10 things I've learned help with depression

I've lived with depression since I was a kid, and eventually wrote a well-loved book and a couple of viral articles about what to do if you're dealing with it, and how to help someone who does. But hey, some people really like top 10 lists. So here's mine.

1. Treat it like you get the weird, energy-sucking flu.

More than anything, dealing with depression effectively comes down to managing life with way less energy. Treat it like a weird brain flu you got, and not only will it short-circuit so many of the awful stories we tell about depression, you'll also find you know what to do. You've had the flu. Do those things.

2. Dial it back.

Same point, more explicit. When depression is in town, drop anything that's not giving you energy or connected to your core values. Everything else will still be there when depression has gone.

3. Externalize it. Give it a name and a face.

My depression is called "Aunt Dee" (with apologies to all the lovely Aunts out there named Dee.) She comes by, sits on my couch, and is super, super annoying, yammering her awful thoughts and making my whole day worse. But by making my depression this external person who's in my life without my consent, I've also done something really important. I've made it clear that depression isn't me - it's something that's happening to me.

4. Order a pizza. (Or your equivalent.)

So much of dealing with depression is about energy. Cooking takes energy. Order a pizza. Or three. Or Thai food, or whatever your favorite is. Take anything you can off your plate.

5. Tell your support people who get it. Ignore everybody else.

Great support people make visits from Aunt Dee easier. Everybody else, no matter how well-meaning or close they are, generally make it harder. Just ditch 'em for a little while. They'll still be there when depression is gone.

6. Do stuff that you care about, even though you feel awful.

The wonderfully effective ACT framework is built around this kernel: If you feel awful, do stuff you really care about. Accept that you'll feel awful while you're doing it, and that you'll probably still feel awful when you're done. But also that when you look back at the day, you'll have those things you did, staring back at you. And weirdly, over time, that actually does help.

Depression might be here, messing with your brain, but you're still the one driving your limbs.

7. Remember your body.

Sounds obvious, but it never is for me. Your body is what keeps your brain running and manufacturers all those critical hormones and neurotransmitters you'll need to fight off depression.

Eat a salad. Go for a walk. Do some basic maintenance on collection of cells you inhabit, and they'll help you deal with Aunt Dee in return.

8. Pay attention to Deep Dark Places, and learn how they work.

For some of us, depression will include the Deep Dark Places. Times where our heads are filled with really, really awful thoughts about how worthless we are, how much we suck, how we'd be better off dead, and how nobody would miss us. Generally, they'll also scoop in whatever trauma we've experienced in life and throw that shit on top.

The Deep Dark Places SUCK. But if you deal with depression, they're a suck you're going to figure out how to manage. Learn how yours work. What kinds of bat-shit crazy thoughts show up in your head (my depression insists that I'm worthless, enjoys replaying mistakes I've made, and is bizarrely obsessed with walking into traffic.) Learn to identify the crazy thoughts when they show up.

And know that those deep dark thoughts are depression, and not you. Survive them. Wait them out. I promise, they will eventually pass. It will be utter, horrible shit until they do.

9. Know that this will pass. Even when it doesn't feel that way.

More than anything, this is what's helped me in the long-run. If this is your first time with depression, you're just going to have to trust me and the other folks who have been through this shit before. It will pass. Sometimes it takes days. Sometimes weeks. Sometimes months. I know. It is total, total shit. But I promise things will get better. Eat a pizza and make it through today. Each day. The color will come back to the world, eventually.

10. Know you’re not alone, and there’s not one thing wrong with you.

So, so many people deal with depression - it's just that as a society, we stupidly don't talk about it. Actors and sports stars and writers and comedians and doctors and lawyers deal with depression. It's everywhere, and one in five people will deal with a major depressive episode in their lifetime. One in twenty of us get to deal with it on a regular basis (if this is you, welcome to our shitty club! Have some pizza. :) )

If you're dealing with depression, no matter what it feels like, know that you are not alone, and there's nothing you did to deserve or make this shit happen. It just got dumped on you. And me. And too many of us. Hang in there. We'll get through this, together.

I wrote my book on depression to cover this and a whole lot more, to be that manual that we all should have been given. It it sounds like your cup of tea, you can learn all about it.

Also, if you're dealing with depression right now, and you could use a hand, just click here to learn about getting a copy for free.

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