• Depression is a common mental health problem that can be debilitating

  • Author Andy Salkeld shares the five things that have helped him at times he has been depressed, including seeing a therapist

  • Our therapists and counsellors can support you through depression – start your search here

Depression. Mental health. All of it. It’s so deeply personal and so complex that it’s hard to understand what is really happening. What works for some doesn’t work for others. What works for others may never work for ourselves. All we really have to go on to help address depression are the stories told by others, and somewhat limited understanding of brain chemistry and human physiology.

It’s certainly not a great starting point! That’s why I share my story so openly and without fear. I share it in the hope and belief that it could help others.

My story with depression starts around five or six years ago, although looking back depression has probably been a part of my life for much longer. It manifested itself differently over the years, but if I consider it with an honest view, it was probably always depression. Here are the five things that have helped me cope.

1) Getting a diagnosis

Being diagnosed with depression by my doctor was actually the first thing, and maybe the most important thing, that helps me cope with it. Knowing that how I was feeling, what I was struggling with and that there was something behind it allowed me to answer the biggest worry of them all: why. Knowing that there was a cause, even if I didn’t fully understand it, allowed me to begin the healing process.

2) Medication

With a diagnosis also came medication. At first, I was scared. These things are designed to work on your mind. That’s where the ‘problem’ is after all isn’t it. What if they change it in unexpected ways? What if they change who I am? What if I lose part of me? But medication does help me and knowing I’m medicated helps me cope.

I have been on citalopram, sertraline and mirtazapine during my time living with depression. All have had differing effects at different times. Some have been harder on me. Others have been kinder to me. All have helped. Why? Mostly because I know that they are designed to help. I love science. These are chemicals and compounds created for a purpose. They come from science and in science I trust.

3) Going to weekly therapy

About a year or so after I received my diagnosis, I was in a bad place with work and with my home life. Nothing really felt right anymore. I was struggling. It was at that point I took a leap of faith. I reached out to a counsellor. I knew I needed help, but I was too close, too distant, or too detached to reach out to those I knew. I needed to speak to someone outside my life.

That decision, that leap of faith, was the best decision I ever made in my life. I speak to my therapist, my friend (although they can’t say that!), almost every week. I have grown and changed throughout the journey to now and they have been there constantly and without question. Knowing I have a session every Friday helps me cope every day, no matter how bad that day might be.

Finally, and this is two things that are one and the same, yet completely opposite, is I finally understand and accept permanence and transience.

4) Understanding transience

Transience is knowing that whatever I’m feeling and experiencing one day may not be the same tomorrow. It might be! But nothing is life is certain. Seeing another day gives hope even in the worst of times. I also find comfort knowing that we ourselves are transient. We live. We die. However, what we leave behind is in-transient. We can have a bigger impact than just our lifetimes. Whilst I have accepted my own life and mortality, I know that I can leave what I have learned behind to others and that gives me hope that others may learn and not struggle in the ways I have done.

5) Understanding permanence

Permanence is what keeps me going day-to-day. My permanence is my little black kitten called Pika – yes, she’s named after a Pokémon! Every day I wake up to her playing on my bed, trying to get me to feed her. Every day I sit down, and she comes and sits with me. I also find permanence in my friends and my family. Speaking to them. Visiting them. Those permanent obligations and points in life bring purpose when it can all feel uncomfortable and consuming.

Not everyone will think like I do. Not everyone will feel the things I do. All I can do is share what help me live with depression. I have accepted it as part of my life for now and for as long as it is here. It may never go, and I have accepted that too.

I would urge you not to cope, but to accept, and in the acceptance, find peace.

Andy Salkeld is the author of Life is a Four-Letter Word: A Mental Health Survival Guide for Professionals

Further reading

My journey with OCD, anxiety and depression

EMDR therapy transformed my life

How does acceptance and commitment therapy work?

My journey with therapy and chronic depression

My 3 therapy sessions that changed everything