There is no shortage in today’s world of methods for treating depression. Ranging from a regime of medication to more naturalistic approaches that rely on identifying sensitivities of diet and exercise. It is great to have all these options and more to choose from, because everyone is different and different methods work for different people. But management of many different approaches can become exhausting and what about when they simply don’t work?
For someone who struggles with cyclical depression, the heavy return of symptoms can seem to compound suffering even more. It feels like you work so hard, do all the right things, push yourself to the limit, seek all the resources, do all the work, confront the self-discovery, only to feel as though you are brought back to square one, hiding under the covers from your day to day life again. It can feel like nothing is working. It can feel like wasted effort. It can feel like making no progress. The pattern is almost more frustrating than the condition itself.
If you find yourself returning to this valley, discouraged by seemingly ineffective solutions, remember that sometimes, all you can do is steady yourself with these basic truths:
The feelings of discouragement you are battling are actually part of the condition itself. Hopelessness is a tool of depression, a symptom. It is not proof that things have gone wrong, or that you aren’t working hard enough, but instead, it’s a deceptive lens depression pulls over our perspective that can darken even the brightest of days.
Acknowledging and understanding that this is how depression operates can give you a healthier vantage point from which to cope. When we remind ourselves the hopelessness we feel is only a symptom, we remove its power over us.
Everyone Has Something
Another little lie depression likes to tell is that you are alone in your suffering, that everyone else is steadily progressing, while you are the only one falling behind, unable to get past your own failures. Social media is especially good at highlighting only the positive attributes of life, leaving us with an impression that all of our friends have it all together. But everyone, every day, is struggling with something. It may be radically different from your experience, but it is still difficult.
We all have moments that feel never ending and problems that seem insurmountable. We just don’t always post them on Facebook. You are not alone.
Expect Progress Not Perfection
If your expectations are unrealistic to begin with, the chances increase you’ll wind up frustrated. Some amount of depression and anxiety are normal for the human experience, they are part of what make us human, so we can never be totally without them.
Give yourself compassion and appreciation for the incremental progress you have made. Draw your attention to the inventory of positive steps you’ve taken lately. Resist discounting small victories like washing the dishes, walking the dog, or following through on a social commitment because these little wins are what add up over time to create long lasting positive change.
Things Will Change
Ancient philosopher Heraclitus was quoted as saying, “you cannot step twice into the same stream.” Even though what you are feeling may be familiar, it could not be exactly the same as before — and it will not be the same again. There are always new, different variables that influence our present moment.
Sometimes, there is no quick tip or fast cure to fast forward through the pain, but we can always steady ourselves, allow the rough waters pass through, the storm clouds to move out, and know in our hearts a new day will rise with new opportunities, new potential, and new perspective.
Maybe you even adopt a mantra for yourself during these times. Repeating a brief word or phrase that is meaningful to you can be a powerful way to connect with your internal grounding and steady yourself when you start to feel the familiar feelings of discouragement arise. It can help bring back your focus, if you feel yourself getting swept away in despair.
Here’s one to try: Hold Steady.