In late 2021, Lauren, who’d been diagnosed in her teens with depression but was now in her late 20s, felt like “something was off.
“I’ve lived with depression so long that I’m very hyperaware of symptoms coming and going – or at least I thought I was,” says the early childhood educator. “I’ve had a lot of therapy and I have my faith and I have my books, so I felt like I was in control.
“What I didn’t realize was that I was sliding right into my next major depressive episode. The next thing I knew I was on my kitchen floor again, in the middle of the night, not wanting to go to bed because all it meant was that I’d have to get up the next day to do it all over again.
“That’s when I knew.”
It’s not uncommon to experience depression. More than 16 million American adults are affected every year.
For some people, who are new to depression, it might be hard to identify: they may think they’re “just sad,” and don’t realize it’s become worse than just fleeting thoughts of negativity or loneliness or pain. But this doesn’t mean that for those who have been living with depression for a long time are expert at “catching” it, either – depression that’s getting “worse” may be accompanied by very mild but persistent symptoms in the beginning, or it could go from mild to terrible in a very short time.
So what are some of the signs that your depression might be getting worse?
Your stress might feel magnified.
Some of the things you might be feeling include catastrophic thinking, difficulty concentrating, or hopelessness. You might feel pessimistic about your future, or you may feel numb. You may feel guilty, remorseful, regretful or worthless. You may feel shame. You might have a hard time remembering things. Or you might feel all of these symptoms, in a deeper, more painful way than you have ever felt them before.
When depression gets worse, it might seem like you can’t stop thinking about negative things, or that the only way out of this is to die (you may not have suicidal intentions, but you may think the world would be a better place if you weren’t here). You might be crying more than usual, or more irritable than usual.
All of these feelings seem more and more intense as the days go by.
Nothing is interesting or pleasurable anymore.
You might find that the things you once loved or enjoyed doing are just not doing it for you these days. You may have hobbies that used to bring you joy, but you can’t even bring yourself to start them. You may not have the motivation to go out, call people, or even take a shower.
You just want to be alone.
When we’re depressed, it can be so hard to find the energy to socialize, but in the case of major depression, it’s that it’s not just hard to find the energy – it’s that we don’t even want to. Spending time with others becomes nearly impossible because we might feel like we just don’t want to be “on,” pretending to be okay, when inside, we’re really not.
If any of the above sound familiar, consider it a good thing that you’re at least recognizing where you are right now. This means you’re aware – and that you can take at least one step forward on helping yourself when depression strikes.
Here’s what you can do right now:
Talk to anyone. You can call a therapist or a counselor, yes, but at first, you can even just call a friend, someone you trust. Let them know how you’re feeling. You’re not alone.
Change it up.
Maybe you’ve been needing a bit of a change in your therapy routines; maybe you need to start talking to someone twice a week, or maybe you need to add meditation to the mix. Talk to your doctor about what’s worked in the past, and what doesn’t seem to be working now. You may need to consider a combination of therapy and medicine, or you may need to change what types of medicine or therapy you’re on now.
Try new coping methods.
Sometimes, it’s about adding a bit of new color to your life. It could be incorporating yoga, music therapy, art, or exercise into your daily routine. It could be about spending more time outdoors. It could be about turning on a favorite funny show and making sure you’re laughing 30 minutes a day, in addition to the other work you’re doing.