Overcoming Depression: What to Do When You Feel Like Giving Up
Is it a bad day, a rough patch, or depression? Many of us experience all three at different times.
* Feature image uses photos by Joe Shields and Stormseeker on Unsplash.
WARNING: Some readers may find the language in this article upsetting, especially discussions of self harm and suicide. If you are having suicidal thoughts, please seek help immediately. You can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 for assistance from a trained professional.
The 1985 Tom Petty Song “Don’t Come Around Here No More” may have the late singer and guitarist’s classically complex but mellow charm, but between the strains of synthesizers and strings, you’ll also hear some pretty heart-wrenching lyrics. The saddest line, repeated eight times, consists of just three words: “I’ve given up.”
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In the song, Petty talks about giving up on a relationship. What makes it such a sad tune is that the relationship in the song is one its singer wants to continue and be successful. Unfortunately, they no longer believe it can, and as such, they are abandoning hope.
And that’s what we are doing when we say “I give up,” we are giving up on hope, and the possibility of things getting better. So what can you do to mitigate these feelings, or even prevent them from becoming so debilitating in future?
The Causes of Depression: Why Do We Give Up?
Let’s be honest: life gives us plenty of reasons to feel like giving up. Some of the most common are relationship troubles, financial difficulties, the illness or passing of a friend or family member, a lack of satisfaction in our careers or academics, a dissatisfaction with our home or surroundings, or living with mental health issues, to name but a few.
Really, we give up –- or feel like giving up –- when life’s negatives start to be all we see. In truth, out of a bad relationship can come the experience needed to make the next one positive: a bad job can motivate us to find a new career path, we can always move and meet new people; we can live through grief and remember the good times.
But it sure is easier said than done, especially when you are already in the throes of a depressive episode and already feel like giving up.
What Are the Signs of Depression?
The signs of depression vary from person to person: they may be as dramatic as suicidal thoughts or as ostensibly mild as chronic tiredness. In fact, fatigue — or an exhaustion that is not ameliorated by rest or sleep — can be a huge warning sign.
So can the physical sensation of heaviness (like your very clothes are weighted and dragging you down), a lack of motivation to do things you previously enjoyed, a sense of desperation and lack of any positive emotions, anger that comes on without clear cause, and of course those thoughts of self-harm or even of ending your life altogether.
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Reading a few depression quotes can help you compare and contrast the feelings you are having (or not having) with emotions experienced by others, and can also potentially help you feel less alone in your mental state.
But if you are indeed feeling depressed, not sad or not simply having a few bad days, it’s imperative you seek help and support. This can mean having a talk with friends or a family member, but if you are dealing with substance abuse or suicidal thoughts, or if your depression is starting to dominate your life, you need to consult a licensed mental health professional.
How to Overcome Depression
With help and support, you have the power to rise out of depression, experience pleasure in life again, and develop a happier, healthier path forward. It can be a challenge, though, and anyone who tries to downplay the struggles of overcoming depression has likely not experienced a true episode of the condition.
If you are wondering how to overcome depression, you have already taken a major step toward doing so. The most insidious thing about the condition is that depressive symptoms include a person’s lack of ability to even envision a better future, one in which they are not tired, bored, sad, lonely, and simply disinterested in life.
If you hope for things to get better, you are doing more than just wishing, you are taking a first step.
The Consequences of Giving Up
Giving up on things in life can have a lot of negative consequences. It might mean no one ever gets to hear that song you didn’t record or read that book you didn’t finish writing or see that painting that’s in your mind.
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It might mean you let a relationship wither right as it was about to bloom, missing out on a lifetime of happiness with a great person because you just didn’t do the work to get to know them properly. It might mean you get stuck in a career you never really wanted, just to succeed… and all you had to do was pave a new direction yourself.
The second point to note is that you matter to other people; even when you might not feel like it, you really do mean a lot to many more people thank you think. After all, giving up on life affects more than just you, it has an impact on their lives, too.
What to Do When You Feel Like Giving Up
The first thing to do if you feel like giving up is to really check in with yourself and take stock of your mental state. If you’re in a dark, unsafe place emotionally, seek help and do not go it alone.
If you’ve got the clear-headedness to push through, the next step is to remove as many negative triggers in your life as possible. If your feelings of depression are triggered by a certain person, distance yourself from them. If you are having issues with substances, seek treatment. If money matters are affecting you, make a budget, talk to a financial planner and take steps to structure a better future.
At the same time, go beyond just dealing with the old baggage, and add some new positives into your life. Begin a new hobby, visit new places, try to meet some new people, and make some changes that will shake things up.
Is It Ever OK to Give Up?
In life, yes, but never on life. What a difference one vowel can make, right? When is it OK to give up on something? When that something is not essential to your happiness or success, or is even detrimental to either.
If your job brings you no joy, then it’s not giving up if you quit and find a new position; if you’re in a relationship that has soured beyond repair, it’s not a negative to “give up” — end things and move on.
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Our time on this world is too precious to spend it finishing books we’re not enjoying, maintaining friendships that are unbalanced, or missing out on daily happiness due to endless pining for distant goals.
Sometimes, the best thing we can do is let go. But that’s not giving up in the traditional sense; instead, it’s taking control and making progress.