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Why 'Good Days' Are Sometimes the Hardest When You Live With Depression

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Last weekend was good. We took a mini road trip as a family, stopped for ice cream, enjoyed a ferry ride and ate good pizza in a park in a neighboring city. It was a day of good tunes on the car stereo, fresh spring breeze blowing through open windows and my children playing happily.

I wanted to die. I imagined ways to hurt myself as the kids sat enamored by the small ferry carrying us across a serene lake. I choked back tears as my kids begged me to push them on the park swing. I longed to return home and curl up in bed even though taking the kids on this adventure had been my idea.

Somehow, the sheer pleasantness of the day made my depression worse, because everything was good, except me. Life was fine, but I wasn’t.

My depression doesn’t care that the situation is good, that my kids are smiling or that the sun is shining. Depression isn’t about my circumstances, it’s about my brain. It is a dark fog settled on every surface of my life, ripping it of joy and meaning.

These supposed-to-be pleasant days are some of the worst in my depression. I feel guilty for not feeling good, chastising myself for not being able to make myself feel whole and happy. I become afraid that joy will forever be distant and outside of my grasp. It feels like if I can’t enjoy these most basic pleasures, what hope is there for me to ever see joy again? I exhaust myself putting on smiles and feigning excitement for the people around me, dragging myself through the day.

I know in my head that depression is an illness, that it has more to do with what is happening inside me and little to do with what is happening around me. That sunshine and music and good pizza don’t really remedy depression. But in my heart I long so badly to be able to snap myself out of it that I bury myself in guilt in shame when I don’t succeed. Sometimes, the good days are the hardest.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

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Thinkstock photo via Natalie Kuchumova.

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A Bad Day of My Depression Looks Something Like This

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Depression is like carrying a 100-pound weight that no one else can see. Even you can’t see it or rationalize it, it is there, and it drags you down.

On a bad day with depression, I awake with the sun after a long night of tossing and turning.

I rub my stinging eyes and groan.

I know I should get up. My body feels heavy, and I feel sluggish. Just knowing I should get up doesn’t motivate me at all.

My brain is quick to remind me I no longer have a job. My brain plays a montage of the strong assets I once possessed, my steady decline and current feelings of no use to anyone.

I start to browse my phone. I spare myself from how Facebook portrays the happy lives of people I know. Instead, I choose Instagram. I begin to scroll through the enviable lives of strangers. I wonder why and how they live such glamorous lives.

An hour goes by, and my dog can no longer handle laying in bed. I apologize and let him out back. I make a coffee while I wait for him, and then I forget about it.

I sit on the couch and spend ages choosing something to watch on Netflix.

I remember my coffee, but my body is heavy and I keep it on my mind as a future reward for convincing myself to move.

One show ends, another begins. “Are you still watching?” I grumble and get up to reheat my coffee. Even Netflix thinks I’m lazy.

It’s well into the afternoon now. I wonder how it got so late. I haven’t accomplished anything.

I look around the house. The dishes are piled up, a combination of clean and dirty laundry strewn around the couch.

I am plagued with guilt.

I feel guilty because I haven’t eaten or showered. I feel guilty because I managed to get dressed but sat back down on the couch. I feel guilty because I still haven’t left the house. I feel guilty because my partner lives with this. I feel guilty because I am no longer the person I once was. Not even close.

It feels as if I will never find the strength to climb out of this dark space.

I tell the dog we are going for a walk. He follows me around excited and confused while I pace in frantic circles. I can never just leave the house…

Where are my keys? Where is my phone? Where is my black sweater? No, the other black sweater…

The dog becomes frustrated and brings me his leash and collar to speed things up.

On the way to the park, I am both irritated and endeared by his unwavering zest for life.

The sun is shining brightly. I have to squint. It hurts my eyes. The air is warm, the breeze is crisp. I stare off for a bit.

I come to as a stick drops at my feet. I look at him and see an excitement I can’t ignore.

I throw the stick and begin to walk slowly. I smile as I watch him run, jump and dive happily. Beaming with pride each time he races back. Each time more excited than the last.

I take time to enjoy the scenery. It’s so nice to see the sun after a long, cold winter.

Before long I am smiling and laughing. Our quick walk in the park turns into an hour and a half.

I feel lighter, warmer and brighter as we approach home.

In this moment I realize that even in the worst of times, there is something to be grateful for.

There is always a reason to smile, and comfort can be found in the simplest of places. As difficult as it may seem, I just have to look outside of myself.

Follow this journey on The Allure Blog.

Photo by Aricka Lewis, via Unsplash

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Finding the Stars in My Dark Night With Depression

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When I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder (MDD), I was angry at myself and at the world. Why? Why me? What did I do wrong? What did I do to deserve this?

Where is the good in all of this?

There is no good! It is a curse! I hate it! I want nothing to do with it!

But five years later – five long years of treatment, relapse and recovery – I asked myself that question again.

Where is the good in all of this?

And when I seriously delved into the question through prayer and reflection, I realized my dark night was not starless after all. I looked up, and I saw that I was surrounded by blessings I did not see before. Depression was not a blessing in itself, but from it came things to be grateful for.

I have major depression. It is the most painful struggle I have gone through and continue to go through, but I would never take it back. Because of my depression, my life has changed for the better.

With vulnerability came true friendship.

I had taught myself to hide my emotions and struggles — to put on the mask. If asked how I was, I always responded, “Great!” I was usually lying. Sharing anything other than well-being was unacceptable because I did not want to burden anyone with my feelings. I did not want to be the “Debbie Downer” of the group. When my depression became too much to hide, I finally decided to share my reality with my friends – or all those I thought were my friends. It was not easy. Some people were hurtful, whether intentionally or not. Others flat out ran away and abandoned me. But there were those who were there to stay, through the good and the bad. They were accepting, supportive and compassionate. Because of my depression, I discovered who my true friends were. And as I allowed myself to become vulnerable before them, our friendships grew deeper and stronger.

With courage came connection.

I made the choice to no longer fear the stigma of mental illness. I no longer wanted to cower behind the shame and guilt of my diagnosis. So I took a risk. I spoke up. I started to share with others who I really was. When conversations invited an opportunity to share my perspective, I gave it nonchalantly. It was terrifying at first. My fears had convinced me that doing such a thing would only bring stigmatization and shaming from others. I was not entirely wrong. I did experience the signs of stigma. But something else happened more often; because of my depression, I connected with people in new and miraculous ways. I was the recipient of acceptance and compassion more often than not. I discovered there are many others who were like me, or who knew people like me. I was given the opportunity to educate others and break the silence of stigma.

With self-acceptance came self-discovery.

For so long I held back from being who I wanted to be, from doing what I wanted to do. I was cowering behind others’ expectations. I was enslaved by the fear of change – what would others say? Then my depression hit rock bottom, and I attempted suicide. I believe it was nothing but God’s grace that kept me alive that day. I realized that life is too short to not live it, and I was not living the life I wanted to live. So I let myself be free. I gave myself permission to not meet anyone’s expectations but my own. I adopted a radical acceptance of my diagnosis. My illness did not define me, but I embraced it as a part of who I was. And when I accepted my struggles as part of my identity, I discovered who I really was, that I was created with unconditional love and a unique purpose. I was no longer afraid of being myself. It was as simple as a new haircut and as complex as finding a new purpose in life. Because of my depression, I am finally who I was meant to be.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Unsplash photo via Allef Vinicius

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The Selena Gomez Quote That Changed My Perspective About My Depression

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Ever since I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder, I have felt completely broken. In a way I sort of am, but the idea that just because you are broken means you must be that way forever is simply not true. Unlike glass, you can be broken and you can be put back together stronger than before.

This was something I never realized until I heard Selena Gomez say,”If you are broken, you don’t have to stay broken.”

Selena Gomez has been someone I looked up to since I was a little girl. Her struggles have been at similar times, so I have always felt bonded to her. After she went into rehab, I thought she would never be fixed. I thought it was black and white. I thought if you break something, it won’t ever be the same again and there is no reason to try. I believed if someone as wonderful and talented as her couldn’t “fix” herself, then there was no reason for me to try.

Hearing someone I have adored for as far back as I can remember say “broken” is a temporary state not a permanent affliction, gave me so much hope. Just because you are struggling and your world is damaged doesn’t mean you can’t or won’t be whole again. People who have gone through hardship have just as much potential for success as those who have been in the same situation.

Before her speech, I thought recovery was a story adults told me so I would get out of bed. It’s not. It’s a goal that is hard fought, but so worth it. Just because it’s not easy doesn’t mean it isn’t possible. Not knowing the way doesn’t mean there isn’t one.

I genuinely believe everyone struggling with depression needs to have the moment of realization before they can start to heal. It doesn’t matter who it comes from, it just needs to happen. Your situation won’t change until you make the decision to do something about it. This idea used to seem like an fictional thing adults used to try and “make us feel better,” but it doesn’t anymore. Recovery is a goal anyone can reach no matter how bleak things may seem.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Photo via Selena Gomez Facebook page.

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How Exercise Helps Me Fight Depression

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I struggle with recurrent episodes of major depressive disorder. I used to think of myself as being a strong, confident individual, yet fighting depression for the past year has taken away my sense of mental resiliency. I’m not used to living each day wondering if my mind is going to snap and fall into the darkness of another depressive episode.

A common piece of advice I’ve heard repeated to those struggling with depression is to exercise. Engaging in physical activity, I’ve heard, can be a natural mood booster because of the chemicals produced in the brain while exercising. Since I began experiencing depressive episodes, exercise has become a regular part of my weekly schedule. But the reason I work out is not because I’m looking for a chemical release in my brain to make me feel better. I exercise because even though my mind can feel at its weakest, exercise gives me a sense of still being strong.

On any given day, I have a range of thoughts that can go through my head. I’m worthless. This will never get better. I feel OK. I’m too much. I know my friends and family love me. I’m a failure at my job. I feel so alone. I can’t handle this. Some days I feel so powerless against my thoughts and emotions, I’m left nearly defeated and convinced of how incredibly weak of a person I am. I’m distracted by this internal war raging in my head as I go about my day, but suddenly I feel my muscles supporting me. My body feels strong and stable as I reach, lift, bend, climb, walk and pull while going about my to-do list. As I complete my daily tasks, I see definition in my muscles that wasn’t there before. I take two steps at a time on the stairs at work and reach the top without feeling any less out of breath. Although my head may be screaming at me “You are broken and weak,” my body — thanks to exercise — is constantly firing back, “Look at how strong you are.”

Let me make something clear. I am no pro athlete, yoga guru or marathon runner. Besides depression, I also have fibromyalgia and costochondritis (chronic inflammation of my ribcage cartilage) which both really limit how much and how intense of exercise I’m able to do. Through a lot of trial and error, I’ve found a routine of low impact aerobic exercise and strength training a few times a week that works really well for my body. I won’t be winning an award anytime soon, but that’s not my goal. I exercise to take care of my body, plain and simple. And I’ve found my efforts to take care of my physical health give me a sense of confidence depression can’t take away.

For those who are interested in trying some simple exercises, I highly recommend the channel POPSUGAR Fitness on YouTube. They offer free workout videos ranging from complete beginner level to super-challenging advanced levels. A great workout to start with is this 15 minute beginner workout that includes plenty of ways to modify each move to match your fitness level.

I know for many dealing with depression, the thought of jumping around and sweating for any period of time seems impossible, let alone just getting up out of bed each day. If engaging in some form of physical activity is not an option for you right now, I encourage you to find other small, doable activities that can help build your sense of strength. Maybe it’s washing the dishes or taking a short walk down the street. Maybe it’s putting away the laundry, playing with the dog for 10 minutes or reading a chapter of your favorite book. Having an active body helps remind me I’m not the weak person depression wants me to believe I am. Keep finding ways to fight the lies depression wants you to believe — you really are stronger than you think.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Photo via contributor.

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How Lea Michele Taught Me It Is OK to Cry

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I’m not going to pretend I didn’t cry before this pivotal moment in my life, but for some reason I always felt guilty about doing so. I feel like there are people out there who have it so much much worse than I do. Why do I get to cry and they have to keep fighting?

Basically for the first 14 years of my life I would cry, feel guilty about it, and then cry some more. It was a miserable cycle.

When I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder I sobbed until my eyes went red. Nothing could comfort me, and I didn’t want anyone to try to.

Soon after, I started watching a new TV show called “Glee”, the main character played by Lea Michele. Since I had never heard about the show before, I was oblivious to the fact the other main character (played by Cory Monteith) had passed away.

After I found out, I started looking to Lea Michele for guidance. Cory was her fiancee, he had just died and she was out in the public eye looking beautiful as ever. For some reason this only re-enforced the idea I didn’t deserve to cry. If she could go through losing the love of her life, I thought, I can get through my problems.

It wasn’t until the night of the Teen Choice Awards where she addressed Cory’s death in a way that really touched me.

Seeing my idol break down and cry somehow made it OK for me to do the same. She showed me even “strong” people cry too. It doesn’t make you less of a person. It doesn’t mean you are weak; it just means you are human.

Every now and then I slip back into the “I don’t deserve to cry” mindset, but going back to Lea’s speech always reminds me it’s OK. You don’t have to earn your emotions. You are free to feel the way you feel.

I will be forever thankful to Lea Michele, who taught me there is no shame in pain, and nothing selfish about expressing it.

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