By Natasha Ickes-Saman
At 9 years old I stood in my fathers kitchen with a knife to my wrist, contemplating taking my own life. At 17 I swallowed a handful of sleeping pills. It was an attempt that landed me in the emergency room and then a mental institution. So I get it. I was there. It is something I dealt with on and off for years. And later, even when things looked ok, it lingered. Depression doesn’t always look like someone on the verge of taking their own life. Sometimes it appears as a tired and overwhelmed mom who cries herself to sleep every night. Other times it looks like a man who can’t express himself, has no outlet and drinks daily to numb the pain. Often it appears in the high functioning individual, who can’t seem to get out of the emotional rut they are in. As an adult it has crept up on me more times than I like to admit, despite my success. I am a successful business owner, wife, mother and best selling author- and still there are times it tries to take over. But over the years I figured out a system to keep it under control. Because you can’t drink it away, party it away, sleep it away or ignore it until it goes away. However there are some proactive steps you can take to drastically change your life. These tips are good anytime, but they just might be life saving when depression rears its ugly head.
- You can’t avoid pain so change your relationship with it. Sometimes emotions pop up unexpectedly, for no reason and with no warning. Other times depression is a direct result of life’s circumstances. However when we realize and accept that tough times are a part of life, and learn to look at them as opportunities for growth, life gets a bit easier. For example, let’s say your partner of 10 years cheated on you and then left you. That is undeniably painful. Allowing yourself the time and space to work through the emotions is important. But set a timer. And when it dings make the active choice to move on.
- Pamper yourself. Self love is essential. Book a monthly massage, take bubble baths, play hooky from work and eat great food. You deserve to enjoy life. It is difficult to feel good when you starve yourself of enjoyable experiences. By showering myself with love I always start to feel better.
- Create a positive environment. Surround yourself with positive people. Quality over quantity is key. You need to make sure your spouse, friends and family are supportive and kind. When battling depression, it is imperative that you are surrounded with good energy and great people.
Create a tribe that uplifts you when you are down. If you have toxic people in your life, you have the power to remove them. Then make sure you are being positive with yourself. Be aware of the music you listen to, the shows you watch and the way you speak to yourself. Be protective of what you allow inside of your mind.
- Give back. Make charity a regular part of your life and use your passions to do it. Think about what you love and how it can be used to give back. If you like to sew you can make blankets for the homeless. If you enjoy cooking you can make meals to pass out. If you like to dance, offer a free class to children in a low income community. I own a hair salon so a couple times a month we go into local homeless shelters to provide free haircuts to homeless men, women and children. Study after study shows the physical and emotional benefits of giving back. It has been shown to assist in everything from lowering blood pressure to increasing self esteem. I leave every event happier than when I arrived.
- Create a life you love to live. For several years I was really down because my life wasn’t aligned with my purpose. It is difficult to be happy if you are in a miserable relationship, a job you hate or are struggling financially. Take the active steps to create a life you are wildly obsessed with. You can hire a coach to fast track your success.
- Ask for help. Whether it’s a professional counselor, a close friend, a pastor or our diary- we all need space to vent. Make sure you have an outlet for your emotions. If you feel yourself getting dangerously low or contemplating suicide call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-8255 or call 911.
Controlling depression can never be a one size fits all approach. Humans are complex, dealing with a variety of circumstances and emotions. Some people need medication, some don’t. Some aren’t able to get out of the bed, others are CEOs. Some people use medication, others like me choose not to. There is no right or wrong. Depression affects every race, gender and age. The tips in this article is what worked for me. It allows me to live a happy, fulfilling life. I believe we all deserve to live a life we are wildly obsessed with.