Growing up, I remember listening to my mom tell me about depression. What it was like for her, how it made her feel, and even having suicidal thoughts. When we had this discussion, I was about fifteen or sixteen, and the more she told me, the more intensely I felt her pain. I remember balling my eyes out when she told me that she had experienced periods with suicidal thoughts. I literally couldn’t imagine not having her in my life, and the thought of her not being around filled me with immense sadness. Despite this, I couldn’t really resonate with those feelings. I was a relatively happy child and teenager. Sure I had my teenage angst. Going through that first breakup thinking that life was over and that I would never recover. Or not making varsity my junior year as a soccer player. But to that point, I had never experienced true depression. It was something that just didn’t register with me.
Why was she so sad? We had a good life. We were financially stable, she always said she loved her job, loved my father, and me and my sister. It didn’t make sense.
Fast forward to the present day. I understand it a lot more now.
I first truly experienced anxiety during my senior year of high school. I can’t remember for sure at what point during that year it first occurred, but at the time I didn’t even know what it was. I remember lying awake in bed until ungodly hours of the night, my brain spinning like a hamster wheel that had an everlasting battery attached to it. Thoughts suffocated me to the point where I physically couldn’t breathe. What was happening? And why?
Since then, life has certainly had its ups and downs. Success and failures have been abundant, I always seem to harp on the failures, of which there are many.
I essentially flunked out of college. I have had more jobs than I can count since I left school. I turned to drugs and alcohol to combat feelings of despair. To numb my mind from the constant torment. That only led to more despair and bleakness.
Two years ago, I moved back home to find peace and solace, and to straighten myself out. I don’t do well on my own, isolated from friends and family. So moving back home was the move I had to make to be able to get myself better. I began coaching soccer, the sport that I love. Since I was a kid, I had dreams of being a coach. When I was in fifth grade playing POW football, I would talk with a childhood friend about how one day we would be football coaches together. Him handling the offense, and me handling the defense. I grew up and that “dream” faded. I wasn’t smart enough. I wasn’t good enough. I didn’t have the right connections, etc,.
Then I decided that was bullshit. I firmly believe that we as humans are truly capable of anything we want. If you can dream it, you can achieve it. So moving home, and getting involved with my high school soccer program had to be the first step.
That didn’t exactly solve my mental health issues though. Coaching certainly makes me as happy as I think I’ve ever been, but when it’s over, and I’m out of the moment those feelings creep back around.
So here is how I handle my depression and anxiety.
*I am still seeking professional help, because talking about these feelings is truly one of the best ways to cope, and I would strongly encourage anyone who happens to read this to do the same*
With that being said, there are a lot of things that help me clear my head, and remind me that life just is.
I love going on walks, either by myself or if I have someone to walk with, I will walk with them. Getting outside in fresh air and sunlight just reminds me that essentially, we are animals. Intelligent animals, but animals nonetheless. We need to get out of our homes and apartments and experience this world firsthand. They don’t have to be super long, they don’t have to be short. They can be whatever you want them to be. I think it’s best to go for a walk without your phone, because one thing that makes me feel down is being on my phone all the time, and becoming envious of things that other people are doing. What other people are doing has no impact on my life, and if I really wanted the things that they were doing, I would just do them too. So take off, leave your phone behind, and just go.
Writing is certainly therapeutic for me. It’s essentially just having a conversation with yourself. Getting in touch with your innermost self, and expressing your feelings on paper. This is a great first step in being able to open yourself up to other people about the things that you are feeling inside. It isn’t always easy, and admittedly, I probably don’t do it enough. I’ve been trying to make it a more consistent habit, and getting into the rhythm of doing it makes me feel so much better about myself.
This kind of goes along with going on walks, as walks are a low-stress form of exercise. Exercising naturally releases dopamine and serotonin in your body, two chemicals that help regulate mood. I’m not your gym bro health nut, but I do try to work out in some capacity at least twice a week. My most frequent form of exercise comes from playing soccer. When I’m playing soccer I’m usually incredibly present and locked into the moment. It isn’t always like this, however. Sometimes when I’m playing, I’ve been going through some difficulties. But just getting out there and playing does quite a bit for me. I’ve never finished a workout and felt worse.
Biking is another form of exercise that I quite enjoy it. When you’re riding a bike, especially on a busy street, you need to pay attention to what’s going on around you. If you don’t the consequences can be severe.
Recently, I’ve been getting into skiing. I never really thought of skiing and snowboarding as exercise but that quickly changed after I tried it for the first time. It requires a lot of coordination, balance, and endurance. Sliding down a mountain at 40mph is probably the most freeing feeling I have ever experienced in my life. It’s not competitive the way team sports are. But I get that sense of competition. It’s me against myself or me against the slope. Conquering those fears and conquering the trail you’re going down feels incredibly rewarding.
Another benefit of most of these forms of exercise is that you’re around other human beings. Humans need one another, whether we would like to admit it or not. Being around other people allows us to talk, laugh, and feel love. I certainly go through periods of time in which I don’t really want to be around other people, but those are always the times in which I need to be around other people the most.
Okay, so I’m by no means an expert on this subject. But meditation is something I’ve dabbled with here and there over the years. Recently, I’ve been practicing a lot more. The first few times I tried meditating, I felt like an utter moron. I couldn’t ever stop thinking. I’d close my eyes and assume the classing monk position, legs crossed, back straight, doing that weird thing with my hands. Nowadays I just find a comfortable spot to sit in, close my eyes, turn on ambient sounds, and just focus on my breathing. Whenever I practice, I do so for about 20 minutes. It’s typically rough at first, but eventually, I find my rhythm. I actually just finished meditating before I finished writing this post. I’m a little sleepy, but my head is much more clear now than it was forty-five minutes ago.
The benefits of meditation include: focusing on the present, increasing self-awareness, patience, creativity, imagination, as well as reducing negative emotions. I can say first hand, it really does help quite a bit.
Reducing Screen Time
This is probably the biggest challenge for most of us in this day in age. Our phones are literally programmed to keep us engaged and coming back for more. I combat this by turning off notifications for every form of social media and setting up time limits for apps on my phone. This doesn’t mean I always succeed, but more often than not I’m able to stay off of my phone and enjoy real life.
Now, if I don’t really have anything to do, I don’t have a problem being on my phone. As long as what I’m doing on there isn’t detrimental to my mental health. So when I’m bored and want to use my phone, I try to play brain games like sudoku and chess. Not to brag, but I’m pretty damn good at sudoku. I’m not the best at chess, but my goal every time I open the chess app is to improve.
While social media can be used as a great tool, and help you connect with people you haven’t seen in ages, being online constantly can tear down your mental health. In my own personal experience, I’ll get on an app like Instagram, or TikTok and begin the mindless scrolling. This, for me, only needs to playing the comparison game. “Damn, look how much fun they’re having” or “Wow, they’re doing incredible things with their lives, I’m a POS.” Things of this nature. It’s disparaging. Tik Tok was the worst for me, due to the algorithm showing you things it knows you’ll be interested in, and not just showing you, people, you follow. It’s still on my phone, but I can’t remember the last time I actually used it. I use Twitter for pertinent information to me, and I use Instagram to share moments from my life, for myself not for anyone else. I taught myself to stop caring about the likes. It’s also nice to see what my friends all over the country are up to. But still, I can only use Instagram for 15 minutes a day. Most days I don’t hit that limit.
My working on my mental health will never ever stop. It can’t stop. It was to be persistent. Otherwise, I will fall back into the cycles I get in when I’m at my worst. And that is not who I want to be.
I genuinely hope this was helpful for whoever ends up reading it. I did this for myself primarily, but I also want to help anyone that needs the help. As I said at the beginning of this post, I am by no means a trained mental health professional, just a person who knows what it’s like to feel like shit. All of these things help me, and I think they may help you too. With that being said, if you need help, please, please, seek help from a licensed professional.
Last but not least, below the post is four of my favorite songs that I listen to when I’m down in the dumps.