How I Manage Depression (without Drugs or Alcohol)

IMG_1216-web-2DISCLAIMER: I’m not a doctor – the following article should not be taken as medical advice in any way. If you’re feeling depressed, call a doctor or counsellor. To get more information, call the Nunavut Kamatsiaq Help Line, toll-free, at 1-800-265-3333.

We All Suffer

People are often surprised to learn that I suffer from both anxiety and depression. Doctor’s have tried to diagnose me with “conditions” and encouraged me to begin a regiment of medication. However, being weary of using anything “unnatural” to the human body (evolutionarily speaking), I avoid things like Tylenol, Pepto Bismal, herpes medication, antidepressants, etc. – all products which I’m healthy (and fortunate) enough not to need.

Useful as these products might be, they’re commercial, profit-driven products. By definition, the companies who make these products care more about my money than my health. Commercial products often depend on repeat sales, and therefore, do little to address the cause of my ailment, opting only to mask its symptoms. Furthermore, I believe they lower our natural body’s ability to heal itself, even if only psychologically.

That being said, I understand that anti-depressants (and other medications) can be vital, especially in clinical cases. I recognize their value as a temporary solution, and I don’t believe their usage should EVER be judged or stigmatized.

In his book, The Happiness Hypothesis, Jonathan Haidt says 3 things can beat depression: meditation, psychoanalysis, and antidepressants (temporarily). I personally don’t do any of these yet – except meditati0n in the form of journaling – but I’ve found a system that works for me.

Sadness is something you FEEL – not someone you ARE.

In my opinion, depression is a natural part of life and should not be something that defines you as a person. In the past, people called it “the melancholies”. It was something you went through, not condition that labelled you as “sick”. There’s nothing “wrong” with me because I feel sad. It’s shitty, but I recognize that it’s a process I must go through in order to become happy again.

I’ve had many bouts of “the melancholies”. The worst was in 2012, when I stayed in bed for an entire week. My friends, family, girlfriend, and teachers were understandably upset. I regret the pain that it caused, but I know that it was necessary for me to become who I am today. After an intensely painful time of grief, I (somehow) decided that “this nonsense had gone on long enough” and I began seeking help. I reached out to friends and teachers. I forced myself to be open and vulnerable about how unhappy I was. Eventually, I re-entered my life. The ordeal was a very painful experience, but the pain was dwarfed by the joy I felt when coming back into the light.

Today, I’m happy most of the time. My friends describe me as positive, energetic, and hopeful – I don’t believe this is a coincidence. I constantly work HARD to maintain this lifestyle. I need in order to remain “happy”. I don’t deny my depression, hide it, feel ashamed, or allow myself to wallow in my depression. I MANAGE my depression.

Depression Management

First, stop making things worse – I AVOID triggers that CAUSE depression. These include:

  • stress
  • drugs
  • alcohol
  • excessive caffeine

Secondly, I force myself to DO things that PREVENT depression. These include:

  • sleep
  • exercise
  • eat nutritious food
  • express myself creatively (music, writing, design, etc.)
  • reflect on my life (journaling – some people use meditation)

Please note that these things that work for ME – you may have to experiment to find what works for YOU.

I’ve developed these habits and integrated them into my lifestyle. Research says that habits take 66 days to become permanent – after this, it doesn’t require any willpower and continues effortlessly. Find out which habit would help them most, and then make them permanent.

Knowing vs. Feeling

When I’m sad, I always try to remind myself of these 2 facts:

  1. I KNOW from EXPERIENCE that things WILL get better – despite how I FEEL!
  2. I must be HONEST about how I’m FEELING – COMMUNICATION with myself and people around me is vital!

If you are sad, remember that it WILL pass. Remember that you ARE not sad, you FEEL sad – and that’s totally ok! 

Lastly, remember that you are loved, no matter who you are. God loves you and I love you. You probably have other people who love you, too. Talk to someone – your friends, family, a councillor, a teacher. Call me if you want to, my cell number is 867-222-8416 (unless I’m depressed too, in which case you can find me at the gym or at home, sleeping).

This is how I do it – it works for me, although I know it might not be the best way. I’m continuously searching for ways to improve my system, and I encourage you to do the same. 

I’m absolutely certain that we’ll find our way out of the darkness.