During my senior year of college at the University of Florida, my battle with depression, which had been slowly escalating for 3 years, finally hit a breaking point. It became clear to me that if I didn't take drastic measures something terrible was going to happen. I was either going to hurt myself or snap and have a complete mental breakdown.

So one day in the middle of the spring semester I packed my few belongings, got in my car, and drove home.  This was all really sudden and confusing for my friends at school because I just didn't possess the ability to explain to them what I was dealing with internally.  I failed two of the classes I was taking, and luckily my other two professors were kind enough to let me come back a month later and sit for the final exams.

Notwithstanding the sense of failure and the embarrassment of the situation, I never questioned whether it was the right move. After my subsequent recovery from depression, I've since gone on to have 4 children with my wonderful wife and become a high school teacher. Those two facts should tell you that I am well acquainted with normal feelings of exhaustion. Despite being outnumbered at home and overworked at my job, I have never felt more depleted than at the end of my senior year at UF. Depression gets to the core of you like nothing else. My bones were saturated with fatigue. After the two hour car ride from UF to my home outside of Tampa, I walked in the door and could barely even greet my parents. I threw my belongings in the guest bedroom and collapsed onto the futon. I remember crying, but I think it was more from relief. A beautiful release of the stress that was crushing me.

It's not as though I just immediately stopped being depressed at that moment, I still had years of work ahead of me, but I definitely count it as a turning point. I know you might not enjoy the relative lack of responsibility that a college student has, or at least not be able to walk away from it like I did, but it's imperative to your healing that you drastically cut back on the stress in your life. What can you give up to allow your body and mind the space they need to heal? If you're at the point that you are a danger to yourself or others, then all responsibilities, besides taking care of family members, need to be evaluated.

Hopefully you’re catching your depression at an earlier stage than I did and won’t have to make a drastic quit-your-job kind of move.  You should still be trimming your life down to the essentials, though.  Our hectic lives only serve to feed depression.  Don’t go out so much.  Don’t offer to lead or volunteer.  You have my permission.  I officially declare that you are not a jerk for turning things down.  You’ll have plenty of time to host poker night or be the girl scouts troop leader when you’re back on your feet.

Having said that, if you are in any kind of group that involves sharing what is going on in your life and where people take an interest in you, do not stop going.  When you’re depressed, there will always be a temptation to isolate yourself further and further, but please resist it. It's not wise to do many extra activities during the week, but groups like these are well worth the stress it takes to get to them.  When you put into words what is happening to you while other people listen and genuinely care, it really does lessen the load on your shoulders.  They are able to carry it with you.

Read About Exercise →