One of the most difficult things I’ve dealt with in battling depression is how many self-destructive habits I’ve latched on to since I first began battling my depression in high school. These are habits that I’ve spent several years trying to break, and habits that I’ve seen in loved ones also battling depression.
I purposefully excluded dangerous self-destructive habits such as self-harm and suicidal thoughts/ideation, because these are habits that require medical attention such as counseling or inpatient/outpatient mental health treatment. If you’re self-harming or experiencing suicidal thoughts/ideation, my best advice would be to at a minimum, tell a person you trust, and also receive mental health treatment immediately. At best, these habits are frustrating hurdles that occasionally stop you from getting out of bed, and at worst, tank your work ethic and isolate you from loved ones that can give you the help you need. I’ve dealt with both ends of the spectrum in various stages of my life; with my catalyst to stamping these behaviors out being that I recently spent a week without contacting any friends or loved ones outside of my significant other.
While it's definitely a good thing to have “days off” from friends/family or mental health days, it becomes a different issue when you start going days without going to school, work, or seeing any human beings.
Dropping daily habits
One of my tell-tale signs that I'm going through a depressive episode is when I begin skipping daily routines such as showering, facial care routines, or attending class. I make excuses for not doing these things; such as “I'll do it tomorrow”, or “I'm too tired to do it”.
Disinterest in hobbies
There’s so many hobbies over the years that I’ve dropped due to going through another depressive episode. In high school, I struggled with extracurriculars due to my depression, and in college, I continue to struggle with balancing extracurriculars, class and study, and my significant need to have another “day off”.
I honestly can’t tell you how many times I snapped at my significant other or parents because of some irrational, insignificant, contrived reason that I cooked up in my head after hours of solacing in negativity or after days of receiving insufficient sleep due to depression brain. It’s, frankly, frustrating, on both sides of the aisle, and if left unchecked, leads to toxic behaviors and ways of thinking.
It took years for me to recognize exactly what I was doing. It took even longer for me to admit that I couldn’t continue letting my mental illnesses control me to such a serious extent. I forced myself to speak to someone that I knew would understand and wouldn’t judge me for isolating myself from everyone. One of my largest issues was that I felt genuinely unhappy with where I was at in life, and I just needed someone to pour my heart out to and give me advice. What usually helps is coming up with a long-term goal and creating short-term goals to “hold you over”, which for me was, ultimately, planning to move to the US state I love for college, and also attending therapy, writing articles and poetry, and becoming a Dungeon Master for a Dungeons and Dragons group.
Of course, for everyone, it will always vary, but the most important thing to pull myself out of the rut I was in was to was force myself to focus on the future and achieve little “milestones” along the way, such as forcing myself to get out of bed every morning and shower, or creating a local weekly Dungeons and Dragons group for fun and nerdy social interaction.
While I feel that a certain amount of self-reflection is healthy for everyone, I had definitely gone over the “healthy” threshold and into “obsessive”, where I spent 95% of my day in bed and reflecting on all the things I could’ve done better, or a friend could’ve done better. It drove me inward and made me extremely bitter and irritable, and it’s still extremely hard to not fall back into these mindsets or fall back into bed. If I feel that it’s going to be a “stay in bed” day, I just focus on how I’ll achieve my ultimate goal and my temporary goals as opposed to “how could I not do ____” or “why couldn’t he have done _____”.
Ultimately, at the root of all of the changes I've made is "I've forced myself to do it". It's definitely not a path I'd recommend without receiving support from a therapist, but it's the only thing that I felt could break me from the previous toxicity and negativity that was further destroying my mental wellbeing and relationships. I will always struggle with depression, but I've forced it to loosen its' grip on my happiness and wellbeing.