Mandy Hale singing while playing a ukelale

Mandy Harvey is an “America’s Got Talent” gold buzzer winner. She lost her hearing when she was 18 years old. She wrote the song “Try” as a way to keep her spirits up despite not being able to hear. When I first heard the song, I broke out into tears. I was extremely suicidal at the time and this song was the only thing that made me stop and think that I could keep trying no matter what happens. The song gave me the hope I had lost and made me want to keep living. While I’m not sure whether Mandy was trying to suggest struggling with depression, I find that it greatly applies to the lyrics.

Mandy’s first line is “I don’t feel the way I used to/ The sky is gray much more than it is blue/ But I know one day I’ll get through.” I find that this relates to depression because when I am depressed, I spend a lot of time thinking negatively and it feels like there is a dark cloud following me everywhere I go. But sometimes, there is a little bit of hope that I will get through it to the other side and feel better again someday. To hear this sort of thing acknowledged in a song is rare and completely relatable to me, and I’m assuming might be for others who struggle with depression. It is also remarkable because I find that many songs do not hit the nail on the head the way that “Try” does.

Mandy goes on to sing, “So I will try/ So I will try/ I don’t love the way I need to/ You need more and I know that much is true/ So I’ll fight for our breakthrough and I’ll breathe in you again.” This line could be taken in two different ways. The “you” Mandy is referring to could be herself. She could be trying to say that it’s important, yet difficult, to love yourself and to be who you really are when you’re struggling with depression. I know that this is true for me. When I don’t feel good about my life, I don’t feel good about myself. However, the “you” could also be someone else in her life who is struggling to love because they do not feel well themselves. When I am depressed, I tend to isolate and not give others the love they deserve. I can be nasty toward family and friends because I don’t feel good.

Other powerful lines I found in the song were: “There is no one but me to blame ‘cause I know the only thing in my way is me/ I don’t live the way I used to/ That whole picture never came into view.” These lines are powerful, yet I find them a little trickier, as they do not quite acknowledge the fact that mental illness can get in the way. What I find most relatable is that I think we do have the power to take control of our illnesses and lead healthy and productive lives. This is why it’s important to seek help and treatment if you’re struggling. I was once told, “It is like you have a broken arm in your brain.” I agree with this, because broken bones do heal. If we don’t take care of ourselves, then we are in our own way. There was once a time when those struggling with depression were happy and had dreams they believed they could achieve. Depression can rob so much life from a person, that it can be hard to feel successful or like you’re moving forward. That is why I will reiterate how important it is to seek help — to care for the broken arm in your brain.

Whether it was Mandy’s intention or not, the song is a sort of anthem to my depression. It speaks for depression and allows me to feel validated and perhaps even understood. Someone with depression could listen to this song and think “this is totally me.” And I will be completely honest with you; when I first heard it, I cried and realized that it’s worth it to keep trying and to live my life. This song literally saved my life. I hope this song is as powerful to others as it was to me.

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 “HOME” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

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Lead image via America’s Got Talent YouTube channel


Editor’s note: To give context to this study, this piece discusses figures that could potentially be triggering to someone with an eating disorder. If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

Depression is complicated. From genes to the environment, there are a number of factors that contribute to whether or not a person will develop depression. And now, a new study suggests how much sugar you eat can play a role too.

According to research published in Scientific Reports, eating too much sugar can cause men to develop depression. But before you go throwing out all of your snacks, here’s what you need to know.

What The Study Says

Using the Whitehall II study, researchers looked at the diet habits and medical conditions of 5,000 men and 2,000 women over the course of 22 years and found that men who ate more than 67 grams of sugar per day were 23 percent more likely to be diagnosed with depression within a five-year period than men who ate less sugar. The same effect was not seen in women, although less women were studied.

At first, researchers thought this increase might be due to men eating more sugar when they felt depressed, but the data did not support that theory.

“High-sugar diets have a number of influences on our health but our study shows that there might also be a link between sugar and mood disorders, particularly among men,” lead study author Anika Knüppel told The Guardian. “There are numerous factors that influence chances for mood disorders, but having a diet high in sugary foods and drinks might be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.”

How Much Sugar Is Too Much?

“It is very easy to go over the recommended limit since so many staples in the American diet are made up of added sugars,” Michal Hertz, MA, RD, a New York City based nutritionist who focuses on eating disorders, told The Mighty.

According to the American Heart Association, women should aim for no more than six teaspoons (24 grams) of added sugar per day and men, nine teaspoons (36 grams).

A recent study from Harvard School of Public Health found that more than 70 percent of Americans eat up to 22 teaspoons (110 grams) of added sugars per day. You can easily consume more than 67 grams of sugar, the amount referenced in the Scientific Reports study, just by drinking two 12-ounce cans of soda.

But before you go changing your diet, nutritionists warn that too little sugar can be just as bad for your mental health, if not worse.

“Unfortunately, these studies can end up being very harmful to those suffering from eating disorders,” Justine Roth, MS, RD, CDN, a nutritionist who specializes in mindful eating approaches, said. “Any media coverage on a particular food or group of foods can have a major effect on someone who has an eating disorder or is at risk for developing one.”

In her New York City nutrition practice, Valery Kallen, MS, RD, said she’s definitely seen a connection between mental health and sugar, but it’s most often when people dangerously restrict calories.

The link to sugar and mental health that I’ve seen almost always has to do with a over-restriction of sugar causing an over-consumption of sugar as a compensatory effect, and feeling out of control around food in this way often makes people feel anxious, ashamed and depressed. Once people are able to normalize their food intake — not restrict and not binge — these feelings markedly improve because they no longer feel compelled to act on their hormonally-driven food cravings.

“Moderation and balance are key,” Hertz said. “The message should not be about restricting all sugary foods, rather that we don’t want to have them as the star of our diets. If you are a person who likes a sweet every now and then, then you should feel comfortable incorporating it without feeling guilty or like a failure.”

What You Need to Know

“My takeaway would be to regard these studies with a grain of salt – or sugar,” Kallen told The Mighty, adding:

As much as we would love for there to be a simple fix like just decreasing sugar consumption, it is not so cut and dry. Sugar is not the culprit. Food choices can certainly contribute to mental health but no single food or single nutrient can influence it; rather it’s the cumulative effects of eating habits over time that can have an impact, as well as other health-conscious behaviors like sleep, exercise and stress levels.

If you are concerned about your mental health or your diet, speak to a mental health professional or work with a nutritionist to figure out what works best for you and your body.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

It’s easy to feel hopeless when your significant other is caught in the clutches of depression — because if you can’t “love” depression away, what can you do? While small gestures can’t cure depression, they can help — and Reddit user bovadeez shared an adorable and creative example of what significant others can do when their partners are struggling.

[Image] My girlfriend suffers from, at times, [debilitating] depression and anxiety. I saw this idea somewhere online and decided to make her something like it.

On Reddit, he posted a photo of a jar filled with different colored popsicle sticks, with a label to show what each color means. On each popsicle stick he wrote something his partner might need to hear when she’s struggling with depression. He explained:

For the yellow, [they are] reminders… So for example I said things like, ‘You’re beautiful,’ ‘I love you,’ ‘Don’t be afraid to ask for help.’ The quotes were taken from some of my favorite authors that were based in inspiration and positive words. For accuracy and other quotes I just searched for inspirational quotes. The relaxation portions were things that I know she forgets to do like, ‘Take a break,’ ‘Listen to your favorite song’ and so on.

He also left a section for white slips of paper, where she could add her own happy memories.

Other Reddit users were touched by his gesture, TheWorldCanBeAwesome said, “Wow this is a really great idea. Sometimes depression makes it really hard for people to hear what you are trying to say and sometimes talking doesn’t help. I’m gonna pass this idea along if you don’t mind.”

Another user, chiprana, who struggles with depression, called the gesture “life saving.” “Thank you for deciding to help her instead of treat[ing] her like a burden. I’m glad to know I live in a world with people like you,” they said.”

To find out what other small ways concerned partners can help their loves ones with depression, we asked people with depression in our mental health community to share little, but significant, ways their partners help them. Here’s what they shared with us:

1. “My husband has me repeat words of affirmation after him. He always starts with, ‘Repeat after me, I am enough…’ And then goes on to say things he thinks will help in the moment. His patience amazes me!” — Allie B.

2. “He tells me to go relax and put on PJs, and will often get dinner ready with my son, and then lights candles for supper and calls it a little date. When I finish eating he tells me to go to bed and not to worry about the mess. And then after he cleans up and bathes our son, he brings me my son to cuddle and rubs my back. This lifts me up so much, more than words can say.” — Rebecca S.

3. “I was having one of the worst days, and had to go work. It felt like the day was dragging, and I just wanted to run home, jump into bed and cry my heart out. When I got home, I found my fiance who had cleaned the entire house, went grocery shopping and was making a home-made soup to make me feel better. I was very impressed, and very lucky to have him!” — Stephanee B.

4. “My husband took the time to do some research about depression and what might help someone if they are experiencing a depressive episode. He came home one day from work thrilled to share with me that he had learned about sound tones and how they can be used to help heal. He puts them on every night before bed, and rubs my head to help me fall asleep. It’s a small but so very significant gesture, I feel that this time helps us be closer and helps him to understand me even more.” — Charlotte M.

5. “Before I met my partner, we sat across from each other in college, and he used to draw butterflies on then edge of my work (we had our work swapped for peer assessment). At the time I was self-harming and loved the butterfly project, and even something like that from someone I didn’t know yet, was super encouraging. I was lucky enough to meet him properly and to fall for him; now been together for a year and I couldn’t ask for a more loving partner.” — Abby A.

6. “She sometimes asks me if I want to go for a drive, getting out driving around and listening to my music helps a little.” — Erin S.

7. “He would hold me tight and say nothing…some times this is all I need.” — Emma J.

8. “He makes me small pieces of art, like drawings or pipe cleaner crafts, etc., to hang around my room.” — Emily T.

9. “My husband bought me a lavender plant. He knows that I love the calming scent and went out and got a cute owl flower pot to put it in.” — Natasha A.

10. “My boyfriend starts a bath when I’m depressed. Sometimes I’m frozen in place so he picks me up to where I need to go, He’ll lay beside me and just hold me till I relax and tell him everything, he let’s me draw over his tattoos with my fingers to relax, and he’ll tell me,’Everything’s going to be OK, and I’m here with you.’ I don’t know where I’d be without him.” — Ethan W.

11. “After I spent most of the day curled up in bed due to feeling sad that day, he came in and picked me up into a hug, told me he loved me and kissed my forehead. Then he tucked me back in. It was such a small gesture, but it helped me a lot to know that he didn’t resent me.” — Angela S.

12. “He saw me having a panic attack, and it was the first one he had seen me have. We were in his parents’ living room with his parents, his brother and his brother’s girlfriend. He didn’t say anything, he just grabbed my hand and kept having conversation as normal with everyone else, and answering questions for me since I couldn’t talk. It was really sweet.” — Kaitlyn R.

What would you add? Let us know in the comments below. 

The past few months I have been competing in athletic events, and my body and mind have been fighting against me in this journey. I’ve learned something, though, and I wanted to get it out here, to make sense of it and hopefully have it help someone else. So here it goes.

I fear the worst when it comes to appearance. I fear looking weak, like I’m failing, because then I wonder if it’s true.

How would it appear if I began crying and struggling to breathe in front of people? How would the things my mind thinks due to depression and anxiety appear if I said them out loud?

Part of me wants people to know how I feel, but I don’t want to appear in a negative light. So I built a strong wall of stone around my feelings to protect me from people.

I have slowly found a few people I have been able to confide in (one being my therapist) and in doing so, I have discovered a second wall I built.

I not only guard my feelings from others, but I guard them from myself, too. Instead of feeling my emotions, I’ve made a habit of ignoring them for as long as I can.

In difficult periods of time, I end up having panic attacks in the aftermath of not allowing myself to feel in the moment.

For me, feeling in the moment is dangerous because there is a possibility of breaking down in a public place. Pushing aside some emotions is necessary and fine when I am in a tight spot and need to concentrate, but when I continue to do so past the time of need, I am running from it, and the farther I get, the harder it is to address.

Another competition was coming up, so my therapist challenged me to feel my emotions when they came. As the event started, I began periodically asking myself these questions: “What do I feel right now?” and “How do I feel about this?”

As I questioned myself, I caught myself red-handed in the act of stuffing my feelings behind the wall. I had to actively search myself to identify what I was feeling. I had to relearn how to process my emotions when they came. My goal in doing this wasn’t to simmer in my emotions, because sometimes I am bitter, angry and jealous. But unless I acknowledge them, they would keep growing underneath and explode later. I am still practicing this. It is a habit hard to break. Yet I’ve found that once I can admit my fear, my insecurities and my pain, then I can work through them.

A great way I’ve found to do this is through journaling. I can just write down everything that’s running amok in my mind onto the page, and no one other than me will see it. By the end I always feel lighter because I got to be honest about how I feel, and I often come to some sort of conclusion or resolve to get me through the day.

I want everyone to know what they feel is real, regardless on how others may perceive it. The pain we feel is real pain.

Once I admit what I feel, then I can respond by working through it. It is not easy, and it is for sure painful, but to move forward, steps have to be taken. For now, those are addressing my pain.

Follow this journey here.

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Thinkstock photo via alexandralarina.

In the September issue of “Vogue,” Oprah Winfrey — former talk show host, actress, producer and all around power woman — opened up about a more turbulent time in her life. In 1998, her movie “Beloved” flopped, a public failure she said caused her to sink into a period of depression.

“I actually started to think, maybe I really am depressed. Because it’s more than ‘I feel bad about this.’ I felt like I was behind a veil,” she said.

While she had spoken to people on her talk show about what it feels like to experience depression, she said it wasn’t something she could understand until she experienced it herself. “I could never imagine it,” she said. “What’s depression? Why don’t you just pick yourself up?”

While it’s natural to feel crushed or sad after a disappointment, Oprah said this period of depression lasted for six weeks. For people who have clinical depression, symptoms typically last for about four to eight months at a time, but can last even longer. For people who develop situational depression though, symptoms usually last until the individual has adjusted to a new situation.

But just because your depression is situational, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be taken seriously, or that you don’t deserve to seek professional help. For Oprah, this looked like slowing down and practicing gratitude. For others, this might mean seeking help from a professional and getting extra support.

Winfrey said the experience taught her she couldn’t value her entire self-worth based on her work. “Do the work as an offering, she said, “and then whatever happens, happens.”

Depression is hard enough. Add raising two babies and some days, it seems impossible. I’m glad that mental health is getting more attention these days, even if the government is trying to make it harder to get help. If they pass the health bill they want, then my mental illness will be a pre-exsisting condition and it will be harder for me to get coverage and help. But that is not what this is about. This is about what depression and motherhood is to me.

Depression and motherhood is sitting on the couch and hoping that the children won’t need you today. Because as much as you really want to get on the ground and crawl and tickle and giggle with them, you can’t. That invisible wall has surrounded you and they can’t see it, but you feel so far away.

Depression and motherhood is your 4-year-old handing you a tissue and saying, “please don’t cry momma,” and you crying more because you don’t want her early memories of you to be only the sad ones. You want her to remember the good days and the fun, but at that moment, you have a really hard time remembering them too.

Depression and motherhood is loneliness. Being a mother in this day in age is already near impossible because everything you do is going to be wrong to someone. But with the added hardship of depression and anxiety, it’s isolating. You have to pretend like you’re just as put together as the next mother, who isn’t put together at all. But no one talks about that. We all act like we have our shit together, but no one does. Depression is already isolating, but when you deal with it before children, it’s easier to handle. You can hide under the covers all day or get lost in a book. You can’t just get up and go somewhere without a second thought and make yourself feel better. With children comes the necessity of planning. You have a baby that still needs bottles so you have to make sure you pack enough. You have a toddler that literally hates every type of food, except like three, so you have to make sure you pack those so she doesn’t starve either. You have to make sure you have sunscreen or bug spray, a change of clothes for the little ones, diapers and bottles and water and snacks, a carrier or stroller, and then you’re so overwhelmed that the idea of leaving the house is exhausting, so you don’t. You stay at home with your kids by yourself and berate yourself more when your little one asks what we’re doing and where we’re going and you don’t have an answer.

Depression is fighting. You fight with yourself all the time. I hate that I have this darkness during a time that I should be loving and learning about life. I hate that I have to take pills to make myself feel somewhat in control of my emotions. I get angry at everything. I get mad at the kids.  I yell at them. I throw the same temper tantrums that I reprimand them for throwing. I have failed them again because I shouldn’t lose my temper like that. I shouldn’t break down like that. But today, I lost the fight and the darkness won. I have an illness. I’ve been fighting these illnesses for a really long time, but society still thinks that because you can’t see what goes on in my head that it must not be serious and I need to “get over it,” or “buck up.”  It’s having people give unsolicited advice about what you should do to feel better. Because going for a walk every day or smiling or playing is going to magically even out the chemical imbalance in my brain that my medication still has difficulty doing.

Depression and motherhood is worry. It’s looking at your beautiful, happy children and praying they don’t inherit your illness. You know the chance is pretty high, especially for your daughter, and you already feel like you failed her. You failed her because you’re giving her the darkness you’ve tried for years to get rid of. You spend days feeling like you’re not worthy of these angels because they are the light, but you know someday that you might dim that light with the darkness that they will get from you.

Depression and motherhood is failure. It’s your brain telling you that you’re not good enough and you’re not doing enough for yourself or your kids. It’s again, sitting on the couch, with the darkness whispering in your ear how horrible you are because you’re not taking your kids out on adventures like you used to do. You’re not going for walks every day or working on teaching them letters and shapes and numbers and reading. It’s the guilt that comes with letting them watch TV all day because there is the hope that it will satisfy them and you can continue to spiral there on the couch. It’s failure because in your mind, you have these plans on how awesome you’re going to be today and how you’re going to cook with your daughter and crawl around with your son, but then the morning comes and goes, and you still sit there, wanting so bad for just one good feeling so you can do these things, but the feeling never comes, so your day of awesome turns into all the other days of failure.

Depression and motherhood is love and strength. It’s wanting to do nothing more but pull the covers over you and block out the world, but you don’t. You get up and get dressed. You make breakfast and bottles. You change diapers. Leaving the house might have been a failure, but your kids still deserve a mom. You fight through the darkness because they deserve more than that. And sometimes it leaves you exhausted at night because of all the effort you had to put in just to have a somewhat “normal” day, and after the kids go to sleep, you cry. You cry because you had to try so hard to have a good day and you know it shouldn’t be this hard. But that’s love. You do this because they are the best parts of you, so you work really hard to let them know they are loved. You work to make them smile and laugh, and in those moments, motherhood and depression is love.

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Thinkstock photo via monkeybusinessimages

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