“It’s actually way more common than you might expect.”
I’d like to preface this post by saying that I am not a mental health professional, and this post is absolutely not meant to replace the advice of one. I’m just someone who’s been through this and would like to help others in a similar position.
Towards the end of last year, I shared my story in a guest post on The Unwritten blog. You can see that post by clicking here.
To sum it up, almost exactly a year ago I finally reached out to my primary care physician about feeling “down” pretty often.
On the surface, everything should have been great. I have a wonderful boyfriend who I love, loving family and friends, a nice apartment, a secure financial situation, and I had a stable job as a nurse. What was there to feel down about?
But I did feel down. A lot of the time. I would cry for seemingly no apparent reason and have times when I didn’t want to do anything at all.
And I was tired of it. I knew it wasn’t – or at least didn’t have to be – my “normal”. So I did something about it.
Please note: This post may contain affiliate links. For details please visit my Disclosure page. Thank you!
My doctor was absolutely wonderful. She listened, was extremely understanding, and suggested two things:
1. See a counselor to talk through what was going on
2. Start sertraline, an antidepressant
Being a typical nurse, I actually never did see a therapist. I contacted a few, and then had the hardest time fitting the sessions into my work schedule. And then I gave up. (And unfortunately now, with my current insurance, I won’t be trying again for a little while.)
I did take the sertraline though and definitely noticed a difference. It was subtle, but after a few weeks I noticed less down days and more mood stabilization.
Since seeing my doctor that first time, I’ve had a few major life changes and been able to examine my depression in a whole new light. And below I’m going to list some of the things I’ve learned.
Because I still don’t really know if I characterize myself as having “depression”, and it still isn’t listed as a diagnosis in my online medical chart.
So let’s start with this…
What is depression?
The American Psychiatric Association (APA) defines depression as:
“a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act…Depression causes feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease a person’s ability to function at work and at home. Depression symptoms can vary from mild to severe.”
Certainly sounds like what I felt was depression, especially since the symptoms can range in intensity.
For our purposes today, think about if you’ve been having down or sad feelings. Have they negatively affected your daily activities?
When I worked as a nurse in a cardiac rehab, we would give every single patient who passed through our doors a survey called the PHQ-9. It stands for Patient Health Questionnaire and has 9 questions. And when I went to my doctor, she gave me the exact same form. It helps you realize some of your symptoms that you may not have really considered before. I’ll put a link to it below that you can use for reference.
Whatever the intensity of your symptoms, if they’re enough to be noticed, to make you feel crummy, and mess with your day, then we want to do something about them. It’s time to make some healthy, positive changes!
What to do if you think you have depression
1. Seek out your medical professional
First things first, it is never a bad idea to go to your doctor. Don’t be afraid of being labeled “depressed” or having someone judge you. I’ve seen so many patient charts and worked with so many patients at this point; NEVER did I judge someone or think differently of them for having depression in their medical history. It’s actually way more common than you might expect, too.
Your doctor is an unbiased person who can help you figure out the next step. It doesn’t have to be medication either. Let them know your preferences for treatment and go back to them if it’s not working. You’ve become a team in this.
And if you do have a bad experience with a doctor, go to a new one! Your doctor should be your resource for anything and everything, and you need to feel comfortable talking to them. Don’t stop until you find one you love!
RELATED POST: Why You Can Talk to Your Doctor about ANYTHING
2. DO talk to other people you trust
This could be a significant other, a family member, or a friend. Chances are, they may have noticed something and are glad you’re ready to talk about it.
For me this was my mom. I found it helpful to talk to someone older than me, who could give me a little perspective. I also feel very comfortable talking to her about anything and knew I’d never feel judged.
Whether or not this is challenging for you, opening up to someone you trust can be so helpful and lift a big weight off your shoulders.
3. Do some research!
Figure out your preferred method of treatment. While it’s best to have an open mind when talking with your doctor, it’s also important to be clear on your wishes.
For example, your research could reveal that certain medications have potential side effects you’re not willing to risk. By educating yourself in advance, you can communicate these concerns with your doctor. Now you’ll be able to select a treatment plan together that works best for you.
4. Consider what’s going on in your life
For example, if you’ve read my Waking Up to a Job Nightmare: What to do if you hate your job post, you’ll know that even though everything seemed great on the surface, it definitely was not. Maybe I did have a stable job with a decent income, but it was the source of my unhappiness. I confirmed that a couple months ago when I finally quit my job and focused on finding work I love.
For you, maybe this is a toxic relationship. Maybe it’s a financial burden. Or maybe, like me, it’s feeling stuck in an unfulfilling career.
The key is you need to identify the source.
Feeling sad isn’t always caused by a chemical imbalance. If there is something about your life that’s consistently making you unhappy, it’s time to fix it.
The best way to do this is by putting a plan in motion. Decide on a goal that would make you happy, brainstorm ideas for how to achieve it, make a plan, and put it into action. Even before you’ve achieved your goal, you’ll notice that just working towards it can make you happier.
5. DON’T do nothing!
We all deserve to be happy!
Life is hard, and it will beat you down sometimes. But you CAN stand back up. And you don’t need to do so alone.
But you need to first decide that you’re not okay with feeling down. That you’re ready to do something about it, even if it puts you out of your comfort zone.
Reach out and stand back up. You’re worth it.
No pressure to comment on this post! But if you found it helpful and are comfortable doing so, I’d appreciate if you’d share it on Pinterest. Let’s let others know they’re not alone! Thank you all for your support!!