What does depression feel like? Living with depression can be compared to being trapped in a deep, dark hole with no light in sight. A feeling of being surrounded by thoughts, feelings, and emotions perpetuating despair. While it varies in intensity, depression symptoms can range from mild to extreme. It’s the opposite of happiness and can stifle life itself.

According to the CDC, adults who experienced symptoms of depression were the most among ages 18–29 (21.0%), then ages 45–65+ (18.4%), and finally, ages 30–44 (16.8%). The stats show that women experience mild to severe depression more often than men. Its impact on the individual and society is of concern because it can change both dynamics. Depression affects employment, handling difficult emotional situations appropriately, facing adversity and overcoming obstacles, and building healthy relationships. It can become a severe and debilitating issue.

“Learning how to deal with depression requires long-term solutions that take time to successfully implement and change the patterns.”

I was in college during the early 90s, the first time depression bore its ugly head into my life. I saw a counselor and began to learn how to deal with depression and anxiety. It was interfering with the enjoyment of life. Of the many things gleaned from those sessions, I learned to focus on my positive qualities, question my thoughts, distract myself, and take action where possible. Also, to maintain a healthy diet, exercise, and spend time with people who appreciate me for who I am. At the time, I had no idea that certain people directly impacted my homeostasis through harmful interactions, even with my friends and family.

Both depression and anxiety have been a challenge throughout my life. It lasted for many years at the darkest times of my life. In my view, learning how to get out of depression may not have ever happened without professional help. To understand depression and how to get out of it, we must first understand how it works.

“The hippocampus is one of our built-in complex brain structures deep inside the temporal lobe. It is responsible for learning and memory. It is a vulnerable structure that can be damaged by various stimuli.”

Depression affects the brain’s natural chemical balances. This causes neurons in the hippocampus to shrink, leading to learning challenges and memory loss. A shrunken hippocampus can make completing familiar tasks difficult. This leads to hopelessness, guilt, and anxiety. Even the ability to recall positive memories can be impacted by this. With untreated depression and anxiety, this brain region primarily responsible for long-term memory can be permanently damaged. This also affects how we handle emotional responses.

That’s a lot to take when life seems to pull you down. But there’s hope! Even in the darkness, there can be light if we can see it. To create it, if you will. We must choose to interrupt the process and distract the mind to a more positive perspective. Depression strikes even those with high self-esteem, millions in the bank, and lives that seem “together.”

“Depression is something awful most people can relate to and share a common understanding of.”

Unfortunately, people don’t typically discuss these things. Maybe it’s the pride for some, a private issue for others. But since we share this common experience, perhaps we can learn something from one another about how to kick it in the butt. Between science, great counselors, and medication, there is a way out of the darkness – and into your own bright light.

I had to take a deep look at my life goals, put some terrible memories in perspective, understand my triggers, and work on enriching my self-esteem through various activities. And that was all in the past few years. I am 50 years old at the time of this writing and have struggled with depression my entire life. Until a point where life became so hopeless that I could not see my own future, no matter how hard I looked for it. I am thankful for my Christian Faith to have avoided suicide and fought the temptations to allow my depressive emotions to control my life.

“By the time I hit my “rock bottom” in my 40s – it became clear that I needed professional help.”

Thankfully there was qualified help to be found – and not a moment too soon. I scheduled an appointment with a counselor who was not a good fit for me. Usually, I might have given up. But I requested a new counselor and got a fantastic man who has provided excellent advice regularly over recent years. He has been instrumental in helping me quell my depression and understand how to create a healthier outlook and circumstances in my life.

Words alone cannot adequately thank him for the guidance to achieve the changes I needed so desperately. Over time, my personal changes became apparent, and my depression subsided enough to make healthier choices. And like a slow-healing cut that never seems to go away – eventually, it did. Not entirely, but enough to enjoy life again. I am told that is the result of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and reprogramming my mind’s Executive Functioning. Life will never be perfect, but how we view it can squelch even the most profound depression – over time.

This Podcast and Blog were born through my depression and the roads I took to address it. For me, it’s inspiring, humbling, and entertaining to experience different people and learn from their life experiences. And at a time when people are pushed into isolation and fear with icky politics and the pandemic, it’s more important than ever that we reach out and connect with others. Not just to avoid depression or maintain sanity, but to survive.