It can be exhausting to fight depression. But the mistake most make is that they try to do it alone.
Depression is an illness that affects individuals, but it’s in no shape or form a single person’s responsibility to get better all on their own. Would anyone blame you for going to the doctor if you’re bleeding from a stump in your arm, have a nicked artery, or are suffering from a stroke? Medical recovery requires intervention, medication, and at times, even something as drastic as surgery.
Meanwhile, only a fraction of people who face real mental health problems go through an adequate and effective treatment process. Some start and stop, and most don’t even start. If you’ve been suffering from depression, the time to stop that bleed is now. The time to start fighting – with others, not just alone – is now. It’s understandable that you’re tired of your feelings, of being sad, and of trying to get better. But that’s what help is for.
What makes the New Year any different from any other week? The truth is: nothing, really. There’s only one good reason to start changing today: it’s the soonest possible moment for you to change.
One of the complexities of life, in its simplest form, is the fact that we can’t change what has already happened. We can’t go back and start earlier. We can’t turn time around. But we have control of one single moment, a moment at a time. And with each passing moment, the previous one slips out of our grasp and fades into an untouchable region.
Focusing on the time that’s lost will only cause you to lose more. You reminisce over each passing moment but miss out on the opportunity to do what you need to do with the moments you have at hand. In other words: now is the best time for you to start getting better, whenever now is. That means doing one simple thing – getting help. Call a friend, visit a therapist, schedule an appointment with a doctor. Get diagnosed. Get treated. If one treatment doesn’t work, try another. Seek advice. Look for help.
Getting Out of the Rut
In a way, the new year is in fact a good time to look for help – in part because, even if you haven’t realized it, you may need it more than ever. Two things tend to contribute heavily to depression around this time of year: the winter season, and the holidays. Both the yuletide and New Year’s Eve itself are often subjects of great sadness, sorrow, reflection, regret, and loss. It’s not usual for the bookend of a year to be steeped in melancholy rather than the joy it should be steeped in.
Meanwhile, long cold nights and short brisk days with overhead clouds and grey skies leave little room of natural sunlight to help make a dent on your day, heavily impacting not just the mood of the average person, but making a deeper, darker impression on those already susceptible to low moods. See this new year as your chance to turn things around.
Where to Start
Treatment for depression doesn’t come in a magic pill, although pills may be involved. Each person’s own treatment needs to be tailored to them, based on factors that help identify specific treatments that can work, as well as time-based factors like the trial-and-error elements of antidepressants and certain types of therapy.
There is no way to give any given person a detailed treatment plan without sitting down with them and developing a plan together, between patient and professional. The soundest advice for where to start is to meet with a psychiatrist or therapist. But there are certain elements that usually play a role in helping a patient get better. Here’s what you’re typically going to need to help you turn your life around in the new year.
Talk therapy – the first line of treatment for depression is as simple as having regular conversations with a therapist. There are several one-on-one therapeutic approaches for patients with depression, but the general gist of therapy is to help a person identify and separate their depression from their other thoughts, isolate what is known as “negative thinking”, and learn how to introduce healthier, more affirmative thinking into your life. This, in conjunction with a variety of other tools, helps people get better bit by bit, day by day.
Medication – for many Americans, depression is not a natural occurrence. In fact, most people who suffer from a depressive disorder don’t feel blue due to certain stressors (while the certainly don’t help) – most of the time, genuine depression is a matter of neurobiology. Differences in the brain cause some people to experience consistent low moods and struggle with joy. Antidepressants can make a huge difference in the life of someone with depression. But they don’t always work.
Other therapies – when medication fails, other treatment options open up. One that is particularly promising is transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), which involves the use timed magnetic waves directed specifically at a portion of the brain responsible for mood. Over several sessions, TMS can decrease and even eliminate depressive thoughts, and more is being done to figure out exactly what else the treatment can do. It’s non-invasive, has no lasting side effects, and doesn’t hurt or cause discomfort.
Lifestyle changes – environmental changes can do a lot to help a person struggling with depression. Depression robs people of the motivation to do many of the things necessary to stave off feelings of sadness, including proper time management, engaging in healthy social activities, eating good food, and finding the time to exercise. Rather than put it all on yourself to force these changes and go nowhere, take them step-by-step, and seek help from friends and family to make small changes with you.
It Takes Time
Perhaps the most frustrating part of treating any mental illness is that most of them take time for things to really get better. But that only ties back to what we’ve said previously – there is no better time to start than right now. The sooner you seek treatment, the more likely it is that you’re going to see improvements early on, and long-term changes that will help you cope with signs of depression if and when they reoccur.
Sometimes, even as things get better, they can get worse again. Depression comes and goes for some people – in some cases, the patterns are predictable, while in other cases it’s a roller coaster with no real warnings. Rather than promise you a life free of depression, it’s important to understand that treatment for depression is instead meant to help you cope with the disorder, and minimize its effect on your life, while working hard to send it into remission. Medication, therapy, and treatments like TMS are very likely to help you eliminate a great deal of your depression, but the biggest change that treatment brings into your life is the ability to continue to live a fulfilling life in spite of your diagnosis. There’s no better time to start feeling better than now.