If you have been recently diagnosed with depression it is easy to think that this might feel like the end of any real hope for a happy and normal life. Yet contrary to that thought, a diagnosis of depression does not exclude you from joy, happiness, and success. It does, however, mean that you will face challenges that are different from what most people tend to face, and that you may have to live life a little differently in some regards. Because of depression’s symptoms, its oppressive power feels more overwhelming than it really is. Through support and treatment, you – just like millions of Americans before you – can overcome depression and make these feelings fade away.
It starts with a bold first step towards a brighter world. Because no matter how dark your world has become in the face of this new revelation, there’s more hope for you than you might think.
You’re Not Alone
Major depressive disorder affected roughly 7.1 percent of US adults in 2017, and of those, about 64 percent struggled with severe impairment as a result of their depressive episode. More than many other forms of mental illness, depression strikes Americans at all ages and across socioeconomic and racial backgrounds. From genes to trauma and experience, many factors influence the development of a depressive episode, and in some people, that depression can become a more permanent, chronic fixture in their life.
Just as you are not alone in experiencing the effects of depression, so are you not alone in struggling to get out from underneath the condition. But there are ways to get help and see the light of day again. Don’t think of help as something pathetic – we all go to the doctor when we’re sick, and we take time off work when we can’t make it due to illness. Like any illness, depression is debilitating and requires professional medical attention, and not social or moral condemnation.
It’s time to do away with the notion that depression targets the weak, and that only the weakest will seek help rather than ‘confront the issue’. Countless strong people have struggled with depressive episodes, problems with anxiety, self-stigma, and teardowns. Celebrities, leaders, and athletes alike with incredible stories of success have come forth to recount times when their self-doubt was so great, some had even considered suicide. Then there are the stories of those who went through with the idea of ending it all, despite the successes and strength we’ve attributed to them for going that far.
Depression is an irrational disorder that makes a person think they’re worthless. But they are not worthless. You are not worthless. And the best way to fight an illness that has you convinced in such a way is to seek help from others to keep you sane.
Depression Treatment and How It Works
Treatment for depression is not set in stone, because very case has its own unique set of circumstances and considerations complicating any one set treatment plan. Instead, depression is treated on a step-by-step basis, trying one treatment, and moving on to another when it proves ineffective. Medication is often a first line treatment because it is both widely effective and cost-efficient, but it can take time to truly make a difference in a person’s outlook. It takes up to a month for an antidepressant to start working, and another two months to switch to a different antidepressant medication, to see if it works any better. Once several types have been tried, other treatment options open up – that can take nearly a year.
In that time, psychiatrists and therapists often work together to find other ways to improve a person’s condition while they’re struggling with a depression, consulting with the family to help them better understand their loved one’s disorder, providing resources and information about how certain lifestyle changes can positively affect depressive symptoms, and providing various forms of talk therapy to get to the core of how depression affects the patient, and what kind of thought process they best respond to when trying to battle against their inner thoughts.
Other treatments have emerged over the years, as we get closer to pinpointing how depression develops in the brain. Deep brain stimulation, as well as non-invasive procedures such as transcranial magnetic stimulation have proven effective in the treatment of treatment-resistant depression, helping patients who don’t respond to antidepressant medication continue to get treated and experience a remission of depressive symptoms. Using magnetic waves, TMS targets portions of the brain responsible for mood, decreasing depressive symptoms.
Treatment for depression isn’t on a set timeline. Some patients experience a withdrawal of depressive symptoms and go on to live their life without falling back into a major depression. Others need a more long-term, permanent approach, relying on medication, therapy, and alternative treatments to continue functioning and living a healthy life, both mentally and physically. Depression treatment is meant to adapt to the needs of the patient, whatever they might be.
It’s Okay to Struggle
Struggling to get out of bed in the morning or cook a meal is not a moral failure. Sometimes, it’s a good idea to plan for such days by having ready-made meals at hand, or ordering take out. Don’t be even harder on yourself by reprimanding your behavior for being unhealthy – it’s not a cardinal sin to eat out or order a couple wraps, and there are plenty of healthy choices for delivery in most places.
It will get easier, over time. But progress isn’t a straight line in depression treatment. It’s more like a jagged graph, steadily climbing but always consisting of ups and downs. It will get easier, but it’s important not to beat yourself up for having a bad day. Life will never consist entirely of good days, either – but as treatment progresses, and as you make strides, you will stray further from the days when suicide felt like a good option, and when it seemed like you have nothing much to live for.