I am new to this forum, so I apologize if I am posting this in the wrong place. I just have been wanting to somehow share what I have been learning and figuring out with depression in my own life.
A little background:
I have been experiencing moderate to severe depression for about 7 to 8 years. It has fluctuated but a constant challenge. I have been hospitalized at one time for suicidal behavior. I have been through the usual steps for treating depression - therapy, medication, doctors, etc. Nothing has ever really helped until recently. And I am actually not completely sure what has caused my dramatic improvement in the last two months or so. Also, I am still somewhat hesitant to share my experience because it may be too early to tell the truth of what has been going on. Regardless, I have felt a great compulsion to share and see what others may think.
As of today and over the last couple of months I have been, as near as I can tell, depression free. Again, I recognize that it is a short time but I haven't felt this good for a long time. Also, I feel and think much differently than I ever have before. These are the things that I have changed and may be the cause of my improvement.
The biggest thing that has helped me change the most has been listening to Dr. Jordan B Peterson. You may have heard of him, as he is something of a Youtube sensation. He has some very interesting things to say about depression and anxiety, as well as life in general. I would like to attempt to find all the videos and lectures that he has given that have been the most helpful - in order to reduce the need of people searching them out on their own. It would be practically impossible to write all the ways he has caused me to reflect and think about life and depression.
One thing that he mentioned in a lecture was how many of his clients (he was a clinical psychologist for a long time) would start to eat a breakfast high in fat and protein and their anxiety would essentially disappear by that alone. I have always had a great interest in food, diets, and health and had been reading some other material on that subject about the same time. It was a book that made the case that sugar is bad and fat and protein are good. I had also been reading about ketogenic diets and wanted to try it out (I didn't need to lose weight but I had some other issues that I hoped would be solved by this radical change in diet). A close friend and I challenged each other to do a complete keto diet, no cheat days, for one month. This was back in November and December. So I ate a very high fat, moderate protein, and very low carb diet. I ate a lot of bacon, eggs, sausage, cream and some berries.
This was quite an experience and I have tried continue this diet but haven't been fully doing it since. However, I do always eat a high fat, high protein breakfast every morning. I eat either sausage or bacon with eggs and sometimes cream with some berries. I have definitely noticed a big difference in this change in diet with my depression and anxiety levels. I would definitely recommend trying this out or start to read about it and consider it (although this is NOT medical advice as I am not a doctor - please check with your doctor). I have read others that have had a similar experience with their depression being largely reduced by switching to a low carb diet.
Another thing that I learned and further explored from Jordan Peterson was the idea of meaning and happiness. He is a big proponent of seeking meaning in your life instead of happiness. Before I started thinking about this I had thought that if my depression would go away then I would be happy and that I was pursuing happiness to combat my depression. This of course never really worked. It is very difficult to fake happiness and it usually only made it worse for me to pretend. However, I had my own realizations that it would be much better for seek meaning in my life. What is meaning and what is meaningful? This is where I would recommend watching some of Jordan's lectures. This is one of the main topics he discusses and has studied in his career.
I also realized that this was where there was a big hole in my life. I wasn't necessarily living a meaningless life but neither was I living a meaningful one. I wasn't sure what direction to go in life. I wasn't sure what kind of career I should follow. (By the way, I am 25 years old). This made me feel very frustrated, depressed, and filled me with self hate and contempt. I would say to myself, "You are so stupid, you have no idea what to do with your life. What have you been doing with your time? You are a loser!" I would say that all the time to myself. I was in this rut of self hate and depression. I lost all motivation to do anything at all. Everything felt useless and meaningless. I was working and going to school but mostly going through the motions.
But as I was listening to Jordan Peterson, I started to think about what would be meaningful to me. What should I pursue? What should I not pursue? I thought I wanted to be doctor. But the thoughts of medical school and residency would make me depressed. I realized that it wasn't for me. Then I started to explore my options. I realized and told myself that I had options. I wasn't doomed to failure, depression, medical school, or anything. I began to believe (and you should too) that the ball was in my court, so to speak. I had the power and the ability to choose what I did with my life. I had choices that I could make and should make. As I said, I began to really explore what I would enjoy doing for work and what would make my life meaningful.
This led me to really seek to understand who I was. What was my personality? Am I extroverted or introverted? Am I open to experience? etc. So I took some personality tests - I would recommend the Big 5, as it is the most studied and robust. I began (I am still working on it) to figure out who I am and what makes me tick, so to speak. I realized that I am quite introverted. This means that I need time alone with my own thoughts. This also meant that I would be better suited for a job in which I can work on something by myself or in small groups or partnerships. I would do very poorly in a job, like a doctor, where I had to talk to different people all day every day, one after another. This would drain me. I could also remember examples of this in my past. This was a huge epiphany for me. I began to understand myself and my depression on another level.
This led me to find jobs and careers that would suit my personality. I decided that I need to just make a choice and go for it. This would give me goals and things to work toward and I could find more meaning in my life. I chose to go into bioinformatics and computer science/programming. I found the field interesting, exciting, it fit my personality better, and I could see how it mattered to others and to the world (I could use it to make a difference in people's lives).
I have thought about depression a lot and how to overcome it. The problem with depression is in contradiction with its solution. I would define depression as: a feeling of hopelessness that destroys all motivation in a person. When you are depressed you don't want to do anything. You don't see the point of doing anything. You feel stuck and that you will always be where you are no matter what you do. You want to lie down and give up (sometimes in the form of suicide). You feel that your life is such a mess that there is no way you can possibly repair it. At least, this is how I have experience depression.
The solution for depression is to do something. Anything. You don't feel depressed when you are meaningfully engaged in something - work, school, relationships, etc. That is why the phrase every depressed person hates to hear but will inevitably hear everyday is, "Just get up and do something. It's all in your head." I think that is truly part of the solution but it is intrinsically difficult to do for someone who is depressed. They don't want to do the thing that will help them.
I have been trying to figure out how it is that I got to this point. How did I go from incredibly depressed to completely not? Like I said earlier, I am not entirely sure. Here is what I think is part of the answer: find one thing that you actually want to change and be absolutely determined to do that one thing. For me it was the diet. I changed my diet for one month. I determined to myself that I was going to make it one month no matter what. And I did it. It definitely wasn't flawless but I found strength to control my desire to eat sugar that I didn't know I had before. That one change didn't remove my depression overnight but it started me on a course to finding other things that helped me overcome my depression (some of theme were mentioned above).
The last thing I really want to drive home is that you can do it too! You can overcome your depression. I thought for years that I was simply doomed to battle depression for the rest of my life. What a prospect that was! But it's not true! You are not doomed to depression. You simply have a problem. If you work at it, search and find the answers you can overcome it and your problem will become a victory and a strength.
I hope that this may be helpful to someone. Please let me know if you want to know more. I am still figuring things out.
Thanks for reading.