Some things in life just have to get done — whether you’re depressed or not. This is what I’ve learned while coping with that.
One of the cruelest realities of life with depression is that while you’re suffering, the world doesn’t stop moving all around you. People still expect you to do the things that you say you will do. The first struggle of “adulting” is when you can barely manage basic, daily things to take care of yourself — things that feel like everyone does without giving it much thought.
But depressed or not, you still have to keep up with the pace of this world going on all around you.
And it may scare the hell out of you.
For example, you have to bathe, brush your teeth, and comb your hair. You likely have to stumble into some respectable clothing and make your way to a job or some other obligation. Life becomes a series of expectations that you may feel entirely unprepared for.
In addition to going to your job, you probably have bills to pay. The electric company, your internet provider, and the cable, and they don’t care that you’re depressed. You also have to make sure that the funds are in your bank account so that you can pay your bills on time. Otherwise, all of your utilities may be shut off, and you’ll be literally left in the dark.
The pressures of “adulting” only make this life with depression harder and more painful to cope with. I call these things the “have tos” — a list of tasks that have to get done every day, whether I’m depressed or not.
I didn’t realize how good I had it when I was a depressed teen in high school. Sure, I had to go to school as much as I could and complete my assignments, but my mom took care of all the “adulting,” and the responsibilities almost always fell on her.
When I moved out and went to college for the first time, I got a taste — now that I was considered an adult — of all the things I simply had to do. Depressed or not, my FAFSA had to be completed so I could get my financial aid each year. I had to pay my tuition and make sure I had enough money for books and supplies, too.
But college is a unique experience because, while you do have an increased set of responsibilities, you aren’t entirely in control of your own life. I was fortunate to know that my parents were there to back me up if I was broke and needed more money. I was able to live a lifestyle where I spent my days going to classes and therapy sessions without the stress of keeping a boss satisfied with my work in a full-time job.
It can be exciting to take on this role of being an “adult” and scary at the same time. I remember when my physics teacher signed my high school yearbook saying that I was finally “becoming an adult.” At the time, I thought that was a strange thing to say, and I didn’t really give it much thought. Now, it makes a lot of sense.
And when adulthood meets depression, it’s important to understand that the “real world” has a whole set of expectations for each of us, regardless of your mental health.
I think that the most important way to manage this sudden developmental crisis is to acknowledge the increase in responsibility without allowing yourself to become too overwhelmed. When I’m depressed, that’s easier said than done, and I will need to rely on the organizational skills I’ve developed to stay focused on what needs to be accomplished each day.
This means that I’ll need to practice a healthy dose of self-care and be very kind to myself and with my expectations of what I can handle on a daily basis.
I’m big on staying organized and rewarding myself for “adulting.” So, when I pay all my bills for the week or get out of bed at the appointed hour so I can make it to work on time, I acknowledge all that I’m doing for myself and reward myself accordingly. This can look like treating myself to a favorite meal or indulging in a favorite movie or TV show.
Another way to manage this daily burden of “adulting” is to make sure that I have the support I need. For example, I see a therapist on a weekly basis to process what has been difficult for me and how I need to adjust my expectations for myself.
Therapy is one of the best gifts you can give yourself when you’re dealing with depression or a mood disorder. It helps to take that step back and troubleshoot how you’re meeting your obligations and the ways that you might do things differently.
Sessions with my therapist also allow me to talk through how to work out some scary or overwhelming tasks in the week ahead. These meetings are invaluable to my mental health and help me cope with the “adulting” aspects of depression.
It’s definitely a satisfying feeling when I can be in control of my own life and accomplish the goals that I have set for myself. “Adulting” is also a way of organizing my life in a meaningful way that makes sense to me. It’s about being responsible when I’m depressed and just want to stay in bed. It’s doing things that scare me, even if they scare me, just because I have to. Successfully “adulting” is a highly rewarding experience in and of itself.
You won’t be able to successfully “adult” overnight. But small steps in the right direction will surely get you closer to where you need to be.
When you’re dealing with depression, these small victories will help you feel more confident in your own abilities to successfully manage overwhelming mood swings and mental states. These experiences are invaluable.
And when they accumulate over the years, they can give you the confidence you need to wake up in the morning and take care of what needs to get done — even if just creeping out of your bed feels impossible.
Medically reviewed on March 20, 2023
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