Struggling to face the day? Maybe you’ve been feeling down so long you can’t remember feeling any other way.  Living with depression has been described as ‘like drowning’ or ‘a black cloud that won’t shift’.  It can feel deeply isolating and may leave you feeling hopeless. Although you may feel alone, there are millions of people who are depressed in the world-you are not alone.  Knowing this of course does not make living with depression easier but can offer some comfort around feelings of isolation. It can also be reassuring to know that many people have survived depression and come back up to the surface.

Everyone’s experience of depression is unique yet the following factors commonly appear:

  • Finding it difficult to find enjoyment in anything, particularly things you used to enjoy doing.
  • Struggling with feelings of low self worth, perhaps feeling like a ‘failure’.
  • Feeling guilty and that you are letting others down
  • Finding it hard to concentrate on things.
  • Having trouble with sleeping- perhaps struggling to fall asleep, waking up too early or sleeping too much.
  • Feeling tired all the time and having little energy or motivation.
  • Withdrawing from social relationships.
  • Loss of appetite or overeating.

If you think you may be depressed, it’s important to get help.  This help is very individual. Some people find taking medication very helpful.  For some people it can level things out so they can ‘get-by’ and many find it a good accompaniment to counselling where they can explore the reasons why they feel the way they do. Just like finding the right therapist, you may have to try a few anti-depressants to find one that works for you.

Some people prefer not to take medication and may report finding it a barrier to accessing their deeper feelings. They choose to try counselling first. The choice is yours and everyone’s experience of depression is different. What is important is to take how you feel seriously-even if you feel others don’t. Although people’s experiences differ in intensity we know that depression can be a killer.

Many people report finding counselling beneficial in supporting them around ongoing low mood. There are several reasons for this. Talking to someone can help to externalise thoughts and feelings. This can help in releasing difficult feelings and emotions so they feel less overwhelming.  In addition, hearing our negative thoughts out loud can take away some of their power. Having another person reflect back and perhaps offer a different perspective can help us to see a way forward.  Many people find taking to a counsellor easier as a counsellor is an objective person removed from the situation who has no agenda.  In addition, we know that it’s vital for our wellbeing to feel connected to others and as depression increases feelings of isolation, counselling can be a good antidote to this. In the counselling relationship we are connected to another on a deep level, we have company in the darkness, someone to witness our story and hear our pain.  Depression can mask feelings of anger, despair, sadness, fear, loneliness amongst others and counselling can help us identify how we really feel so we can understand and confront the depression.

Although we know that things such as eating healthy and exercising help lift mood-such things are often the last thing we feel able to do when feeling depressed!  We may seek out the things that tend to make us feel worse in the end such as drink and drugs. It can be really tough to make positive decisions when in the grip of depression. Our mind is not always our friend! In fact, research shows physical changes in the depressed brain as it becomes fixed and inflexible.  Yet recent studies into brain plasticity show us a hopeful picture. Through practicing a new habit over and over again we can create new neuropathways.  As such its been noted that we can reframe our thoughts (again counselling helps here) to be more helpful to us. When we are depressed things can feel very personal and absolute-yet reframing can help. For instance instead of us thinking ‘she was rude to me because I’m a worthless person’, reframing can help us to see other possibilities such as ‘she was rude as she was having a bad day and it’s nothing personal’.

Other tools that may help:

  • Keeping a journal, drawing, painting or making music.  These activities can help you to name and externalise your thoughts and feelings. They can provide release and a powerful alternative to ‘bottling things up’.
  • Consider charting your mood-this can help you identify triggers such as time of day and any other patterns (E.g. does the low always seem to happen at a certain time of year, or after feeling high?).
  • Talking with a trusted friend-this helps to externalise feelings, to feel more connected to others and gain other perspectives.
  • Paying attention to how you talk with and about yourself-can you notice negative words? Often we are unaware of how often we put ourselves down.  Would you talk to a friend the same way? What would it sound like if you were to show the same compassion to yourself?
  • Try to increase time spent with people and in activities that feel positive and decrease those that feel obligatory.
  • Be aware of ‘black and white thinking’ such as catastrophising (eg if I’m late, I’ll lose my job) , discounting (eg. They only said I’m funny as there’s no –one else around), and perfectionism (setting impossible standards for yourself and perhaps towards others) .
  • Volunteering can help you to feel connected to others and to feel purpose, it can also provide a welcome distraction.
  • Break down problems into smaller issues so they feel more manageable.
  • Exercise compassion to yourself wherever possible, this includes counteracting harmful thoughts with kind thoughts. It also includes self-care such as getting rest, having a bath or eating something you like.
  • Set small manageable goals and recognise that some days ‘small’ goals are necessary and enough challenge. This may include tasks such as getting out of bed, brushing your teeth or getting dressed.
  • Be prepared-particularly if you struggle with suicidal thoughts. Compile a list of support you can access when in crisis. This could include free confidential help lines such as the Samaritans, CALM or Connect Helpline. It may include the name of someone you trust and can call in an emergency. Many services offer a choice of support such as drop-in’s, e-mail or phone support. Remember you can report to the nearest A&E if in immediate risk of harm to yourself.


Finally, depression distorts reality and it’s useful to remind yourself that depression is a state of mind you are currently in and does not define you. Avoid judging yourself, and once again treat yourself with small acts of kindness.


Image Credit
By Brina Blum Licensed under Creative Commons 0.