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Depressed in the District – Some Tips to get Through the Bad Days

Photo by PoPville flickr user brunofish

The following was written by anonymous. If there’s something you feel strongly about that you think should be shared, don’t hesitate to email me at [email protected]

Depressed in the District

I’ve lived in DC for the past three years and consistently struggle with depression. The young professional bubble, with its unyielding insistence on happy hours, Ann Taylor outfits, and impressive career tracks, can be quite challenging for the depressed. I recently found myself spiraling into a familiar black hole, with work, faltering relationships, and my dreary routine all leading me to question the point of everything. Although I spend a good amount of my time in such black holes, I’ve slowly gotten better at crawling out of them over time. I’m certainly not an expert, but I humbly offer you some tips that have helped me get through the bad days. Take what you like and leave the rest!

1) This one’s obvious, but I’ll say it anyway: Get help if you need it, whether it’s therapy, medication, or a combination of the two. If you are able, shop around until you find a therapist you jive with. It took me a few tries to find a therapist who gets me, so don’t give up.

2) Reach out to people, but don’t become dependent: Absolutely reach out to your family and close friends when you need them. At the same time, I think it’s important to learn to trust yourself and not become dependent on validation from others, because no one can be there at all times. Relying on yourself can also be a confidence booster and make the next dark phase feel just a little more manageable.

3) Be comfortable with doing things alone. Whether you just moved here and haven’t made friends yet, are victim to DC’s merciless cycle of friend turnover, or just can’t get anyone to respond to your texts, doing things by yourself is a valuable skill. This goes with the tip above about not getting dependent on people; plow ahead with your plans regardless of who’s joining. Next step: Make some plans (see below).

4) Go to open mic and comedy nights: There’s at least one open mic event every night of the week. I love Bloombars open mic nights as well as stand up around the district. These are the best because you get to see a different side of people – less networky, more raw. Also, unlike at work, self-deprecation, depression, and general mediocrity are popular topics. At least for me, one of the hardest parts about being depressed in DC is feeling like an alien among people who – at least on the surface – seem successful, happy, and productive. Open mic nights help expose me to DC-ers who I might not have encountered otherwise and tone down those feelings of isolation and failure. Also, comedy makes you laugh.

5) Explore different neighborhoods: Sometimes when things feel stagnant, I’ll just pick a random place in DC to explore (often by myself). Even though it can be a monumental challenge to get myself outside, being in a new environment that isn’t usually featured in my daily routine gives me energy. If you are so inclined, bring along a sketchbook or camera.

6) Find comforting local haunts: Keep a list of places – coffee shops, museums, bookstores – that you can’t help but feel good in and make yourself visit them frequently when you feel down. (One of my favorites is Kramer Books in Dupont.) Use #5 as an opportunity to expand your list.

7) Devote yourself to a hobby: I sometimes feel like a less-successful version of everyone else in DC, which naturally feeds into my depression. Having outside hobbies gives me a sense of satisfaction and individuality. Once you find a hobby, make it impossible for even the most depressed version of yourself to bail on it. Involve a friend, buy nice supplies, or keep whatever materials you need handy.

8) Read: When I’m feeling depressed, reading allows me to get out of my grey-scale brain and slip into someone else’s life for a little bit and feel things again. I try to carry a book with me wherever I go and have a second book ready for when I finish or get bored; otherwise, I run the risk of feeling too indifferent about the task of finding a new book (thanks, depression!) to continue on with the reading thing.

9) Do one chore a day: When a normal adult chore load seems overwhelming, force yourself to do
at least one thing each day, like laundry or getting groceries. I try not to create ambitious schedules, because my inevitable failure just makes me feel worse; however, a free pass on chores guarantees that I end up living in an igloo of my own laundry by the end of the week. This low-expectations rule at least helps keep things moving.

10) Be honest with people: Most likely, no one is doing as awesome as they seem. I’ve found that
being honest, even in water cooler conversations at work, sometimes gets other people to open up. Being a little vulnerable – like sharing a silly detail from your weekend, admitting to feeling dumb about something, or responding with “average” instead of “great!” when asked how your day is going – can lead to surprising results.

11) Find strategies to make work tolerable: Work can be the worst when you’re depressed – just focus on getting through the days and be kind to yourself. Plan an enjoyable outing for Monday evening that you can look forward to. Promise yourself coffee if you show up on time. Bug your co-workers until you find someone who’s willing to eat lunch with you. Decorate your office to make it less drab. Figure out which parts of the day are the hardest and plan your assignments and breaks accordingly, if possible.

12) Be a friend: When I feel like I can barely deal with my own life, listening to someone else’s problems seems like an impossible proposition. But withdrawing from people is exactly what depression wants you to do! Don’t give in. Even – especially – when you feel like you have nothing to give, trust that you are valuable and be there for someone you care about.

13) Cut out the negatives: Friends who drain your energy, ill-defined hookup situations, Netflix addictions, annoying roommates – start cutting this stuff out or changing it whenever possible. It will simplify things.

I hope that some of these tips were helpful and I wish you all the best!

Your fellow District Depressive”

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