Most of the important people in my life have struggled with severe mental illness at some point.
I have too.
It’s a lot more common than people let on.
Let me put it very plainly for those of you who have never experienced severe depression or other forms of mental illness: it sucks.
It’s also very different for everyone, and there are a wide variety of symptoms that you may or may not experience.
If you’re depressed, you might experience:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Loss of interest in activities
- Suicidal thoughts
- Tons of other shitty things
For me personally, depression mostly just makes me really not like anything about myself. It makes me dislike my body, and feel badly about my intelligence. It magnifies embarrassing moments and makes me feel like other people don’t like me too.
But even if you struggle with depression, there are ways to cope with not liking yourself.
If I had a friend tell me that they were depressed and did not like themselves, this is what I would tell them:
Get help for depression before you need it
It can be hard to determine when you actually need to get help for depression.
If you think you need help for depression, you definitely need help for depression.
If you are starting to think that depression might be negatively impacting your life or your relationships, you need help for depression.
You can get IMMEDIATE or EMERGENCY help by:
- Calling a suicide hotline:
- In the US: 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433) or 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255)
- Calling 9-1-1
- Calling your psychiatrist, psychologist or counselor
- Go to a local emergency room
You can get non-emergency help by:
- Asking you doctor for a mental health referral
- Finding a local mental health professional
If you can’t afford mental health care:
- Try to find low income services
- Google “Low income counseling [my city]”
- Your local university may provide free or discounted counseling for the community
- If you are a student, some colleges offer free crisis counseling services for students
- Look for group therapy sessions in the area – they are often much cheaper
- See if your church or community center has a relevant support group
- Find a support group through NAMI
- At a minimum, talk to your friends and family about it
Make sure your basic needs are met first
If you can’t afford enough food or are living somewhere unsafe, you’re probably not going to get un-depressed or un-self-hating no matter what else you do.
Take care of your basic needs.
Do everything you can to be physically healthy and injury free.
Make sure you are eating and drinking properly. If you can’t afford proper nutrition, apply for government assistance or visit a local food bank. If you are having temporary financial hardship and can’t afford groceries for a few weeks, ask a friend or family member for help.
Feeling safe in your own home is huge to your overall wellbeing too. If you don’t feel safe for any reason, finding a new place to live should be your top priority.
High quality housing can be expensive, but having a safe place to live is vital.
If you are living somewhere unsafe but can’t afford a nice place to live:
- Consider moving in with family and paying a small rent to them
- Share an apartment with friends
- Rent a room in someone’s house – if you find them through Craiglist or classified ads, make sure you meet them and are comfortable with them before considering moving in. In the state of Idaho, you can see the public criminal record of any resident through the Idaho Repository by searching their first and last name. If your state does not have a repository, even searching their name on Google may reveal past crimes, arrests, or other undesirable behavior.
Beyond the basic needs of food, water, and a safe place to live, strengthening your relationships can help you be a little more okay with yourself.
Now, that doesn’t mean you have to make amends with people who treat you poorly, but if you don’t have a healthy relationship with your family, significant other, or friends, consider finding other ways to connect with people.
Understand Different Aspects of Your Value
Sometimes I feel like crap about my body, no matter how hard I try not to.
Realistically I know that I’m not ugly or fat. But some days what I know and what I feel are not the same things.
When my mind is stuck on hating one particular part of myself, I try to focus on my other parts.
What makes me valuable?
- I have wonderful friends and family who love and support me
- I’m really freakin’ strong
- I am good at writing
- I’m pretty dang smart
- I’m good at handling difficult situations
- I’m a good dog mom
- I’m a really nice person
- Lots of other things
Other days I feel fine about my body, but I feel bad because my challenges processing new information make me feel “stupid”. Well all “stupid” aside, I can still reflect on all of my positive traits.
It can take a little practice to be able to step back and look at yourself from a more objective view, but forcing your attention to your positive traits can make you feel just a little bit less terrible when you’re depressed.
Celebrate small accomplishments – and find people who will celebrate with you
Small accomplishments are a huge deal when you’re depressed, and you should celebrate the hell out of them.
These are the things that I sometimes struggle with:
- Changing my clothes
- Putting laundry away
- Picking up dog poop
If your best friend won’t give you a high five for changing out of your pajamas for the first time in a week, consider finding a better friend.
My brother and I often talk about the stupid little things that start sliding when we are depressed. We support and encourage each other to complete whatever it is that seems impossible at the time, and then we share our pride as we conquer the great big burdensome task.