These are not facts. I do not have a doctor behind me telling me that what I say is scientifically accurate. But, these are truths. I have personally dealt with depression since secondary school and with the passing years have gotten to better understand how to cope with a disorder that won't be going away anytime soon.
1. Anxiety is the uninvited close cousin.
It turns into a violent cycle of getting depressed which causes anxiety which causes depression. Many signs of depression and anxiety are interrelated, including irritability and fatigue. It's important to realise that adding more stress into your life (e.g. juggling sports, clubs, school, work, family, friends, etc.) might not be the best thing for your health. Even if you want to be president of a club and top student in your year, it might aggravate problems and add more anxiety than you truly need in your life.
2. You can be happy.
Whoever says otherwise is lying. Just because you suffer from depression doesn't mean you can't be happy. Yes, you will have bad days. Yes, it will be like you were just punched and left gasping for air. But you will also have good days. Days where laughing with friends on campus is the best thing you could ever do. Days where homework and studies are a breeze. Days where you can breathe. Appreciate those days and do all that you can while your spirits are high.
3. Abuse of any kind doesn't help.
It's true. It doesn't. Cutting doesn't help. Smoking doesn't help. Alcohol doesn't help. Suicide doesn't help. I wish there was an easier solution to dealing with it than just dealing with it. I wish some drastic lifestyle change would make it better, but it doesn't.
There are other things that can, though. Most campuses offer counselling services, wellness centres, or ways to healthily express emotion. Therapy, medication, and exercise are common practices in treating depression. Use them wisely. In fact, just use them.
4. Small victories count.
Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. It is hard to get of bed. Sometimes we ache to our bones, but we showered and that's an achievement. Just smiling when all you want to do is cry is a small victory. Because you are in control. It's not easy to brush your hair, go to class, or even wake up sometimes. So every little victory against depression counts. It says you aren't done. You haven't given up. You won't give up.
Write those small victories down on a strip of paper. Write them down and praise them. Look at the words and understand that it is a step at a time. Then put them in a jar and watch it all add up.
5. It's not your fault.
There is no reason to feel guilty about being depressed. You didn't go out of your way to make your own life hell. Depression isn't exactly a disease you can contract. It is a disorder and you don't really have control over its comings and goings.
Instead of feeling guilty, work towards accepting it as a part of you. Even if you have to sit there and tell yourself it's not your fault, make sure you know it is not your fault.
6. You are not alone.
Besides the blindingly obvious realisation that there are 7 billion people on the earth so it's impossible to technically be alone, you are not alone. There are people who love you. There are people who support you. There are staff members who will help you. There are roommates that will watch out for you, professors who want you to do your best and will make sure you are healthy enough to do so. You have family that will care for you even if you're a thousand miles away or right next door.
7. You are enough.
This is the hardest truth to swallow. It is the hardest to recognise. I am still struggling with it. I apologise to my boyfriend every other conversation. "I'm sorry I'm not prettier. I'm sorry I'm not smarter. I'm sorry I'm not better." But you are. I am. We are. We are strong enough. We are smart enough. We are beautiful enough. We are enough.
No one will ever say (or should say) that handling depression is easy. It's not. Not by a long shot. It is possibly the most difficult thing I will ever do and I'm only 20. The truth is that there isn't one answer, one way, of handling it. Often times it isn't something we want to admit. But, once you do, I promise, it gets better. It gets easier to handle the burden. You are not Atlas, so please, don't carry the world on your own shoulders.
College is the time where childhood ends and adulthood begins. You are being taught how to be a member of the workforce, of society. You are being pushed beyond your limits to expand. But you are also being taught that sometimes one person can't do it alone. Sometimes you need help. And that's okay.
Seek help. Talk it over with loved ones. Talk to a doctor. This list took me 7 years to understand and appreciate, and I still talk to therapists. I still talk to loved ones. I still question if medication might be a better solution for my depression. I still question if maybe I did something to deserve the night's I spend awake staring into the darkness or the tears and loneliness I feel. But I have a lot of little victories. And I wouldn't be where I am today if I didn't talk. If I didn't come to terms with myself. If I didn't go to my university's wellness centre and see someone. And you can too.