Hi, I’m Siana-Rose Crawford. I have suffered from depression four times in my young life (I’m only 23 years old). As hard and seemingly never-ending those times in my life were, I can now see that I have learnt a thing or two from those dark periods. Here are 5 things that I learnt from my depression…
1. Look after myself
The first thing that I learnt from my depression was how to look after myself, and that I need to do so more often. Depression is a layered mental illness that it much more complicated than many seem to think. This is why one person’s experience isn’t the same as the next. But this post isn’t about explaining depression, instead it is about my own.
I know that my depression was brought on by certain life events. I may be prone to it due to a chemical imbalance or having inherited it from my mother who has also suffered, but in general, I got it from external factors.
These factors may not have easily been avoided, I know that, but perhaps they were slightly preventable if I was better at looking after myself to begin with. You see, I have a perfectionist personality. I’m a hard worker, I like to do my best, prove myself, and always succeed.
Everyone knows this isn’t possible to keep up forever though. You can’t always be progressing, and achieving, and doing more than the average person. I didn’t get this in the past, and so it was no wonder I fell ill.
Now, I have learnt to look after myself properly. To put my health before my goals and career. I’ve learnt to rest. Beforehand, I would burn myself out, get worked up and somehow remain surprised by the inevitable fatigue and depression. Now, I recognise the warning signs and ensure I tend to my needs first.
I’ve learnt that we must tend to our minds regularly in order to look after ourselves fully. Since 2015, I have appreciated and tried out various meditative practices for myself. I now use them as a tool to gain relief from low or anxious moods. These are things like: yoga, meditation, mindfulness, walking, and journaling.
Advice on how to better look after yourself before and during depression:
- Focus and prioritise your tasks: you’re not Wonder Woman, you can’t do everything.
- Remember your basics: sleep, diet, hygiene, exercise, rest.
- Give your body and mind what it needs.
- Try not to feed or give in to negative thoughts.
- Whatever is in your head, write it down, get it out on paper and tackle it.
- Breathe, take time, and give yourself some perspective.
2. We’re vulnerable
The second thing I learned is that we are all vulnerable. We know that our physical bodies are vulnerable to disease, bruising and breakage, but only those who have fallen victim to depression really understand how our minds are just as vulnerable, if not more so.
As I say, I have fallen ill and sought help for depression four times, and these were all brought on by similar circumstances: change. Whenever my life did a big U-turn, I fell ill. My mind couldn’t handle it, I guess, and I fell into a dark place of distrust in myself, hopelessness, feelings of failure, anger, confusion, and sadness.
It’s not just change; our minds are vulnerable to the affects of other life circumstances, too. Change, death, lost love, finances, self-worth, validation, belonging, boredom, purpose and more can all lead to falling down a dark pit. We are all vulnerable to it unless we arm ourselves against it.
The third thing I learnt is how important self-awareness is. As a society, we don’t pay enough attention to ourselves, our lives, our choices, our reasoning, our health, our relationships, our actions, thoughts, feelings and so on, but we should. Insight can be gained from it; things like depression can be prevented by it.
Self-awareness is just as it sounds: paying attention to and recognising your own thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. By being aware of these things we are better at recognising illness (mental or physical) as it creeps up; recognising how we act around others; what we regularly think about; and more.
With self-awareness, we can better differentiate between real, valid thoughts and feelings versus ones that come from a low place or our depression. It’s so easy to get caught in a cycle of negative thoughts but with self-awareness, you may be better equipped to stop it.
4. Lean on people
Its hard but it’s necessary to speak up when you’re low. Depression can be very isolating, tiring and lonely, so reaching out and speaking to others about it can alleviate those feelings. Not everyone will understand, but you don’t need them to; you just need people to hold you together when you feel like you’re falling apart.
Therapy helped me a lot, and acupuncture did too, even though I was a little sceptical of both at first. I’ve learnt just how important it is to let people help you in all kinds of ways. You don’t need to climb the mountain alone. Speak to family, friends, professionals like doctors or therapists, colleagues and bosses; anyone who you feel you can trust.
A problem shared is a problem halved.
5. I am enough
I think the most important lesson that I learned from my depression was that I am enough. I’m stronger, smarter, better, and more beautiful than I think; especially when I’m low.
I will likely feel depression or low periods again and again throughout my life, but I know that I can get through it because I’ve done it before. I am always going to be OK in the end.
I have a voice and I can use it to help others. Since my last bout of depression, I have become an author of a self-help book, a support group leader, a mental health event host, a speaker at mental health events, an online mental health advocate and advisor, and a podcaster. I use my experiences, my pain, and my voice to help others better their own circumstance.
And so, I am enough. I am brave, I am good, I am worthy – no matter how many times my depression may come to tell me otherwise.
And so are you.