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I Have Depression? Now What?

Never underestimate the healing power of nature.

You tell a friend, “The psychiatrist agreed with my doctor, that I have major depressive disorder. Can you believe that? I feel so _________ .”

How would you fill in the blank? You might say that you’re angry, relieved, sad, anxious, neutral, disappointed, happy, a mixture of emotions, or jump from one to another.

All feelings are acceptable. There is no right or wrong way to feel about a diagnosis of depression.

Many depressed individuals have much to learn about noticing, accepting, and expressing emotions. You can begin learning by honoring the way you feel about the diagnosis. Emotions are not supposed to be logical, we have a mind for that.

Whatever your feeling(s) are, you might also be concerned about how others will react.

What Will People Think?

No one really understands an experience (i.e., divorce, depression) unless they have been through it themselves. People who have never had depression may not understand why you can’t get your tush off the couch. They might think you are lazy or weak; but you know that is not the case.

Other people will do their best to understand, and there are many of us around who empathize because we deal with symptoms daily.

If you are worried about people knowing your diagnosis, don’t tell them. As long as you are not wearing a T-shirt that says, “I’m depressed,” most people will stay clueless. It’s a good idea to think through who to share this with anyway; there are people who will not be accepting. If you have a job consider carefully which (if any) coworkers you feel comfortable telling.

Some people choose to be very open with others about their depression, hoping to undo the common misperceptions people have about this diagnosis. Not everyone has the temperament for this. You know yourself better than anyone and will have to decide if, when, and where to disclose.

2 Things to Consider

Even if you eat right, exercise, or take medication, your bad habits of thought and communication will live on, unless you learn new behavior options. To manage depressive symptoms you must take charge of how you think and be able to express yourself well enough to get your needs and wants met.

Therapy is not about changing yourself. It is about learning new, more effective ways of thinking, acting, and communicating so you feel better.

If depression is like treading water every waking hour and barely keeping your nose above the surface, antidepressants are like putting on water-wings or a life jacket. You finally get to enjoy bobbing around in life as do non-depressed folks and use your energy for more than survival. Your personality will not change, but you will more easily express it.

If you are taking good care of yourself or have tried natural remedies, and the symptoms remain stubborn, taking an antidepressant is worth considering.

There may be some side effects although not everyone experiences them, and though some people remain on antidepressants long term it is not because they have to. They choose to because that is what works for them. Other people take antidepressants for a few months and then manage their symptoms without.

Symptom Management Tips

Think of your life as a pie, banana cream maybe. When you are deep in a depression, it seems as if the symptoms are the whole pie. However, as you learn to manage symptoms, you will experience depression as only one slice of the pie, maybe even a sliver. This does not happen overnight. Simply take one small step, and then the next small step.

Some of your biggest allies in symptom management are your natural motivations. When expressing our motivations, the body may tire but we are energized none the less. If you are symptomatic, you may not enjoy what you typically enjoy; do it anyway. You are creating a healthy symptom management habit.

For example, if you are motivated to learn, make sure it has a place in your life (however small). Reading something interesting for 15 minutes a day is healthier than no learning at all.

Finally, do yourself a big favor by learning at least one relaxation or calming technique that works for you, and that you’re willing to do. It’s most helpful if the technique is something that can be done in many or most situations; a breathing technique, a mantra, a poem, or being mindful. Just like people with asthma carry an inhaler, you will want to carry a “chill pill” to use when overwhelmed.

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