Taking the First Step

If you're feeling depressed and hopeless and are unsure of where to turn, what do you do? A needlepoint tapestry on the wall of a family therapist's office in Santa Cruz, California, bore the following piece of embroidered wisdom: “When you're down and out, lift up your head and shout…‘I'm down and out!’” It's good advice. Being honest with yourself is the first step toward relieving the symptoms of depression and coming to terms with this disorder.

Acknowledging that there's a problem is not only the first step, but it's also the most difficult step. From infancy, you're taught to handle problems on your own. “Deal with it!” has become a not-so-gentle admonition from our culture. So, when you can't “deal with it,” you tend to think that you're flawed. You should be able to cope. Depression is not just a routine problem, however. You need help to get better — and this does not make you weak or helpless or pathetic. It's just the way it is.

Remind yourself what a courageous move it is to admit you have a problem and need help. And also remember that getting this far is evidence that you still have some control over your situation. This means you're not powerless. Once you acknowledge this, take a deep, cleansing breath, and make an appointment with a physician or psychotherapist to have a chat. Such professionals have the training necessary to provide you with the tools you'll need to tackle depression.

There's no point in suffering in silence. In fact, there's no point in suffering at all. It's highly overrated as a health option. Even when your emotional gauge tells you there's nothing left, remember: There are always at least two gallons left in the tank. That's plenty to get you to the gas station. That's more than enough to get you to help. As long as you remain in the driver's seat, you still have some control.

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