contemplate driving my car into basically anything so that I wouldn’t have to go to work — nearly every morning. That’s when I finally caved and talked to my doctor about anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication.
Another year and another 45 pounds
Remember the chicken and the egg? Yeah, at this point I don’t know if it was my life that was making me depressed or the fact that I was gaining weight like it was the-mothereffing-thing-to-do that was making me depressed. I don’t know why it took four pant sizes and a critical look from a family member, but I wanted off those damn pills stat. What they don’t tell you is that you don’t lose the weight as quickly (or as easily) as when you gained it. I guess that’s what I get for all those #EatYourFeelingsThursdays that turned into #EatYourFeelingsForever.
While I was unhappy about becoming the elephant in the room, I remained thankful that the medication was helping me keep my focus while I was on it. Not in the literal sense, but I was able to see things more clear — I wasn’t as easily flustered. It was in this moment of clarity that I realized how much of my own depression was in my control. I’m 100% not saying that everyone’s is, but for me, I finally saw the path that I was meant to be on and the fast track that I needed to put me there.
The anxiety played Jedi mind games with me for a while after quitting the pills, which was probably because I blew off my doctors recommended weaning schedule (DON’T DO THAT!) But eventually, it settled into what it is now — there, but easily manipulated.
I’ve since left my personal hell and made a nest in a company that I love (most of the time.) Listen, no business is perfect — neither is any job — but if you’re appreciated, heard and compensated, you’re on the right track. I’ve taken some time in the past year and a half to really reflect on what pulled me out of that dark place and all along it was me.
If you’re in a rut, consider these five things:
- It starts with PMA. (Positive mental attitude) I thank my Grandfather and Mom for this one. While it may be difficult at times, there’s always a bright side — things could always be worse. No moment in life lasts forever, so know that you will get through this.
- Take some time to reflect. What is it that you’re struggling with and what are you trying to achieve? If you can sift through the emotional “boxes” within your mind, you have the ability to find the root causes of your sadness or anxiety. It may take help from family, friends or even a professional, but there is no shame in the game of asking for help.
- Set goals that are both strict and realistic. Now that you know where you want to be and what you want to let go of, make a plan. Be realistic in your timelines — allow yourself a comfortable amount of time to work through the muck — but don’t get too comfortable, keep it moving.
- You will have bad days. This one is still a struggle for me — accepting that the bad days don’t mean that it’s going to turn into a bad week, month or year. Allow yourself to really feel the feels from time-to-time. Keeping your mental health and clarity in check is an ongoing task, not a one time deal.
When I’m down, I give myself a time limit. For example, a few weeks ago I got sad about something and told myself, “Okay David, you can feel bad for yourself, you can pout, throw a tantrum, kick, scream or cry as much as you want, but only until 7:00 pm — after that, it’s over, you’re done.” I literally treat my depression like a toddler, and you know what, it works.
- Lastly, know that you’re not alone — ever. There are countless support groups across the globe with people like you and I that struggle with depression. Understand that you’re not any different than the Uber driver, outgoing coworker or bubbly sibling — you’re just a little more in-your-head. I urge you to reach out to someone when you start to feel that water flooding up around you — hell, even give me a shout! We will get through this together.
I’m opening my heart and soul with you guys, because I’ve learned through my recovery, that there doesn’t need to be a stigma around depression. I’m going to be honest, this week, and this post especially, has brought up a lot of those old emotions to the surface again. This time though, it’s different. Rather than feeling like a flood of water that’s ripping me around, I feel in control. I can look back on situations and feel the sting without the overwhelming feeling of panic, anger or sadness.
Stay hungry and hustle hard
My latest medication doesn’t come in pill form (or exercise if that’s where you thought I was going) but rather, in the form of passion. Despite my sloth-like tendencies on weekends, I enjoy keeping active, mostly just mentally. I’ve set my goals and I have a laser-like focus on achieving them by my set deadlines. I put in the work at my day job (and have been rewarded), I launched my own company last year and this blog (which is growing by the minute) — all while pursuing my degree and balancing a social calendar.
It’s through finding my passion in all these areas of my career that I truly feel on top of the world. My biggest motivator is my own personal success. If I can light a fire under my ass, imagine what we can do together.
Calling all Aries, Taurus, Scorpio, Cancer and Pisces — You've got issues, anger issues. Stop by tomorrow's BOLT⚡️ for tips on better managing all that rage as Mental Health Week continues.