Have you recently been diagnosed with depression and are you struggling making peace with that diagnosis? Or perhaps have you lived with depression for a long time and making peace with living with depression has been something you just have not been able to conquer?
Don’t worry! You are not alone.
Every year, millions of people living with depression struggle to accept their diagnosis. In America, the stigma of living with mental illness is so great that the idea of accepting that you might perhaps be one of those millions is often just too much to bear. While you feel like you could fight cancer in a moment, you think that sharing with your friends and family that you are living with depression would be horrible. Embarrassing. A sign of weakness.
The class of people living with mental illness is the number one most stigmatized in the country, over race and sexual orientation, so it’s no surprise that you might struggle with being one of it’s members.
However, a really important part of living successfully with depression is making peace with it. Accepting that depression is a part of your life but knowing that you can live a full life nonetheless is how you will be able to do so.
I know the making peace can be difficult but important. So how can you do it? Let me help…
#1 – Understand that your depression is not your fault.
For many of us, we’ve blame ourselves for our depression.
We think that perhaps if somebody just loved us, or we had a better job, or we were in better shape or if our parents loved us more then we just wouldn’t be depressed.
We believe that our depression is a personal failing. Every time that someone tells us to ‘just suck it up’ and we can’t, we feel like we’re letting everybody else down.
The reality is is that mental illness is not the cause of some personal failing. Mental illness is usually caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain, one that you had nothing to do with creating.
This chemical imbalance is often genetic, like mine, but it can also be caused by trauma. If you have recently been through some trauma, know that that trauma is in no way your fault and the resulting depression is most likely caused by chemical changes in your brain.
Your depression is not your fault. People who tell you to ‘just suck it up’ don’t understand what depression is really like. So, you aren’t letting anybody down when you can’t suck it up because it’s just not possible to do so when you’re really depressed. People who live with depression know that.
#2 – Understand that admitting you are depressed isn’t a sign of weakness.
Another piece of making peace with your depression is to admit to yourself that, in fact, you are struggling.
Awareness is the starting point for dealing with pretty much everything in our lives. Being aware of why you’re feeling so sad after a broken heart is the first step towards mending it. Being aware of what is causing the pain in our neck helps us to figure out how to treat it.
Admitting to yourself that you’re living with depression is the first step to true acceptance which can then lead to healing. A person who admits to living with depression is not only not weak but very strong.
Depression is like a 100 pound gorilla on your back. Life can be hard. Life is even harder when trying to live it with a hundred pound gorilla on your back.
So, know, deep in your heart, that making peace with your depression is not a sign of weakness but a sign of great strength because only someone with great strength would be willing to take on something as devastating as depression.
#3 – Understand why others react the way they do.
We call depression the ‘no casserole disease.’ If you get cancer, people show up at your house with food. If you get depression, people tend to disappear.
Because of this, for myself and for many of my clients, telling others that we are depressed is one of the hardest things we have ever have to do.
When I told my mom that I was struggling with depression, she immediately tried to fix it. She kept reminding me about how good my life was and how lucky I was to have all that I did and that it was very selfish of me to burden others with my sadness. She couldn’t accept me for who I was – she wanted to fix me.
My mom’s reaction was devastating to me but I later learned that her father had struggled with depression and he had disappeared and I think my mother was petrified that the same would happened with me.
So, when somebody reacts badly when you tell them you are living with depression, know that it says a lot more about them than does about you. People react negatively for various reasons but most often it’s because we touch too close to the bone.
When I do speeches about living with depression, many people come up to me afterwards and share stories of people they love living with mental illness The hopelessness that they feel, and describe, because they can’t help their loved one is beyond description.
#4 – Understand that you are in the company of greatness.
What most people do not know until they start noticing is that many famous people live with depression. Many very creative, intelligent, attractive, kind and successful men and women live with depression and live successfully.
A few people living with depression today: Catherine Zeta Jones, Kanye West, Ellen DeGeneres, Cara DeLavigne, Harrison Ford, Lady Gaga, Gwyneth Paltrow and Demi Lovato, among others.You know each of them and now you know what someone looks like who was successful making peace with their depression and is living a sold, happy life.
Abraham Lincoln, Georgia O’Keefe, Sigmund Freud, Siddhartha and Franz Kafka were all brilliant people who made a difference in the world, all the while living with depression
So, if you believe that your depression makes you in any way less than, know that you’re surrounded by amazing people in this world who live and thrive with depression every day.
#5 – Understand that making peace will actually make you better.
Those of us who live with mental illness know that we were only able to start living with it successfully once we had accepted that it was a part of our life.
Only by fully accepting who we are and what we are living with can we begin the healing process.
For me, once I accepted that the feelings that I had lived with for 46 years were not a personal shortcoming but due to a chemical imbalance, I was able to learn how to live with it. I made it my life’s work to help educate people about mental illness, to support them, and to help reduce stigma.
I learned everything I could about my chemical imbalance, I learned what medicine worked to keep my head above water and I developed coping skills that I practice every day. The combination of my knowledge and my practice has allowed me to help hundreds of women deal with depression, including myself.
I know that I would not be in the great place that I am today had I not accepted my illness.
So, if anything should really encourage you making peace with your depression, perhaps it can be the understanding that if you do make peace with it you might be able to begin the heal.
Making peace with your depression in a world where mental illness is still so stigmatized can be very challenging.
But if there was ever a challenge to take on, it would be making peace.
If you can work to understand that your depression is not your fault, that it is not a sign of weakness, why others react the way they do and that you are in the company of greatness then you will be able to start living successfully with depression.
Can you imagine what it would feel like, to wake up every morning, knowing that today your depression is no longer going to control you but that you will control it? That, at the end of the day, you will feel good about yourself and your place in the world because your depression is no longer in charge?
How awesome would that be? It is possible. You CAN do it!
If you have read this far you must really want to make peace with your depression.
Let me help you, NOW, so that you can start moving forward with your life!
I am a NYC based Certified Life Coach and mental health advocate. My writing has been published on The Huffington Post, Prevention, Psych Central, Pop Sugar, MSN and The Good Man Project, among others. I work with all kinds of people to help them go from depressed and overwhelmed to confident and happy in their relationships and in their world.