*trigger warning – this post talks about mental illness and mentions self harm and suicidal thoughts. Please do not read this post if you think it may trigger you in anyway*
Depression sucks. I know that because I have dealt with depression for the last 5, nearly 6 years of my life. However, these mindset shifts have made it easier to deal with it.
I don’t really remember the first time I went to the doctors about depression. I know it was a while after I had started showing symptoms but, as my symptoms came after the loss of a family member, I thought it was just grief.
Turns out I had developed PTSD and depression which meant that the sadness, hopelessness and emptiness did not pass with time. In fact it got worse. Much worse.
Over the last 6 years I have had 4 mental illnesses diagnosed: PTSD, depression, anxiety and an eating disorder. Luckily for me the PTSD and anxiety affect me much less nowadays but the depression has stuck by me like an old friend (and not in a good way).
If you or anyone else has or is dealing with depression, you’ll know what a cruel illness it is (as are all mental illnesses). Depression feels like everything you once enjoyed has been stripped away from you and the light at the end of the tunnel gradually disappears.
Although I have never actively attempted suicide, I have battled with intense suicidal thoughts and self harmed for the majority of my teenage years.
I know how hard it can be to shift your mindset from a negative, hopeless one to a positive one. Believe me when I say that I know you can’t just ‘think’ positive.
There are, however, some mindset shifts I have made that have helped me overcome some very negative thoughts and have helped me see the mental illness I have in a different light.
I am by no means ‘cured’ but I am better than I used to be and I think these mindset shifts have helped me during my recovery journey. I really hope these mindset shifts will help you too.
Before we start, I just want to say that if you are struggling, please reach out to someone. Depression (and all other mental illness) is a serious thing and you should not wait until you think it’s ‘bad enough’ to seek help. Please talk to someone you trust, a family member, teacher, GP and get help – it is nothing to be ashamed of and you deserve to get better. I will leave a link to some resources at the bottom of this post.
Mindset Shift #1 You Shouldn’t Be Ashamed
I used to be ashamed of my mental illnesses and would try not to tell anyone how I was feeling. I hid stuff from my therapist for a year because I was worried about what she’d think of me.
Looking back, this was silly but I was protecting myself. I didn’t want to admit what was going on in my head and look ‘weak’.
Now I am not ashamed of my mental illnesses at all. I am an advocate for talking about mental health and I am very open about my own (maybe even a little too open sometimes).
I will talk to anyone and everyone about mental health because I believe it needs to be spoken about to destigmatize it and let others know they are not alone.
I’m not saying you need to go and shout it from the rooftops and I completely understand that some people might feel uncomfortable sharing such information with others, and that’s fine.
What I am saying though, is that you shouldn’t feel ashamed about it internally and if anyone makes you feel ashamed about it then cut them out of your life (if you can) because they don’t deserve you.
When your mindset shifts you may see who is more supportive in your life and you wont stand for anyone who thinks otherwise.
Mindset Shift #2 Taking Medication Isn’t Weak
Medication for mental illnesses, particularly for depression, can be a controversial subject (but it really shouldn’t be). I didn’t take medication for depression until about 2.5 years ago when I had given up on all other options.
When I was first offered medication I said no because I wanted to ‘deal with it myself’. I also had a very irrational but intense fear that the doctors would trick me into taking a fake pill and I would get better due to the placebo effect and they would tell me I was making it up butttt that’s another story for a different time.
This was one of the most important mindset shifts I have made and now I take sertraline, one of the many medications available for depression and it’s safe to say it saved my life.
Taking medication alongside therapy has allowed me to stabilise my mood whilst sorting out all the mess that was going on in my noggin.
I guess what I am trying to say is, don’t be me and decline medication if you think it would help you because it is nothing to be ashamed of and it isn’t ‘weak’ at all.
I am also not saying that you have to take medication, I know loads of people who have chosen alternative methods to dealing with their depression too. Whatever works for you, is the best option for you.
Mindset Shift #3 You Are Not Your Depression
When depression strikes, it can feel as though your whole identity has been taken from you.
The activities you used to enjoy doing are no longer fun, you start drifting away from friends and you feel engulfed by all the negative thoughts in your head.
I know that when you are struggling, depression feels like the only thing that defines ‘you’
One of the things I have found hardest about recovering from depression is finding myself again. I hardly remember who I was before I got depressed and I have had to almost rebuild myself.
I know now that I can be someone who deals with depression but also has a load of other qualities that define me as well.
Here’s a little anecdote that might make you chuckle. During uni, I asked one of my friends how he would describe me to my (now) boyfriend in one word and he said that I am ‘always positive’. Okay, that’s two words but the point I’m trying to make is that even though I felt that my negative, depressed brain was the only thing the world saw, others were seeing me in a completely different way!
I chuckled to myself and thought, wow I really must not give off such a ‘depressed’ vibe as I previously thought.
You are also more than your depression. You have so many amazing qualities that are unique to you and that make you so special (Yes, you!). I bet if you asked your friends and family how they would describe you in one word, it would probably be something non related to depression. Go on…give it a try.
Mindset Shift # 4 You Are Not Ungrateful
This was one of the most important mindset shifts I have made and I still struggle with this one. In my opinion it is one of the hardest mindset shifts I’ve had to make too.
Some people, myself included, used to make me feel as though I was ungrateful because I was sad and didn’t want to live even though I have a ‘great life’.
I would beat myself up for not being able to ‘snap myself out of it’ and ‘be happy about what I have’ because ‘others have it worse’. I use quotation marks because all of these are so false and I see that now.
It is not your fault you have depression. You can have an amazing life and still be depressed. Depression isn’t being ungrateful, it is a mental illness which is not your fault.
I don’t know where this quote comes from but I think it really pictures the message I am trying to send with this point:
Imagine you have a broken arm in a cast and someone else has a full body cast. Just because their cast is bigger, doesn’t mean that your broken arm doesn’t hurt. Therefore, if someone has a seemingly ‘worse’ situation than you, it doesn’t make the way you’re feeling any less valid.
Mindset Shift #5 Recovery Isn’t Always Smooth
Recovery is hard, there’s no denying that and there will inevitably be bumps in the road. There is no quick fix (that I know of) and recovery wont happen overnight.
I used to think a relapse meant that I had to go all the way back to square one or that I’d failed.
This is simply not true and it is one of the mindset shifts that I have had to make along my recovery journey.
Another analogy for you (if you can’t tell, I love an analogy). If you were on a road trip along the East Coast of America and you got a flat tire, you’d probably be set back a few hours and maybe you’d feel like stopping completely. But you don’t, because the destination is worth it right?
This is the same as your recovery journey. You may feel great for a while and then you might hit a bump in the road but that doesn’t mean you should stop. You just need to work out how to solve the problem, maybe rest for a bit and then carry on on your journey.
Mindset Shift #6 Things Will Get Better
I know, I know, you’ve probably heard this a million times but honestly things will get better.
I understand how life can feel hopeless and that everything will always be sh*t because I have been there. But that’s just not true.
In reality we don’t know what will happen in the future, the only moment we truly have is right now.
Right now might suck but what about tomorrow? You don’t know if it will suck unless you stick around for it. Tomorrow could be amazing.
I’m not saying you can get better overnight but there is hope that you will get better eventually. As I mentioned above, recovery isn’t smooth but it IS worth it. YOU are worth it.
“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying ‘I will try again tomorrow” – Mary Anner Radmacher
This is one of the mindset shifts that may take some time to make but it is a very important one.
Final Thoughts On Mindset Shifts
These mindset shifts have been so important during my recovery from depression. I know it may seem overwhelming to try and make these mindset shifts all at once so maybe pick one to try first.
Please reach out to someone if you are struggling. Please visit the NHS website for a list of mental health charities and organisations in the UK.
Remember, you are amazing, you are loved and you are worthy.
Thank you for reading,