The Number One Book I Recommend on Living with Depression

by - January 29, 2018

My sister once told me that living with depression is all about trying new things and sticking with what works, and over the years that has proven true. Books on positive psychology were often my favorite resource to find new tips and tools. However, a year ago I came across one book that forever changed the way I viewed depression. 

For many years, I had an unhealthy relationship with depression. (Depression made me have unhealthy relationships with others, but I also had an unhealthy relationship with IT.) I denied it. I tried to ignore it. Maybe if I pretended it didn’t exist it would go away (like the dishes in my sink right now.) I hated it, yet I listened to its lies. I gave into its dark spiral. And for years, I didn’t think I would ever really be able to have a good relationship with it. I didn’t think I needed to or even could.

I was reading some article on living with depression, and it recommended this book. I clicked on the link and purchased the ebook, thinking I needed all the help I could get, so it was worth a shot. Best book purchase of my life. 

This book isn’t great just because of the advice the author, Julie A. Fast, gives (which is stellar), but rather because the book is born from her own experiences with depression. While I believe in seeking professional help, as does Fast, I also believe in connecting with others who have depression. It’s one thing to tell a stranger how you feel-it’s another to have a conversation with someone who knows exactly how you feel. Although well-meaning people often try to relate, they often miss the mark, making you feel like they are belittling your pain. But a trusted loved one who has been in your shoes and can truly empathize is invaluable. And reading this book comes pretty close. I may not be friends with the author, but I could feel her striving to make a connection through the pages. She also provides helpful exercises, shares stories from others, and includes snippets of the science of depression from John D. Preston PsyD. 

As I read through Fast's fifty strategies to deal with depression, I mentally separated them into two groups. One: ways to take charge of your life despite dealing with depression and two: ways to learn about, understand, and accept depression. I summarized a few of my favorite parts below:

My favorite take charge tips: 
  1. Don’t wait until you feel like doing things, because with depression you seldom feel like doing things. Most days, I don’t feel like getting up, getting dressed, and going out the door. But I do it anyway. I don’t think I’ve ever regretted a day that I chose to go somewhere or do something even though I was feeling depressed. And you will feel depressed. You can let that stop you completely, or you can give it your best, whatever that looks like for you that day. 
  2. Discipline yourself. Yes, depression makes your life hard. What are you going to do about that? 
  3. "Talk back to depression.” (Strategy #16) This is something that my therapist often tells me to do. You might feel a bit stupid, but it’s worth it. Tell depression who’s boss. This is your life. You run this show. 
  4. Manage your time. She gives many tips on this subject, but I think the overall theme is to give yourself structure. When I’m depressed, I lose track of time, but if I give myself at least one thing to do or place to be a day, it helps me not to get to disoriented and discover that three days have gone by and I’ve barely left the couch. 
  5. Get professional help. Therapy. Medication. Talk to your doctor. When your body is sick, you go to the doctor. Your mind is not feeling well, so go to the doctor. 
  6. Eat well, exercise, and get good sleep. These are safety nets that help curb the effects of depression. Even if your mind is struggling, give it a boost from a healthy body. 
My favorite acceptance tips: 
  1. "Remind yourself that you’re depressed." (Strategy #8) When you feel awful, like there is something inherently wrong with you, remind yourself that you have depression. While that sucks, at least you know you’re not crazy. There’s something wrong, but there’s nothing wrong with you
  2. You’re going to have a hard time. You will be uncomfortable mentally and physically. You’ll struggle to focus. You’ll cry. Life will be hard. Better to know than be ignorant of reality. 
  3. Know when it’s depression talking (READ: lying) to you. Depression tells you all kinds of nasty things about yourself. Not everyone has great self-esteem, but there is always a difference between the terrible things depression tells you, and the way you talk to and about yourself. 
  4. Know the difference between when you are depressed and not depressed (self-esteem, anxiety, etc.) know your baselines
  5. "Accept the limitations caused by depression."(Strategy #44) Maybe if you didn’t have depression, you would be a star athlete, a celebrity, a renowned scientist, a reputable artist. But you do have depression. If you know your limits, you can work with and around them. It’s not about what you have-it’s about what you do with what you have. 
  6. Be realistic and patient. Rome wasn’t built in a day, neither will your sanity be. 
This book taught me that I needed to accept depression, but to also take charge of it. Instead of letting myself stew in anger at depression, I’m learning to deal with it constructively. I have a myriad of things I need to work on (especially managing my time and sleeping well), but I’m grateful to have this book as a compass to navigate the dark and treacherous waters.

Stay amiable!

*Book links are through Amazon Affiliates. At no cost to you, I sometimes make a small commission on what you purchase through these links. It helps keep this blog up and running (and me sane). All links would be made regardless of receiving commission. 

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