Today’s post is probably one of the most important things I will ever write. It will be the start of a week long series of posts related to something that has affected my life in more ways than one. Today, and for the following week, I will be talking about my personal battle with depression and what it means to thrive in your twenties, despite it.
Let me make this clear: this post and the series that follows are not just for my fellow twenty-somethings. They are for everyone. If you live with depression or love someone who does despite age, then this series is just as much for you as it is for the twenty-somethings.
My Personal Struggle with Depression
I was a 21-year-old college junior who thought she knew everything when a psychologist looked at me and said, “You have clinical depression and generalized anxiety disorder.” This sent my world into a tail spin. I know, a bit dramatic, right? But try having someone tell you that the reasons you didn’t try out for things in high school and spent more time taking naps and shut away in the basement rather than hanging out with friends are all actually because of something. It drastically changed the way I looked at my life and at the world. I spent the coming days and weeks going over past decisions I did or didn’t make, relationship struggles, binge drinking, etc. Anything you can think of that I could link to my newly discovered depression and anxiety. Did I make a lot of excuses for myself? Absolutely. But I finally had something to rationalize the way I was… the way that I am.
So why am I telling you this? Well, I think it’s important that I share with you how my diagnosis affected my life before I start telling you how to change yours. Anyways, there’s a growing trend of twenty-somethings being diagnosed with depression (and anxiety but let’s focus on the one for now). I mean, when you think about it, it’s really not all that surprising. We’re paying for school we can’t afford to get jobs that don’t exist, and then struggling to pay back debts we can’t possibly pay back. We’re children of divorce, children who have experienced immense loss, and children who experienced a rapidly evolving technological world. The dramatic changes, the ups and downs, and societal pressure would make even the most chemically well-balanced individual get a little down in the dumps.
So how do we thrive in our twenties with depression? Here are a few tips:
Talk to Friends and Family
I’ve found over the years that talking about my depression is very difficult for me, even with my closest friends and especially JP, but it’s an important step if you want to maintain control over your depression. On the dark days, reach out to your friends and family. Being in your twenties is hard. Being in your twenties and dealing with depression is harder. Your friends and family can help validate your feelings and often brighten up your dark hours. Let them know how you’re feeling so they can help you. And no, don’t give me that “I don’t need help” bullshit, we all need it from time to time. Go call your mom.
Exercise is a good way to alleviate the symptoms of depression and anxiety, or so I’ve been told. From personal experience, I can say it’s made all the difference in my life. The summer after I was diagnosed, I began working out regularly. While I fell in and out of that routine in college, last summer, I started running nearly every day (and sometimes twice a day). I was working out so much that now when I don’t work out, there’s a serious difference in my depression and anxiety. I know that sometimes it can be hard to find the motivation to go to the gym, especially on days when you can barely manage to get out of bed and take a shower. But just doing even the smallest of exercises on a daily basis can really boost your energy and make you feel like an entirely different person. Try it, I promise you won’t regret it.
No, this doesn’t mean avoid all of your responsibilities and nap all day (although, honestly, that’d be nice). Figure out a sleep schedule and stick to it! I have a really hard time with this myself, especially lately when the cold snap we had really made my depression hit hard. But getting into a nightly routine and getting enough rest, relaxation, and sleep can really keep you thriving. Pick a time you want to go to bed every night, about an hour and a half before that, start your nightly routine. Mine includes my new found skin care regimen, brushing teeth, taking the dogs out, etc. About half an hour before I actually go to bed, I put my phone away. I use it for an alarm so I can’t turn it off, but putting it away definitely helps me get to sleep faster. I haven’t been doing this routine for very long but I’m already noticing that I feel less tired in the morning which is definitely the goal. (Also coffee, but not enough to make my anxiety act up).
Find Your Motivation
I have my blog, my dogs, and my boyfriend. That’s what motivates me. I know that all of those things depend on me to be my best self, or at least the best self I can possibly be in that moment. No matter how hard you’re struggling, finding something to motivate you can help you get out of bed in the morning. The dogs need to go out, they need to be fed and watered and they need attention (mine seem to need A LOT of attention). The blog requires content, pretty pictures, being social, actually doing things to have something to write about, etc. JP needs my support in any way I can, affection and attention when we’re together (even though he’s totally the best for not moving when I fall asleep on him for four hours), and for me to be all there when we get what little time we get together. These things are what keep me going when I just feel like shutting down. Don’t get me wrong, some weeks are hard. The past two weeks have been especially tough for me. All I wanted was to stay in my warm bed with the covers over my head and that’s what I did. (Because sometimes, you just need a mental health day, y’all). My point is, finding any motivation, even if it’s small, can help turn the darkest days a little brighter.
Making your days a little brighter, one moment at a time. That’s how you thrive in your twenties with depression.
Thriving with Depression in your Twenties: The Series
ICYMI: This post is the intro to a WEEK LONG (yes, OMG, I might die) series about thriving with depression in your twenties. We’re gonna dish some major girl talk this week including: dealing with depression and relationships, your social life, societal misconceptions and more! It’s going to be an emotional journey for me and I hope it will touch some of y’all as well. Subscribe to the newsletter for a bonus on Friday and follow me on social media so you don’t miss the rest of the series. Please share your experiences, thoughts, comments and tips in the comment section!