Here’s a staggering statistic: One in 15 adults every year will experience depression, according to the American Psychiatric Association, and one in six people will experience depression at some point in their lifetimes. Women are also nearly twice as likely to experience depression as men. (So to all the people who don’t think mental illness is a real thing…back off.)
Although the conversation around mental health has begun to shift, it can still be a difficult thing to discuss. But creating conversations about mental health is one of the ways we can continue to combat stigma. “I didn’t realize that talking about it actually created connections that decreased the feelings of isolation,” Carol (we held her last name to protect her privacy) tells me. So let’s get talking. I asked five women to share what they wished they could tell their past selves about depression. Here’s what they said.
1. Depression is isolating…
“You never fully understand it until you experience it. I never really understood what that feeling of loneliness was… The main symptom I struggle with, and thinking back on my childhood have always struggled with, [is feeling] like I’m missing out on life. But at the same time depression pushes me to isolate myself which always surprises me. It makes no sense.” —Alexandra
2. …but you are not alone
“I wish I would’ve known how many other people are affected by [depression] and that I’m not alone. The first time that I experienced depression, my family was the only ones who really knew about it. They don’t understand mental health, and I felt like there was something wrong with me. Depression is normal.” —Annie
3. You did nothing wrong
“There is nothing I did wrong. There are good days and bad days. Be gentle with yourself on the bad days. It’s absolutely okay to talk about it and to seek help and support. As bad as you feel on a bad day, tomorrow it will be better.” —Carol
4. It’s okay to ask for help
“If I could have talked to my past self… I wish I would’ve coped better. In college when I first started having depression I acted out with binge drinking and made a lot of really bad decisions to ‘numb’ my feelings. I didn’t talk to my family or friends—but to be honest even now when I do I still feel guilty or like I should be happy my situation isn’t worse…. I still want to tell past self ‘It’s okay to NOT be okay. You can ask for help. Don’t be ashamed. Don’t be embarrassed.'” —Lindsey
5. Find a therapist. Any therapist
“It’s hard enough to get out of bed and go to work let alone spend copious hours and funds finding the ‘perfect’ therapist. It makes it hard to get started and even harder to stick with. I have friends who rave about the amazing therapist they found but never go back because it costs $250 a session or is an hour away. That’s just not practical to implement on a regular basis.
“My advice is to lower the barrier to entry. Get someone who is affordable, convenient and competent–that’s it. I called my health insurance, asked for a list of in-network therapists that were within a mile radius, and booked the first open appointment… I probably wouldn’t have picked [my therapist] if I was making a dream list of every quality I wanted in a therapist but that list would have been unrealistic and kept me searching forever. Also, I appreciate qualities about my therapist that I wouldn’t have even known to look for so it all worked out really well.” —Zena
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