Mental Wellness

How I Got Through Years of Depression Without Therapy, or 8 Tips for When You Feel Helpless

Hello, my name is Lana, and if it’s your first time on my blog, here are some things I’d like you to know.

First, as you probably guessed, I have depression. “Officially”, it kicked off 4 years ago, but predispositions were with me since I was a teen.

Second, I am a loner. Not that I don’t have friends or family or even pets to spend time with, but I am an introvert with social anxiety. It’s much easier for me to be on my own most of the time. After all, that’s why I started this blog – to share personal tips for those who feel lonely as well.

And the last, I spent 6 years of my life abroad – until COVID-19 and graduation sent me back home.

I’ll explain why it’s important later, but for now, a disclaimer, note, warning, you name it: I am not a therapist and have no medical experience whatsoever. Everything in this post comes purely from my own experience and some online tips.

If any signs of depression or other mental health issues are showing up, you should seek professional help. In case you aren’t sure, here’s a list of possible symptoms:

  • Sleep disorder (insomnia/hypersomnia)
  • Loss of appetite/overeating
  • Feeling of worthlessness
  • Lack of motivation
  • Suicidal/self-harming thoughts
  • Fatigue
  • Outbursts of negative feelings in response to minor situations

There are not all possible symptoms, but I decided to stick to the most common ones.

Please, be aware of your own feelings and take care of yourself. If you feel that something isn’t right, consider visiting your GP or set an appointment directly with a psychologist. Only a professional can help you understand your mind and what treatment will work for you.

Alright, now that you are reminded of the basics, let’s move on to today’s topic.

The title is pretty much speaking for itself – I wasn’t able to get medical help for 3 years after my first major depressive episode.

I got a proper chance to schedule an appointment last December. I finally pulled myself together and actually went this June – as soon as the regulations allowed.

She’s a lovely lady I’m going to see again next week, but today I’m not gonna focus on her. Today is all about the time before.

  • Why I didn’t go?

I mean, it’s the most basic thing, isn’t it? You feel bad – you visit a doctor.

But the rule gets trickier when it comes to mental health.

When does sadness become unhealthy? How can you be sure that it’s not a low mood that just takes too long to leave? Who chooses what time is right?

The answer is simple, actually. Any time is the right time.

Just like an annual check-up is needed to keep your organism healthy, meeting with a counselor will help your mind stay in shape.

But yes, yes, I hear you: what if a regular schedule is too much? Too costly, too odd, too redundant. I definitely didn’t have any plans on going to psychologists before 2016.

Then go as soon as you feel that something isn’t right.

Your gut feeling is enough of a reason. Because by the time the symptoms will add up into a proper picture, it might be a bit too late.

Not to go to a therapist, surely, it’s never too late for that. But depression is very good at assuring that you don’t have to go. That it’s not necessary, too much of a work, won’t help anyway.

Every now and then I still get these thoughts. That nothing is going to help. That I’ll stay like this forever, so why wasting time and money.

And that’s the major reason why I didn’t go in the first place.

Even though I knew that I needed guidance, proper advice, that if I feel bad – I need help. Still, I didn’t go.

When depression hits you, it feels like nothing will ever be able to help.

I’m glad I don’t listen to these thoughts anymore. Please, never believe them as well – you can and you will get help.

Some of the other reasons may sound familiar to you, such as financial problems or “it’ll go away on its own”. Others were a bit too specific for my situation – I had to focus on my thesis, I was afraid I won’t be able to explain it to local doctors, I didn’t trust my family enough to talk, etc.

Everything grew into a big pile of reasons. But most of all, I didn’t think I really need it. That I am worthy of help.

Thankfully, I was still able to understand that what was going on was not okay. Although it took me months to start intentionally searching for ways to help myself, better late than never.

That’s how I got through this (more or less) and ended up here, writing these very words.

That’s how I found these tips to share with you.

And if, for any reason, you aren’t able to go to a therapist right now, and you feel like you need help, feel free to try them

I chose to share them because they worked for me. And I’m sure that even if they won’t be as efficient for you, they will make things easier.

While we’re on it though, are you interested in more mental health tips? I post something new every week, from self-care guides to a healthy diet for bad days (+ most of my advice comes from personal experience). Sign up for my newsletter and don’t miss new posts!

Alright, now, get your notes out, and let’s get started.

     1) Morning Routine

One of the hardest things for me was dragging myself out of bed. I’ve barely ever experienced insomnia – my symptoms have always been on the opposite side.

On the worst days, I could sleep for 14 hours a day – and it still wouldn’t feel enough. Any dream was better than facing reality, so after waking up I used to stay in bed for hours, staring at the window until fatigue was pulling me back into sleep.

In the end, the only thing that helped was routine. I filled my mornings with little things that were bringing any sense of joy – coffee, snacks, books. Not everything was good for my physical health, but as long as it could make me smile, it was helping.

I even started waking up earlier only to enjoy the peace and quiet of the still sleeping house.

Try to find something, anything, that makes you feel better and lighter.

Use it as bait for yourself in the morning to get up and start your day.

Related: How Meditating Every Day Has Changed My Everyday Life in 6 Months

     2) Daily Routine

There’s a reason why I put these two – sleep and daily routine – together. One helps to build and keep the other.

I already talked about the importance of having both in another post, so I won’t dwell on it for too long.

A daily routine is helpful for anyone, but for those battling with depression, there’s an additional, very important benefit. Habit doesn’t require mental efforts.

When your mind has trouble even with the simplest tasks, keeping track of your day-to-day life seems like too much bother. Lunch? Shower? Exercise? Not today, maybe later.

To be honest, I still keep some of my old habits, like eating at regular times, not because I want to, but because it’s time to. Appetite is no longer something I can rely on.

Having your day planned out beforehand (during lighter moments) allows you to put more energy into yourself.

     3) Cut Relationships With People That Make You Feel Bad

I know it’s not easy. I know you feel like you are the only one responsible for your feelings. I know you think it’ll only make things worse.

No, it won’t.

It’s scary to make changes now, because what if everything will collapse on you?

But you can’t stay in the same place and expect it to change.

If someone made you feel bad about yourself, if someone refused to listen to you, if someone is gaslighting you and playing with your self-esteem – cut them out. The quicker the better.

You don’t need them, I promise, you can get through it without them. It’s gonna be okay.

My own depression was partially “inspired” by a person I was deeply connected to, and it took me almost a year to burn all the bridges. But it was worth it.

It didn’t magically cure me – but it allowed me to breathe deeper and look around for others.

RelatedHow the Need for Approval is Ruining Your Life (and What You Should Do About It)

     4) Stay Close To People That Make You Feel Good

To be honest, stick to everything that makes you feel good (that’s the point of, like, half of these points). But especially people. Good people.

It is possible to keep fighting on your own, but receiving good energy from outside makes it easier.

Your sibling, groupmate, online friend, or celebrity that just makes you smile. Maybe, even a fictional character from your favorite series?

Whoever makes your days a bit brighter with their presence – don’t be afraid to reach out.

You are important enough to get the pleasure of connection whenever you can.

     5) Go Outside

Sometimes it may be too hard to even walk between the rooms. But whenever you have enough time and energy – drag yourself out there.

I don’t even know where to start with the benefits.

First of all, it makes you healthier. Sunlight (even when it’s behind the clouds) and fresh air are like a battery for your brain. Also if you tend to stay inside for long, it’s good for your muscles to get a bit of exercise. 

You can also listen to your favorite music or a good podcast while walking around. It’ll boost your mood and make the day a bit brighter.

Try to make walks a part of your routine – and it’ll quickly become another good thing to look forward to.

Personally, I chose evenings. We lived in suburbs, with fields all around, so watching a sunset with music in my ears was soothing.

I miss it the most, now that I’m back in the middle of my big and loud hometown – but parks and recreation areas are everywhere.

RelatedAre You Ready to Go Out? 6 Reasons to Get Some Fresh Air Right Now

     6) Try to Accept Yourself

Don’t blame yourself. Don’t turn on yourself. Don’t make an enemy out of yourself.

The worst thing that makes you spiral down even further into depression is self-hatred.

Even when someone was praising me, I always felt worse. Because it meant I somehow tricked people into thinking that I’m good while in reality, I’m… not.

Familiar with that kind of thought?

But it’s wrong. You are good enough – for those around you and for yourself. It’s hard to see and accept it but try.

Start with changing how you talk to yourself. Instead of butchering yourself for every little thing, try to be more understanding. Allow yourself to fail sometimes.

Don’t try to be perfect. Better be compassionate.

I’d had a bad day not so long ago and ended up with a post on how to deal with negative thoughts. It may help you as well: Why It’s So Hard to Love Yourself – and Why You Still Have to Keep Trying

     7) Find Something (Anything) That Brings You Joy

I mentioned it multiple times already, so won’t stay here for too long. But it does deserve a separate point, even if you repeat it 100 times more.

Everything that makes you feel good is your own type of medicine.

Of course, not everything joyful is healthy too. Eating sweets, smoking, drinking alcohol – all of it may feel good for a moment. But it’ll only make you feel worse later.

I don’t want to pretend like I didn’t allow myself these things before, and I’m not gonna lecture you about them now. We all are prone to deal with negative feelings in ways that are quick and familiar. 

But don’t let it turn into a vicious cycle of bad-good-worse.

Stick to something pleasant for you in the long run.

Reading books, watching movies, listening to music, painting, cooking, knitting, gardening, jogging, writing poems, gaming, dancing, talking, I’m running out of ideas but you got it.

Whatever hobby makes the fog in your head clearer, go for it. Or try something new like playing board games or meditating.

Just listen to your feelings and allow yourself to be a little happier.

     8) Be Open

Don’t hide your pain. Don’t be afraid to share it with your loved ones. Is there someone you trust? Talk to them.

Bottling your feelings inside will only make them rot. Let them form into words and be released. 

I can’t say that talking to a friend is as helpful as talking to a medical professional (even though I always thought it is). No, just talking about your feelings over and over again is not the same as figuring them out.

But it’s enough to know that you are not alone in this.

Connecting with someone makes you feel grounded.

Both I and my housemate were going through depression at the same time. We used to talk a lot, (not gonna lie) drink a lot, and on some days just sit in one room together to not be left alone with our thoughts.

It was enough to get through the worst time safely.

So, don’t be shy, don’t be afraid, don’t close yourself. You never know what your friends are going through.

Accept your problems. Work on them. Don’t keep everything to yourself.

Depression is not something you have to cherish.

You’re gonna be okay.

I promise, better days are coming.

Now, would you like to share your story?

Recommended: What to Do on a Bad Mental Health Day: 10-Step Guide to Ease Your Depression

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