When I was in college, I was diagnosed with depression. I had suspected that I had depression as a teenager, but chalked it up to hormones and teenage angst. As I got older, things got considerably worse, and I found myself feeling sad and struggling with suicidal ideation. I sought therapy and medication in my early 20s, and it helped a bit, but I had no idea how to deal with the depression day to day. I found myself feeling overwhelmingly sad and stressed out all the time.
I didn't grow up discussing my mental health, so I felt a lot of shame about my diagnosis. I tried to keep it a secret from my friends and family out of fear that they would think I was being dramatic. I'm extremely close to my family, though, and my parents noticed. My dad would check in with me often, and during one of these conversations, he gave me advice that I've hung on to ever since.
One afternoon, he stopped by my house and could tell that I was struggling. I listed out all of the things that were bringing me down: I was worried that I couldn't handle doing all of my school work while getting good grades. My job was stressful. I had a disagreement with a close friend. I was struggling in a long-term relationship that needed to end. All of this, on top of my depression, felt like a lot to deal with — and because I was so young and experiencing adulthood for the first time, I didn't know what to do. I hadn't quite struck a balance with therapy and medication yet, either, and in my darkest moments, I feared that living would always mean feeling this sad and disconnected.
As I cried and shared, my dad said something that I will always remember: "Take the long view."
As I cried and shared, my dad said something that I will always remember: "Take the long view." It sounds simple, but as he explained further, it really helped. Taking the long view meant realizing that while the school work felt like a big deal now, it wouldn't matter in a few weeks. The job I had wasn't my favorite, but in a year, I would be done with college and I'd move on to something else. My relationship may not be going well, but it wouldn't stay that way forever — I could stay or leave it, and either would be OK after some time. The rift in my friendship would also eventually be resolved.
While everything felt overwhelming in the moment, all of it was temporary. Even the depression wouldn't be this bad forever. Taking the long view meant that I should look at life from the perspective of how things would feel in a few weeks, months, or years, rather than how it felt then.
While this advice hasn't "fixed" everything, it has stuck with me and helped me through other serious issues, as well as minor annoyances. When I feel depressed or anxious, I remind myself to take the long view: things may be terrible or feel sad, but it will get better. In my now-marriage, when I feel irritated or frustrated, I ask myself if the thing I feel annoyed about will matter in a few days or weeks. Taking the long view reminds me that while it may be tempting to fight to be right or to make a point, I'm in this forever so it's not worth the temporary "win."
Taking the long view means understanding that circumstances and feelings always change. In that way, it also serves as a reminder to really enjoy things when they're good — because those things will fade away, too. While that sounds a bit depressing, it helps me to feel grateful in the moment.
My dad probably didn't know how much his advice would mean to me, or how it would shape the course of my life. Not only did it help see me through one of the most challenging times of my life, but it also helps me all the time in so many situations. I'm always grateful for my dad and his words of wisdom — and this is no exception. Take the long view. It could change your life. It saved mine.
If you or a loved one are in need of any help, the National Suicide Prevention organization has several resources and a 24/7 lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.