Note from the editors: This article contains discussions of depression and self-harm. If you find any of this material triggering, feel free to move on from this article. If you or anyone you know is struggling with either of the conditions mentioned above, reach out to someone you trust, or call a hotline.
In America alone, approximately twelve million women experience depression each year. And from puberty until age fifty, women are twice as likely to have an anxiety disorder than her male counterpart. With the constant pressure put on women every day by society, it’s no wonder that depression and anxiety in women are on the rise.
I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder when I was thirteen, and diagnosed with anxiety when I was fifteen. At eighteen now, I’ve learned what works and what doesn’t work when it comes to my disorders. I hope that by sharing my personal experiences and advice, I can help someone out there learn to deal with their own.
Learning Positive Coping Skills
When you’re anxious or depressed, it can be easy to slip into old habit behaviors. Shutting down, self-harm — they’re crutches. They’re what you default to when things become too much. Learning new coping skills and finding which ones work for you personally can be difficult, and it can be harder to actually implement what you’ve learned. I promise, because I know from experience, that though it’s hard, it’s worth it. Here are some coping mechanisms that I find work. Keep in mind that these work for me, and what works for me might not work for you, so do some research and try a little bit of everything until you find your method.
- Listening to music
- Painting your nails
- Playing video games
Benefits of positive coping
Once you learn what methods work for you and slowly start to work them into your life, recovery becomes much more attainable. Instead of shutting down or turning to self-harm when I felt depressed or anxious, I was learning to relax and bring my creativity back. (Side note: screw people who say you need to be broken to create beautiful art. Those people have clearly never been broken. That’s another article, though.)
Once you’ve started using your coping skills, you’ll notice that things start to get a lot brighter. Positive coping skills that work have been shown to reduce stress, strengthen relationships, improve decision making, and raise self-confidence. It can help you focus in school and regain interest in your hobbies that may have fallen through the cracks during a depressive or anxious phase. Most importantly, they will help you feel more comfortable in reaching out for help, which should be your ultimate goal. You do not need to handle anything on your own. Professional help can do wonders.
If you had told fifteen-year-old Darcy the things that eighteen-year-old Darcy had accomplished after learning to stand up to their anxiety, they would have laughed. Fifteen-year-old Darcy, who was so crippled by anxiety and depression that getting out of bed was akin to climbing Mount Everest, would be in awe of me today. A Darcy who has been published numerous times, who has written novels, is going to college, and is editor of a magazine, for Christ’s sake!
It took years, but I got there. And if I hadn’t learned how to cope in a more productive way, I might not have. But there is one more thing I have to stress:
Recovery isn’t easy.
Movie montages make recovering from depression and anxiety look easy. Like all it takes is a couple bowls of ice cream, and some quality time with friends. In reality, this is far from the case. Recovery can take months, even years, and more often than not, you won’t realize it’s happening while it’s going on. One day you’ll read back into an old journal from when you were thirteen and realize just how far you’ve come since then.
Sometimes recovery also means relapsing. That’s alright. Relapsing into depressive, anxious, even self-injurious behavior doesn’t make your recovery less valid, and it shouldn’t make you feel like you’ve “failed” at it at all. I can’t count the times I relapsed into self-harm. I never thought that I would reach a point where I didn’t need it. In four months, I’ll be two years clean. Even now, though I boast about having fought my anxiety and depression, I have days where I get sad for no reason and shut down. I have days where my anxiety keeps me from leaving the house. The point of recovery is not always to say “I beat it,” but to be able to say that “I am getting there.” It takes time, but it happens.
YouTube star Hannah Hart talks about the idea of “reckless optimism,” the idea that you can believe in the good and believe that life will get better, even when things look bleak. I found that focusing on that idea helped me get on the road to recovery. So I’ll leave you with that thought: try and be recklessly optimistic about your healing.