During my first year in college, a guy who lived in the same dorms with me started to gain weight. Let’s call him Jonas. On one evening in a communal kitchen, 6 of us were cooking dinner.  Someone made a comment about the huge pile of fried potatoes Jonas was making for himself.

Jonas stood there, holding tight to his pan piled high with food, and said, “All I want to do is eat. And when I eat, I feel so bad about myself that I want to eat more to make myself feel better. It’s like I’m never full.”

Some smart person in the kitchen made a comment how he had heard about this one guy who had a brain tumor which made his brain never release a hormone that made him feel full.

This piece of information sent Jonas into a panic mode. The next morning, he made a doctor’s appointment. He didn’t have a brain tumor. He had depression.

Another friend from my college years went to the doctor because she was sad, all the time. Every little incident made her cry. She, too, had depression.

A colleague from my first big job was diagnosed with depression after a failed suicide attempt. Now that’s a pretty clear sign – one that is most associated with mental illnesses such as depression.

Everyone’s experience with depression is unique. When I was in my mid-twenties, I suddenly needed a lot of sleep. My friends knew not to call me on a Friday night because I was getting ready to go to bed at 7 pm.

After sleeping at every moment I could for 10 months, I stopped sleeping altogether. Insomnia was what triggered me to seek help because what’s worse than sleeping too much? Not sleeping at all!

My diagnosis was, yes, you guessed, depression.

I want to make one thing clear – I am not a doctor or a therapist, a medical professional or psychiatrist. I’m someone in whose life depression has popped up time and again, like an unpleasant guest who keeps inviting itself back. I have decades of first-hand experience, and I completely lack any shame or guilt around it. Thus, I’m open to talking about it, and sharing my story.

As I’ve grown more mature and become a parent, I’ve realized that depression and anxiety are the dark secrets of many of us. It can happen at any phase of life: in childhood, adulthood, motherhood – the list goes on. We keep these experiences locked up because, you know, no one wants to be known as the “crazy” person.

Let’s make one thing clear – you are not crazy. Got it?

Good.

Depression is not something you are, it’s something you have.

Eva

Here are the three laws of depression that I have learned from my story and the stories of others. Once you understand these laws, it will be easier to help yourself, and help the ones you love.

1. Everyone’s experience is different, and just because you experienced it one time, doesn’t mean it will be the same next time.

So don’t compare yourself to others, and don’t even compare yourself to your past self. Accept that this is the face it has this time around. The key word here is different, you feel different. Learn to know yourself so you can clearly recognize when depression starts to stretch its cold fingers towards your heart. As with everything health-related, early detection gives you a head start.

2. Whatever the experience is, it’s self-destructive in one way or another.

That’s how you know you have stepped into the dark side – you have begun to systematically hurt yourself. Most likely, this happens without your conscious awareness. You hurt yourself with your food, activities, substances, but also thoughts, words, and relationships.

3. There is one common aspect to it all – at some point you have stopped actively seeking joy.

To live your life in ‘active joy’ means you make an effort to experience it daily. Joy leaves no room for depression. It’s the best antidote, medicine, and ally to you in kicking depression to the curb. But know this: joy is something no one else can give you. To feel it is on you, even if it’s really hard to do.  

The responsibility for your well-being is on you. Accept yourself the way you are, recognize the way you hurt yourself long before it gets extreme, and make seeking joy something you do every day. No negotiating.

When a doctor prescribes therapy or medicine, it’s what the doctor is doing to help you. Ask yourself, “what am I doing to help myself?”