It can be challenging to connect with the world when you’re living with depression. Research suggests that people who are managing depression symptoms may struggle with their relationships. On the flipside, quality of relationships has also been linked to depression risk.
As a result, I wanted to explore the link between mental health and our ability to connect. I quit social media recently to focus on my mental health and spend more time in-person with the people in my life.
I also asked members of The One Project’s mental health apps to share photos and stories that reflect the challenges of connecting with the world, despite depression. One key theme came through in the stories: The weather and the change in season often present added difficulties.
Here are just a few examples of how The One Project’s members connect with the world despite depression.
Braving the outside
Living with depression
The dark shadow that arrives frequently is like the world is suddenly closing down.
Like a winter cold, it often shows up in autumn and forces you to fight harder.
I had severe episodes frequently until I found extreme ways of controlling them.
I've been in suicide watch often, but now I am living a different life.
They still come as before, but now I give myself permission to slow down.
I learned that if I have to rest a bit, I still have a huge amount of value.
If self-care has flown out of the window a bit, I force myself outside. Face the world and people.
If I am quiet, it doesn't matter.
If I am inside the fog,
It doesn't matter.
I don't feel like going out.
I force myself.
Take that bike and swish around.
Get muddy and cold.
I know when I get back, I feel a bit better.
Every day is like a Groundhog Day.
Remember the film?
I exercise when I can drag myself out of the door. I am determined to do so every day.
Next morning, it's a brain reset back to “I can't,”
“I don't want to,”
“Let me be in bed,”
And then I scream to myself to get myself out.
I feel better
Until next morning comes.
I've been depression-free now for one year.
— Riitta Toro
Finding the light in darkness
I’ve been slipping badly. I’m not in danger, but I’m definitely not where I was midsummer.
Recently we had a snowstorm. Those aren’t terribly unusual for Canada, especially where I live. This was one for the history books. Literally nothing like it on record in terms of damage.
It’s very early to have significant snowfall. The weight of the snow downed hundreds of trees, which pulled down power lines. The wind did significant damage to the power grid. Thousands were without electricity. That means no heat. Temperatures hovered around the freezing mark.
Because it was such an early storm, many of the farmers still had crops standing in the fields. That’s loss of income. Agriculture is a massive part of the economy here. That will have ripple effects for quite some time.
September was unusually wet, rainy, and overcast. We usually get about 45 millimeters (1.8 inches) of rain. This year? 145 millimeters (5.7 inches).
All these events slowly but surely wore away at my mental and emotional state. Other circumstances in my life had brought uncertainty and changes and unexpected twists.
I attempted photography a few times. It was frustrating. Nothing but overcast skies. Shooting anything outdoors these days is challenging. It typically results in a drab image in front of a featureless, blown-out sky.
But yesterday I took a walk with my camera. Fall is here. The storm wiped out a lot of the leaves and the wonderful golds and reds and oranges of autumn. I still wanted to make the best of it. I took a walking path that winds through trees and bush.
I hoped to capture something colorful. Anything, really.
I didn’t keep many of the pictures I took. Some were due to camera shake (cold hands). Some were due to blown-out highlights. But this was one I liked. The pop of red against the crystalized snow caught my eye.
I could look at the snow and complain it’s too early. I could grumble about the damp chill we’re left with. And I have. A lot!
I also try to shift my perspective. There’s beauty out there, too. Maybe not where you expect it.
On a more somber note, it’s a reminder that life is frail. It’s so incredibly finite, despite what we tell ourselves. Very little in life is guaranteed.
In between the storms and the challenges, the drab days and the shadows, remember:
There is color.
There is hope.
There is light.
— Andrew Penner
Empowered by friends
I went for a walk with my friends to watch the sunrise. I just stood there and asked to have this picture taken.
I felt confident. That rarely happens.
In the end, I got an image that reflects exactly how I feel in good times. That's fine.
Maybe we all need to find that picture of ourselves that makes us excited and inspired in the worst moments. Only we can convince ourselves of how important we are.
Deseo de todo corazón que puedas darte la oportunidad de saberte hermoso (a), importante y necesario en esta vida.
— Majo Hernández
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How to connect with your world
Depression can make you feel tired, empty, and hopeless. This can make it hard to get out of bed in the morning. You may feel hesitant or resistant to reach out and connect with others.
It sometimes feels automatic or inevitable to hide when you’re struggling, but there are ways out. Help is available.
Online communities and support groups can be a great source of support if you have depression. Especially if your closest friends aren’t local.
Sometimes just getting outdoors into nature is one of the best ways to reconnect with the world, others, and yourself.
And please reach out for professional help if you haven’t already or if your symptoms are severe.
We often see depression expressed in black and white photos. Sometimes our mind can fall into those simple extreme binaries.
However, as Andrew mentioned above, there is color, there is hope, and there is light.
If you’re experiencing depression, help is available. Organizations such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness offer support groups, education, and other resources to help fight depression and other mental illnesses.
For more information on how to manage depression, reach out to your doctor or healthcare team.
NPS-US-NP-00621 APRIL 2020
Teo AR, et al. (2013). Social relationships and depression: Ten-year follow-up from a nationally representative study. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0062396