Young Adults’ Experiences of Depression in the U.S.

Depression and healing

Recovery from depression can involve getting help from professionals (for example, medication or therapy), or helping yourself (for example, reaching out to friends and family or developing strategies for managing day-to-day life). These are all elements in a larger process of getting better or “healing” described by many people we interviewed. The healing process is rarely one quick “fix”; it usually consists of many steps and unfolds in different ways for different people. For almost everyone, though, healing requires a sustained commitment to get better.
Getting ready to heal

People get prepared for healing in different ways. Some people find it is crucial to change their mindset, expectations, and attitudes -- getting out of “old traps” and trying new approaches. Joey moved from accepting “all right” as an improvement over his depression to believing, “I can do better than this,” and then trying to make that happen. Frankie said that in order to “veer herself” in good directions, she needed to pause to think and be “mindful.”
A number of people described very concrete steps they took to change their circumstances and start the healing process. For some, this meant getting out of abusive relationships or toxic home environments. For others, it meant becoming proactive about things that are known to improve depression such as a good diet, regular exercise, ample sleep, and lowered stress. Many people talked about finding and concentrating on things that bring them peace or joy, such as music, being outdoors, art, holy books, affirmations, pets, or gardening.
Some people said that healing can’t happen for them until they come to terms with difficult parts of their past. Marty said he wants to get back in touch with his family, and resume favorite activities such as welding. Several people described needing to “make amends” with loved ones, friends or acquaintances, or needing to re-frame those past relationships.
Accepting yourself and your life

Many people said learning to “finally be myself” was a key part of healing. In some cases, this meant no longer fighting who they know themselves to be with respect to sexuality, gender, or personality.
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For many people, overcoming self-blame was one of the hardest hurdles. As Shayne put it, paraphrasing what many people said, it is important to realize that depression is “most definitely not your fault.” Crystal has been learning to “listen to” her depression, searching for positive aspects of herself within it instead of regarding it as something entirely negative. Some people also spoke about the need to stop blaming others, such as parents and caregivers.
Aspects of healing

The path towards healing is not the same for everyone. For some, it includes being able to effectively connect to others: being “called for advice,” or being able to stop detaching from emotional situations. Others begin healing by taking a risk: Jackson went to another country where he was able to make strong connections with people. Kate measures healing by “my functionality and my productivity.” Several people spoke about needing to be the one in control of their own life and future.
Healing as a process

A few people referred to their depression as “cured” or to themselves as “fully recovered.” The most consistent thing most people said about healing from depression, however, is that it is a process -- one characterized by cycles of feeling better and worse, rather than by a linear path from sickness to health. As one person put it, “it’s always going to be the rollercoaster ride throughout your life.” Kate described depression as a difficult friend you “don't really want to get rid of.” Others talked about coming to terms with the identity of being a depressed person; knowing you always “could be back there” even after feeling healed; or realizing that help of certain kinds might always be necessary.
See also ‘Depression and strategies for everyday life’, ‘Depression, bias, and disadvantage’, and ’Holistic and integrative approaches to depression’.
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