How You’re Feeling Right Now
If you’re reading this, then you’re probably not at your best right now. Perhaps you’re feeling a bit low, finding it hard to be motivated, feel like there’s not much to look forward to?
Maybe things are a bit worse than that. Maybe you feel like there’s some insurmountable barrier in your way, a difficulty so huge that you feel it’s impossible for you to cope with it. When you think about the future, you have no hope of leading an enjoyable and fulfilling life. It’s like you’re Atlas – you’ve had the whole world forced onto your back. Your problems feel insurmountable and you barely even know how to take the next step forward. You just want to give up.
Maybe you feel like you’d rather be dead than have to endure more pain. In your darkest moments, maybe you’ve even been praying for a terminal illness; then you’ll be able to die without the shame and collateral damage associated with suicide. Dying from cancer would be a relatively honourable death, freeing you from the shackles of a living a life you didn’t ask for and no longer want.
It’s OK to feel this way. Honestly. You know why? Because there’s a very good chance you’re depressed again. You’re currently seeing the world through a very dark filter. It’s like a the world’s darkest sunglasses have been strapped to your head with gaffer tape and you can barely see any light.
Remember that depression is an illness. It’s not your fault. Let me repeat that: It’s not your fault. You’re not a failure for feeling this way – you’re simply ill.
Chances are you’re beating yourself up right now. But you really don’t have to.
This is what depression does – it drastically changes the way you see the world, including the way you see yourself. But that doesn’t mean the world really is the way it seems.
Remember that line from Shakespeare’s Hamlet:
There’s nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.
In other words, you’re not shit; the world isn’t shit. It just seems that way right now – because you’re ill.
Trust me on this: no matter how bleak things seem right now, it will get better. I promise. Every single time you’ve been depressed, it felt like the end of the world. But then you got better and started seeing life in vivid Technicolor again. And this time is no different – you will get better.
That might feel impossible right now. You may be forming a dozen reasons why your life really is fucked this time. But please just keep an open mind. Please just allow yourself to have a glimmer of hope. Sow that seed in your heart that maybe, somehow, you’ll feel well again. This will be the first step in your recovery.
If you’re considering suicide right now – please stop. Take a breath. Why not wait just a week? Dying is forever, so what harm will one more week do? It might make all the difference in the world.
How to Start Feeling Better
So, how do you get better? How do you start enjoying life again?
Well, first of all, there are the basics: Have you exercised today? You always feel better after a hard workout. Have you had enough sleep? Have you been taking your medication? These are your personal foundations of happiness and beating depression.
You’re probably feeling ashamed and embarrassed, especially about any suicidal thoughts. This contributes towards you isolating yourself socially. But please bear in mind you have many, many people who really care about you. They will listen to you without judgement.
So please, contact someone close to you and tell them exactly how you’re feeling. Hold nothing back – if you’re suicidal then make sure the other person knows. I know you’ll be concerned about worrying them, but things will probably get worse if you keep bottling things up inside. The people closest to you know about your illness and they just want the best for you. I know it’s difficult to make yourself this vulnerable, but I promise you’ll feel better simply for sharing how you feel.
Have you been meditating? Are you practising being mindful? Find that sense of peace and awareness which is always available inside you. Notice the thoughts and feelings you’re experiencing, without getting too attached to them.
Remember that depression is often a result of our misguided problem-solving mindset. With depression, we can focus excessively on problems. We tend to over-think and condemn ourselves, which has the unfortunate effect of making us feel even worse. Use mindfulness to take a step back from all that – give your brain a break. Get your brain out of doing mode and into being mode.
Be kind to yourself, even if you don’t feel you deserve it. Being hard on yourself will only make things worse. Even if it doesn’t feel like it right now, you’re a lovely person and you deserve to be happy.
When you’re feeling a bit brighter, remind yourself about that Hamlet line… the power of thought. You have the ability to interpret the world in any way you choose. Does something in your life feel bad? Well, it isn’t actually bad, you just think it is. It’s just your interpretation. You can just as easily decide to find the good in any situation. This is one of the most powerful secrets of happiness.
Remember that often we don’t need to change our circumstances in order to be happy, we just need to change the way we think about circumstances.
This isn’t about deluding yourself – you’re not just saying, “Don’t worry, everything will be fine,” and sticking your head in the sand. What you’re doing is clearly seeing things the way they really are, free from unnecessary emotional attachment, then choosing the most useful way to respond. This is vastly different from being in a deluded state of unfounded optimism.
Become a thought detective. Are you criticising, condemning and complaining? Watch out for those toxic thoughts and consciously replace them with better ones.
It might feel like the world is an awful place right now, but when you become proficient at consciously choosing the optimal perspective for any given situation, life can transform into unimaginable joy and delight. Yes, really. So, get Flipping It.
Focus on ways you can feel gratitude. When you want what you already have, you’ll never feel poor. Remember how incredibly lucky you are.
Show kindness, both to yourself and others. The more kindness you experience, the more you transform your life into something unrecognisable.
Recognise how much progress you’ve made. At first, it might not feel like you’ve achieved anything recently, but look deeper. At the time I’m writing this, during the previous 12 months you’ve beaten drug addiction; Thanks to your hard work and persistence, your physical fitness is the best it’s been in years – you’ve lost over a stone in weight; You’ve identified several mistakes you’ve made in the past and you’ve worked really hard to learn from them and be a better person. These are not small achievements! Allow yourself to feel proud of yourself.
Dealing with Overwhelm
As you’re thinking about the different tactics you could employ in your recovery, it’s common to feel overwhelmed. That’s totally fine – remember that feeling overwhelmed is a feature of the illness of depression. The trick is to find just one thing to focus on. Start small. Find one small task you can do today which will help you feel a sense of achievement. If that’s all you feel you can do today, that’s fine. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Tomorrow is another day and hopefully you’ll be feeling a little stronger and able to do a bit more.
And if this still all feels like too much, like you just want to escape and shut out reality, that’s fine too. Feel free to immerse yourself in escapism, whether that’s a good book, playing videogames, or just going back to sleep. Maybe watch some comedy, or listen to your favourite music.
What you’re doing is giving your brain a bit of a rest from ruminating on your problems. You can feel surprisingly refreshed after a break from all that thinking.
The last thing I want to leave you with is this: hold on to hope; you will get through this. Talk to your friends and family, they love you. Things will get easier, trust me.
The world is a better place with you in it.
I love you. Hugs.