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How I Stayed Hopeful While Experiencing Depression

In 100 years, those problems will be long forgotten, but trees, forests, and sunsets will still be therapeutic to some.

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Trigger warning: This article is about how I managed to find hope while facing depression. I write about what worked for me, and by no means am I giving professional advice. If you find this article distressing, you do not have to read it: your mental health comes first. If you are struggling with your mental health, you can call the Disaster Distress Helpline (1-800-985-5990), the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255), the National Emergency number (911), or The Trevor Project for the LGBTQ+ population and youth (1-866-488-7386).

Some people link depression to a catastrophic event, such as losing a dear one, facing severe illness, or an accident. Of course, these events are dire, as they can severely impact our lives, but they represent only one side of the coin.

Depression isn’t just something you experience in the aftermath of hardship; it can also come from toxic relationships, explosive break-ups, or the loss of your support system by moving somewhere new.

How can you find hope during these challenging situations?

Even if there is no standard answer, we share a standard approach: we don’t want to experience the deep distress arising from these challenges.

Some years ago, my mental well-being was deteriorating to the point that I decided to seek a mental health professional's expert advice, who diagnosed me with mild depression. The major changes I had gone through in my life and the break-up before the diagnosis massively contributed to the mental illness I was now facing.

At the end of high school, I first moved to Germany and then to Switzerland. The culture, the people, and the language were all very different from those in my home country. I had amazing experiences and met some wonderful people, but I decided to start university back at home. I knew that coming home wouldn’t be easy, but I didn’t realize how difficult it would be until that day arrived.

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Adjusting back to life in the countryside was definitely hard, especially since I was used to living in multicultural cities and being independent. And it was that exact independence that I had to give up.

Privacy was not respected, doors were not knocked on, opinions were not asked, and the car was usually not available.

Not to mention the daily fights with my mother and the other problems I’d left at home when I packed up and moved away. Suddenly, everything that I’d left behind was bouncing right back at me.

Problems don’t go away until you face them, and the same principle works for depression.

Nearly two weeks after beginning university, the relationship I was in was falling apart. As I was finishing my first semester, the person I considered the love of my life left me.

I still remember the morning after the break-up. I was lying in bed staring at the ceiling, and my body was numb yet aching like a soldier surviving an attack: alive but deeply scarred. That day, and over the weeks to follow, I'd acknowledge how distressed the situation left me.

What made me ache deeply from that relationship was being with a person I knew didn’t love me. He knew that I knew, yet he wanted to prove himself wrong and me. We spent some great moments together, which gave us both the illusion that there could be something more.

But there was also a dark side to that illusion, one made of indecision, worry, fear, and loss.

My ex-boyfriend was, to an extent, very similar to my mother in his actions and behaviors. It was not just his loss that I was mourning; it was also the troubled relationship with my mother.

Being in such an unstable relationship made me feel very anxious. And when it exploded, all the feelings of childhood trauma that I used to have came to the surface.

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That distress was different from sadness: it felt like a big black hole.

Suddenly, I was losing interest in the things I once loved. I still had my childhood friends, but while I was abroad, exploring the world and experiencing a different kind of self-growth, they were moving on with their lives.

They were there for me, but at the same time, they got used to my absence. I could not expect them to be there for me as much as I wanted them to be.

I often asked myself, “What is the meaning of life?” and became frustrated with the answer: I don’t know.

I became entangled in philosophical thoughts, asking myself what was wrong with me.

After some time, I acknowledged that I needed help. I needed to find back my motivation, joy, and all the good qualities I knew I had—I needed to find hope.

Asking for help was neither immediate nor easy. Moreover, there is still a stigma around mental health, which is sometimes not discussed and embraced. If I had told certain people that I would start therapy, they would’ve told me that I was paranoid or crazy.

Why is mental health often treated as an illness whose name must never be pronounced?

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Starting therapy was a real game-changer for me. My psychotherapist offered me technical expertise, resources to change my mindset, and a different view from that of my family and friends.

When you decide to start therapy, you commit yourself to change.

That’s uncomfortable, that’s hard work, and that takes a long time.

Therapy was the most powerful way I had to acknowledge my depression and make peace with it. And it took a long time to accept the pain I had buried deep for so long.

However, different forms of therapy can help you face depression.

Many books offer practical exercises; guided meditations can make you feel calmer; picking up an old or new hobby can help you stop overthinking everything. You can start a new series, make a face mask, bake, repair something.

Writing is also a great form of therapy. There’s power in opening up, even if with a piece of paper.

Walking in a forest or admiring a sunset all proved to be therapeutic for me personally. I always feel so small in front of nature, which helps take away the burden of responsibility and worry that I sometimes experience. In front of nature, those things are irrelevant.

In 100 years, those problems will be long forgotten, but trees, forests, and sunsets will still be therapeutic to some.

There is no right way to approach depression. However, it is important to find someone who does not judge you and who you can fully rely on to help you.

Joshua Woroniecki on Unsplash

By opening up, I learned that my feelings were validated.

Thinking back on that time, I realize that perhaps my depression was a blessing.

It was not the relationship gone wrong, the fights with my family, and my life back home that were the problem: it was how I approached them. By allowing myself to face my depression, I began to grow.

I know that personal character growth is not always the final stage for everybody. Sometimes it is about living with your depression rather than being controlled by it or allowing yourself to be happy in the midst of feeling distressed.

Now I can see how my experiences have served their purpose to help me grow.

Experiencing that depression made me feel the intensity of all the feelings that make me unique, just as each of us is unique.

I encourage you to experiment with what works best for you and find the courage to surrender to healing. You will gain self-confidence, strength, and freedom. You are not the depression you have faced; depression is only a part of you. And you are so much more.


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