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How I'm Taking Back Control From Depression

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Lately, I’ve been feeling a lot like the world is on fire all around me. As such, it feels foolish to continue to engage in “normal,” daily life while there are threats to democracy, threats to trans rights, threats to the lives of our most vulnerable populations, threats to women’s rights. Everything feels uncertain and, a lot of the time, terrifying. When all we are surrounded by are news headlines that never seem to share good news, it is absolutely understandable that the world feels unbearable.

Depression feeds on these feelings. So does anxiety. It’s little wonder that depression has been worsening in the United States and elsewhere over the past several years; in 2019, 8.5% of adults in the United States reported symptoms of major depression. By late 2020 into early 2021, that rate rose to over 30%; as of April 2022, that has fallen to 22% of adults, which is still much higher than pre-pandemic.

Anxiety is similarly high in adults in the United States; in late 2020 and early 2021, 37% of adults were experiencing symptoms of anxiety. As of April 2022, that has decreased to around 27%, which again, is higher than pre-pandemic numbers.

I, too, have been struggling with depression and anxiety. Fear for the future – and fear of the future – is rife with the lack of stability that the past two years have embodied. But then, taking a step back a little, I’ve realized that even amidst the darkness and hopelessness, even when I feel like I have lost control of my life and the world, when I realize how little power I actually wield… I still hold more power than I realize.

It takes strength to continue to rejoice in the mundane things in life, and to hold onto that small flame of hope.

It takes courage to allow yourself to become immersed in small experiences. To release the fear and worry about the future, even if just for a moment. I call these “small rebellions” — ways of reclaiming our joy even in the midst of terrible world events that feel all-encompassing and insurmountable. Sometimes, it feels that the world doesn’t want us to reclaim our joy, especially as a part of a marginalized population.

As a trans and nonbinary person, I am absolutely frightened about the future. But I also know that I — and anyone else who wants to make change in this country and this world as a whole — will not be able to do so without taking care of ourselves amidst the stress, the looming “what ifs,” and the lack of answers from anyone who appears to be in control.

Some ways that I have been working to find my joy include dyeing my hair, making fancy coffees at home, testing new flavors of tea (or new brands of tea), cooking, reading books that ignite my passion in one way or another, trying new hobbies, immersing myself in hobbies I already enjoy like writing and drawing, taking time to talk with friends, practicing mindfulness, learning how to meditate, learning a new language, finding ways to move that I enjoy (walking, dancing, gardening), listening to music that I love as well as finding new artists to enjoy, going for hikes in nearby parks, taking photos of scenery/plants/animals, and planning tattoo designs for the future.

Some may call these things frivolous in light of how dark the world feels now. But for me — they anchor me, not just to who I am as a person, not just to who I want to be as a person, but also to the world that I want our world to be. I want this to be a world where we all can love the things and people we love without inhibition. Where we can feel safe enough—all of us—to engage in our hobbies and follow our passions and live our lives free of fear. Where we are not limited by our gender, our skin color, our sexuality, our age, or our able-bodied-ness.

So find ways to take back your joy.

Find ways to rejoice in your life.

Find ways to engage in these small rebellions, because while each individual rebellion may be small, as a whole, they are still mighty.

Getty image by NeonShot

Originally published: June 2, 2022
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