Depression: what it is and the early steps to getting better

What is depression? 

The definition of depression according to the American Psychiatric Association:

“Depression (major depressive disorder) is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act. Fortunately, it is also treatable. Depression causes feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease your ability to function at work and at home.”

Definitions like these are descriptive but don’t actually capture what an individual might be feeling like. There’s a few major things you might be feeling if you’re depressed.

What it feels like to be depressed

The walls are closing in. When you start to become depressed, it feels like the walls around your life are closing in, and in many senses this is literally true. Things that used to be enjoyable no longer feel the same, and your mind slowly starts to interact less and less with the outside world.

You don’t want to feel better. Self pity and feelings of worthlessness are especially common, and so it’s very plausible you think you deserve to feel the way you do. Or you’re so cynical about your life that you don’t think you deserve to exist in the world.

You’re trapped in a suffocating prison. Every action is miserable and painful. Every thought about action in the real world begs the question as to whether you can or should do it. All of the world is a scary and sad place, and it’s too scary and sad to do anything. Better to just stay in bed and feel bad.

You become terribly lonely, because others don’t feel the same way as you. Friends and loved ones become closer to strangers. A lot of relationships are shared experiences and feelings (at least outwardly). So when you are depressed, you don’t want to share how you feel and make others miserable, but simultaneously not be able to describe what it’s like. You see the happy looks on people’s faces 

Is there something wrong with me from being depressed?

Depression is one of the leading causes of disease for humankind, and ⅙ people will experience depression during their life. So depression is a frequent part of the human experience.

The Warrior’s Model for Fighting Depression

The warrior’s model of depression means you should treat your depression like it’s something you’re at war with. Conventional treatments and mindfulness training say you should let your feelings pass. But depression doesn’t pass. It festers and gets worse like a disease if you do nothing. So what you have to do is treat depression like a disease that you need to defeat. Have the courage to face your thoughts, feelings, and emotions.

How do I stop being depressed?

“If you’re going through hell, keep going.”

– Winston Churchill

Don’t listen to the depression, for now

It’s important to be in touch with your feelings and not suppress them. But that doesn’t mean that you need to feel like every feeling is valid. Depression is an extremely negative skew of reality, so the more you listen to it being true, the more it becomes a part of your identity.

Force yourself to do normal life activities, even though you don’t want to.

Feelings of depression are tied deeply to how you feel about yourself. And how you feel about yourself is deeply tied to your actions. If you do nothing in your life, you’ll feel worthless. So your only option is to start doing the tasks you’d do before you got depressed. Humans are creatures of momentum, so cleaning your room, making a meal for yourself, calling a friend, or doing anything that is “normal” for you jumpstarts your exit out of depression.

Decide that life is worth living even if nothing changes

A common thing about depression is to be hyper-focused on your feelings and how terrible you are and your life is. But once you realize there are things that are more important in life that matter more than how you feel, you can change your focus on doing those things instead of focusing on your feelings.

Don’t have anything that’s important? It’s your responsibility to find what is meaningful in your life and decide for yourself what makes life worth living, whether that be relationships, god, work, a purpose, or anything.

Once you are minimally functional, start to get treatment

Once you can get out of bed and have a purpose to exist, then you should start getting treatment. We don’t have nearly a complete understanding of how the body or mind works. So your best option is to try as many things as possible until you figure out a cocktail of different treatments that work.

Treatments for depression can include:

  • Therapy
  • Exercise
  • Yoga
  • Psychedelics
  • Medication such as SSRI’s and SNRI’s


Being depressed is a serious mental illness that causes feelings of sadness, and can cause a great impact on your ability to function in your life. There is nothing abnormal about you if you get depressed, but often the modern advice on emotional management can lead you astray. Depression is a disease that you must fight with a warrior’s mentality. Don’t listen to the depression for now, force yourself to do normal things in your life, decide that life is worth living, and then start getting treatment. And most importantly, don’t give up.

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