Can I Heal from Depression on My Own?

Dear GoodTherapy.org,

Before you say it, yes, I know it’s not ideal or advisable to try to recover from depression on my own. But I also know I’m not alone in wanting to. It just feels like there are no other options. I don’t currently have insurance, and I’m not sure I want to try medication. Even if I did, I would have to make appointments for consultations I just don’t have the time or resources for.

I have very little energy, not much money, and very little will to even make an effort, if I’m being totally honest. But if I were to find the motivation, is there anything I can try at home that would help? I’ve read that exercise can ease depression, but that sounds like an insurmountable goal right now. Are there “baby steps” to coping with depression for those of us unable or unready to make huge changes? And more importantly, will they actually work? —No Easy Fix

Dear No Easy Fix,

This is a great question. People seeking mental health treatment often confront numerous financial and logistical obstacles to receiving care. The symptoms of depression themselves—loss of energy, lack of motivation, and hopelessness—may also stand in the way of finding treatment. While there is no substitute for partnering with a trained therapist, there may be other options if treatment truly isn’t a possibility for you.

You mention the idea of “baby steps” in your attempts to cope with depression, and that seems like a great approach. No matter what form of self-care you choose, commit to doing things that seem productive, but that are also small enough to be doable. Then build on these small accomplishments. Take exercise, for example. Try a walk around the block, and if that seems like too much, try a walk to the end of the street and back. Choose a starting point that feels right to you and try to do it every day. If you miss a day, don’t beat yourself up. Just get back to it the next day. Once that feels a bit easier, make the walk a little longer or try a different form of exercise that you might enjoy.

You mention the idea of “baby steps” in your attempts to cope with depression, and that seems like a great approach. No matter what form of self-care you choose, commit to doing things that seem productive, but that are also small enough to be doable. Then build on these small accomplishments.

Journaling can also be a valuable therapeutic tool. Write about the thoughts and feelings that trouble you. Write about your disappointments and fears. Write about your deepest-held wishes and dreams. Write about your life growing up—your family, your friends, your memories, both good and bad. Read over your journal and try to uncover connections and patterns. Try to tap into and replicate the positive connections and patterns and strategize ways of avoiding the negative ones.

Engage in some bibliotherapy. Read self-help books or articles that are relevant to the issues you are struggling with. Be sure, however, to stick with literature that is written by qualified professionals who are licensed in their fields. Non-professionals have contributed great works to the self-help field, but it may be difficult to vet the authors on your own. If you won’t be working with a therapist who can confirm the quality of your sources, it might be best to stick to professionally authored material.

Finally, consider enlisting the support of some trusted family members and/or friends. Let them know what you are going through and ask them to be there for you if you request their support. It might also be a good idea to ask that they check on you from time to time in order to guard against some of the social withdrawal and isolation that can be present with depression.

If you try some or all of the aforementioned strategies and you do not experience marked improvement, it doesn’t mean it’s hopeless. It might just mean you are struggling with more than mild depression and that formal treatment is necessary. A lot of therapists and clinics will work with people on a sliding scale or for a low fee. Some employers offer employee assistance programs (EAPs) that provide a few free therapy sessions. If you’re a student, colleges and universities usually have counseling centers for students. Participating in a therapy group can also keep costs down—groups are generally cheaper than individual therapy. There are also distance/phone/online therapy platforms cropping up. Just make sure the therapist is licensed and the platform is HIPAA compliant.

While you questioned your will in your note, you did take the time to find this site and write in, so you may have more will to work on this than you realize. I hope you find the healing you are seeking.

Kindly,

Sarah

Sarah Noel
Sarah Noel, MS, LMHC is a licensed psychotherapist living and working in Brooklyn, New York. She specializes in working with people who are struggling through depression, anxiety, trauma, and major life transitions. She approaches her work from a person-centered perspective, always acknowledging the people she works with as experts on themselves. She is honored and humbled on a daily basis to be able to partner with people at such critical points in their unique journeys.
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  • Beatrix

    Beatrix

    September 9th, 2016 at 1:49 PM

    I understand that money is a concern and this can be a pretty expensive treatment to undertake but you are investing in your overall health and wellness! This is not something that you should even have to consider going through alone. There are numerous resources available to you throughout your community and online that can make seeking and even affording help easier than ever before. I would at least encourage you to talk to another person about the thoughts and feelings that you have so that you have someone to turn to when the going gets tough.

  • mia

    mia

    September 12th, 2016 at 2:46 PM

    How would that be possible? It’s not like you can just talk yourself out of being depressed.

  • Simon

    Simon

    September 13th, 2016 at 10:23 AM

    You may have decided that working with a therapist one on one is not the right choice for you but I do encourage you to look into some other resources that would be available to you. There is much reading material that you may want to consider.

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