What’s My Impossible? Managing Depression

Depression is a formidable foe, but it can be managed. It takes trial and error to find out how this mental illness can best be handled in your life. Consider these strategies for coping when you feel depressed.


Woman smiling sitting on a bench in the sunlight, how to manage depression

My mom says I was born tired. When other kids were running around the playground, I was content to read or nap. I was introverted and more interested in using my imagination by myself than playing sports. I was diagnosed with depression in the 7th grade, and after trying dozens of different medications—each with its own onslaught of side effects—for decades, I finally managed to get my depression under control.

After a lifetime of battling depression, here’s what I’ve learned:

Though depression is a form of mental illness, it’s not a curse

Depression is a trial, but it has given me a level of empathy and even a certain cognitive advantage. I would have an entirely different personality if I didn’t have this mental illness, and that person…well, she wouldn’t be me.  

Self-care isn’t optional

Depression has forced me to listen to my body and to adhere to a set of self-care procedures to manage my mental health. For me, exercise isn’t optional, nor is it an issue of vanity: It’s medicinal. If I don’t exercise, my depression takes over. I also need to keep my house tidy, talk to my friends regularly, and make sure to eat fresh fruits and vegetables so my brain has the nutrients it needs to function.  

Related: What's My Impossible? Overcoming the Death of a Family Member  

Everything takes more effort

From emptying the dishwasher to folding laundry, depression requires more discipline and more strength. A man I once knew described depression as standing in a stream, walking against the current. Your friends and family without depression are on the shore and can’t understand why moving is so much more difficult for you. Sometimes I don’t have the fortitude to get everything on my to-do list completed. And that’s okay. Forgiving myself is a big part of my everyday reality.

This is a lifetime condition

I don’t believe there’s a “cure” for depression. Instead, I consider it a part of my unique chemical makeup, just like diabetes or hypothyroidism. It’s about managing depression, not defeating it.  

Related: How Chronic Stress Affects Your Body (Infographic)

There’s no one way to treat depression

It took decades of trial and error to figure out what works for me. If medication is right for you, go for it. If being vegetarian is right for you, do it. You know yourself better than anyone else knows you, so figure out what makes you feel better and stick to it. 

The most important thing to remember is that there’s nothing wrong with you. Depression is a difficult enough mental illness to handle but add to it the stigma that comes with the condition, and it’s a recipe for internalized shame and a lifetime of embarrassment. It’s okay that you’re depressed. Be gentle with yourself, take care of yourself, and carry on. 

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