Dealing with Depression: a few things I’ve learned about mental health

I have dealt with depression and anxiety much of my life–both situational depression and anxiety from circumstances and events that have been difficult as well as clinical depression that was prolonged. Both kinds of mental illness have taught me a lot. It’s been a journey.

There isn’t one single thing that has helped me deal with depression, whether situational or clincal. There are many small and simple ways that have. Some ways have required ongoing work over many years, such as establishing and maintaining an exercise habit. (Regular, vigorous excercise is akin to medication for me.)

All of these small and simple habits have helped me develop a more positive, healthy mindset (establishing neuropathways that support good mental health).

One of the great blessings in my life has been, through experience, to recognize when I am heading towards depression and when I can take steps to avert it. That’s when I know I need to reach out for help to God, my family, friends, or others.

In recent years, depression and anxiety come most often in connection with hormonal changes. Those times are the most frustrating because I don’t seem to have any control over it. I just have to “ride the wave.” But the good part about these times is holding onto hope from past experiences that the depression or anxiety will pass as my hormones normalize again.

If I were to add to that list of small and simple ways that have helped me work to maintain good mental health, it would be these:

51: Go to the temple.

52: Go away for a vacation. Especially in the dead cold of winter!

52: Learn to look at problems as solvable. I need to write a post on this sometime!

53: Keep the commandments. “In this there is safety, in this there is peace.” Wickedness never was happiness (Alma 41:10) means that if we do something that God has told us not to do, we are going to bring unhappiness upon ourselves. Sin can cause depression, so repentance is an integral part of good mental health practices. And obedience to God’s commandments helps me to stay grounded in peaceful living. Repentance and obedience go hand in hand, and I really believe that repenting daily helps me free up energy to be happier, to rejoice in what matters most, to love others more, to let go of things that I don’t need to worry about, to let go.

I need to say here that keeping the commandments and doing all of these good things doesn’t mean that I can completely avoid depression and anxiety. My body is wired so that when my hormones change, I tend to take a dive, and it doesn’t matter how close to God I am striving to be. When times of depression or anxiety come upon me, I don’t abandon my faith. I know that my faith in Christ helps me get through that dark tunnel.  As with someone who deals with other physical illnesses, I just do my best and cope by slowing down, taking some time to rest and just focusing on making it through those days the best I can until I “resurface” from the other side back into the light when I feel normal again.

As all mental health advocates, I would encourage anyone on medication to not stop taking it without consulting your prescribing physician.

(This post was updated on 25 June 2019.)

Other posts I’ve written about depression:

(All of the Dear Daisy letters can be found on this page.)

Dear Daisy (no.1)

Dear Daisy: My story in letters

Sammie’s Poem

Getting out, and the difference it makes

Feeling that downward cycle, and working to change directions