Social media platforms present the concept of euphoric lives filled with champagne brunches, outfit photos and the latest turmeric matcha recipes. But in my experience, behind the confines of a screen, bloggers have been among the unhappiest people I’ve encountered. I have struggled with depression my whole life. And by “depression,” I don’t mean sadness. I mean that hollowed out, empty and numb feeling that gnaws at the core of your being. This online world used to be a safe haven for me–a place to express myself freely. But for some reason it’s now a competition of who is having the most fun and lavish digital mirage of a life.
This illness took over when I came to college and has led me in and out of multiple psychiatrist and psychologists’ offices. I will go into more detail regarding my struggles in the future but to sum it up–I have tried an arsenal of medication and therapy techniques (most to little or no avail) to realize that the only person that can help me is myself.
A psychologist, Dr. Martin Seligman, conducted a study involving a dog, a bell and a shock. After the dog realized the ringing of the bell meant that a shock was going to be delivered, the dog became afraid of the ringing bell. Next, Seligman placed the dog in a large crate that only delivered shocks on one side. The dog had the ability to jump to the other side but did not do so. Seligman called this “learned helplessness.” When we attribute failures or setbacks to an internal cause (“I’m not good enough” “I’m dumb” “I always make mistakes”), we don’t grow as individuals—we don’t move on. We remain stuck on the shock delivering side of the crate.
In the first two years of my twenties I have learned that everyone is just trying to survive. We can’t expect too much from others (e.g. empathy, sympathy) because everyone is dealing with something. “Oh, you and your boyfriend broke up? Well I just lost my job.” It’s not that it’s some sort of competition of who has the worst problems but sometimes it feels that way. I’m not saying that your friends don’t care, it’s just that we’re all treading water in an effort to stay afloat. So when you find yourself back in a depressive state, as I have time and time again, you cannot give into learned helplessness. No one is going to come to your bedroom, drag you out of bed, push you into the shower, brush your hair and clothe you (except maybe your mom).
You have to act opposite to your emotions. The pull of depression is alluring for many reasons. It can be comfortable. When you stay depressed, you don’t have to struggle to work your way out of it just to deal with the anxious thought that your happiness is temporary and can be snatched at any moment. Reject this idea. A depressed mind plays tricks.
A boy won’t make you feel better, a party won’t do the trick but a sense of mastery or completion of some task–any task—will. Make a small change every day: sign up for a pottery class, read one chapter of a book, clean one corner of your bedroom, eat one healthy meal, walk one mile on a treadmill. Celebrate these accomplishments, don’t minimize them. Over time, you’ll start to feel like yourself again.