Coping with Depression

Like me, I'm sure many people have been advised to "be positive" when they are depressed or struggling in general. One would think over time, this typically misused saying would fade away. Instead, we have a version 2.0: "good vibes only." And thanks to social media, this catchphrase has become so popular that it now comes emblazoned on products like notebooks and T-shirts. This attitude is a form of toxic positivity and is harmful to a person with depression. Allow me to explain why.
How can shame damage relationships? After all, shame has been a part of human culture for thousands of years. It is one of the things that makes human relationships and social structures unique and is arguably a necessary component of every civilized society. However, I believe people with mental health issues experience shame at a disproportionately high level, and this can be incredibly detrimental not only to their recovery — but also to their relationships with the people around them.
t's no secret that depression zaps your motivation to do, well, anything, and can drastically lower your productivity. The constant carousel of intrusive thoughts and worries can have a paralyzing effect — making it impossible to focus on anything beyond the most basic of tasks and making you feel like a failure. Fortunately, there is something you can do to help alleviate those feelings, and it involves reassessing what you think it means to be productive (with or without depression).
I recently went on a social media break -- no doomscrolling, no aggravating my depression -- and it felt great. Social media is where I get most of my news, and given that the world seems to be falling apart these days, it was a relief to get away from doomscrolling.
Coping with depression is a daily battle. Depression recovery can take years, and there is no such thing as a "quick fix." There are, however, things you can do to bring rapid relief in times of stress, anxiety, and panic attacks. For me, that relief has come in the form of autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) — a strange online phenomenon that has been a source of comfort and relaxation for millions since the mid-2000s, even though most people have no idea what it is.
We are living in an age of unprecedented mental health awareness and mental illness empathy. Mental health stigma is decreasing. Mental health charities, awareness campaigns, and changes to the law in the last 10 years have created a social landscape where people feel much safer talking about their problems without the fear of being mocked, abused, and alienated. As someone with a mental illness, you would think I'd be thrilled by this, but the truth is that up until quite recently, I resented it.
First off, I want to clarify that depression and victim mentality are not the same. The former is a mental illness that no one can choose, while the latter is a mindset that may or may not be a choice. That said, victim mentality does play a role in depression, which is why it is crucial to identify and manage it.
Let's cut to the chase: depression is mentally and physically debilitating. Even if you are do not have low-functioning depression, depression limits what you can and cannot do. To prevent depression from getting worse, one needs to learn to set boundaries. Here's why.
My mental health has always suffered in times of isolation and uncertainty. As someone with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), I'm at my most content when I'm able to predict and control my surroundings. When that control is lost, my mind conjures terrifying hypotheticals about what "could" happen, and I start to engage in compulsive behaviors to bring order to the chaos in my mind. This exhausting cycle of thoughts and rituals invariably causes me to slip back into depression, and I'm left feeling like a failure once again. So, you would think that the uncertainty surrounding the current global pandemic would have my mental health in a tailspin. But no — it is better now than it has been in years, and it's precisely due to that uncertainty. The uncertainty leading to my isolation has improved my mental health.
Nobody is immune to the pressure to succeed. Whether it comes from family, teachers, bosses, or ourselves, the pressure to "achieve" is something we have all felt. It's not necessarily a bad thing: pressure (or your perception of it) can give you a competitive drive, the impetus to keep going when you feel like giving up, and it can result in great things, both professionally and personally. However, when that pressure to succeed becomes so intense that you lose sight of everything else, it's time to pump the brakes and reevaluate your priorities. Sure, success is great, but not when it comes at the expense of your mental health.