Hi Guardian Herd fans, it's Jennifer here. Sometimes readers contact me about their feelings of depression. I want to share a bit more of my story with you.
Disclaimer: I am not a mental health professional. These are my thoughts and my coping techniques and they may not work for everyone. I recommend seeking professional help for all people who are struggling with pervasive negative thinking, depression, self-harm, self-hatred, hopelessness, suicidal thoughts, self-destructive behavior, extreme anger, violent thoughts--I can't cover everything--but if you are in the extremes of emotions, I believe a mental health professional/expert can help you. I will list some resources at the end of this post.
I don't speak about this often in public, but I suffered from severe depression for many years, mostly between the ages of 13-18. Teenage hormones intensified my emotions and negative thinking, heightening everything I felt and believed.
Life was not always bad. I had good days that gave me hope. But then the darkness would return. A personal failure, a personal rejection, a mean person--anything negative could send me spiraling back into the abyss. When I was there, it was bottomless and lonely. The darkness swallowed all light, all hope.
The last time I felt severely depressed, I was eighteen years old. I was tired of feeling bad. I cried for hours. Some of you know this pain--sobbing so hard your stomach hurts. Crying out your very soul. Craving and wishing for comfort but not knowing how to get it or where to get it. Feeling like no one understands. No one cares. No one loves you.
It was at this moment I made a conscious decision to stand up to the disease of depression. I had come through it enough in the past to know that the bad feelings don't last. They feel real, but they are lies.
From that day on, I decided to work on my self-talk. I decided to treat myself better, to talk to myself nicer. No one is all bad (not even Petalcloud, honestly!) This is why I love my bad guys so much! They're hurting too, like I was. They make their decisions based on a worldview of blame, guilt, self-hatred, and the need to maintain control. If I hadn't changed my thinking, I would be a bad guy!
But I chose to forgive myself and to give myself another chance. I'm so glad I did. I wrote my first book a year later. I went on to get married, to have two kids, adopt a foster child, to have dozens of amazing, loving pets, and to become a published author.
This doesn't mean my life is perfect now. Life seems to always a mix of good and bad. I still experience rejection, conflict, and tough times. But I've become a warrior. I refuse to submit to my depressive tendencies, which still exist within me. I regularly assign myself to 30 Day Positive Thinking Challenges (I must find the silver lining in everything, reject all worrying, and squash all negative self-talk). The truth is--it is as unlikely that I am a horrible, no good, worthless person as it is that I am the best, most worthwhile, most perfect person! All extreme thoughts are lies! Hormones also lie. They amp up our thoughts and feelings way beyond what a situation calls for.
Finally, I am always happier when I focus on what I have to be grateful for. Things as simple as being born in a first world country, having rights, being alive, having pets, having a full belly, having at least one good friend.
So here are my tips for how I battle depression:
Write a gratitude list in my journal each day
Accept that I will have down days and that it's okay. It will pass!
Challenge myself to 30 Days of Positive Thinking
Get outside each day and enjoy nature (even a brief walk around the neighborhood)
Cuddle my pets
Maintain regular contact with my friends
Say "Yes" to invitations even when I feel anti-social (especially when I feel anti-social)
Take a long bath with lavender scented bath salts
Write a story or diary entry
Color or do a puzzle (keeping a coloring book around, there are some very fancy ones, is super helpful to stop my mind from spinning)
Go to bed. I always feel better in the morning
Talk to someone about feelings, even if they're embarrassing
Clean my room
Attend my community church
Watch a comedy or read a funny book
Read any book
Take care of work that is hanging over my head. Procrastination increases depression for me
Imagine everything going right!
Take a shower and put on freshly laundered pajamas
Invite someone to a movie or an outing
If I felt I needed it, I'd seek professional help
Trust in a higher power
I hope this letter from me to you is helpful for those of you who are struggling or know someone who is. Here are some resources:
Please share with a trusted adult immediately, especially a parent, grandparent, or relative
National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-8255
Teen Depression, Mayo Clinic
I love how supportive you are of one another, and of me. The world is full of good people, happy events, loving animals, fun activities, beautiful landscapes, and exciting accomplishments. You deserve a share of it all.