A few years back I had the privilege of walking alongside someone who was dealing with depression. For privacy reasons, I won't reveal her name. However, I can tell you that at the time she was a young (21 years old), beautiful, creative, brave, vibrant woman who had been struggling with major depression since her early high school days.
The reason I share this journey with you isn't to tell her story – that's for her to tell – but to empower others who live with depression that there's always help. You just need to know how to ask for it and where to look.
My role as a life coach is to empower people to make the change they want to see in their own lives. However, not everyone is suited to life coaching as it requires being able to handle changes and the consequences of such changes.
For some people, especially those living with depression, change is a frightening prospect and one to be respected. However, if properly managed and under the right supervision. people living with depression can enjoy the life coaching experience while growing and developing into the people they want to be.
The Life Coach Perspective
I write this story from a life coach’s perspective. In our training, we're taught that it's not our job to fix people. Everyone already has the resources available within them – they just need to know how to tap into this powerful source.
We're also taught that every prospective client that approaches us for life coaching needs to be informed that we're life coaches, not counselors or psychologists. With that being said, many counselors and psychologists are incorporating the principles of life coaching into their own practices (which I find extremely exciting!)
If we suspect or are told that our client is dealing with depression, it's our responsibility to recommend that person seek the right help from those who are trained with the relevant skills and knowledge.
I have worked with many clients who do have depression but are on medication, have had the necessary assistance from trained mental health practitioners, and now feel that they're in control of their depression and ready to tackle some new changes in their lives.
At this point, I always insist that my client informs their counselor or psychologist that they're undergoing a life coaching program. This way my client can benefit from both practices, getting all the necessary support they need while dealing with change.
How Life Coaching Tools Can Support Depression
Getting back to the young woman and her journey, let me share now why this woman’s particular journey has been so meaningful for me. At the peak of her depression, she got desperate after having yet another “emotional meltdown.”
Many people around her didn’t know how to deal with it, telling her to “snap out of it” and “stop being so dramatic”. Fortunately, she remembered someone who had a similar breakdown and had booked himself into a local mental health clinic. After speaking to him and finding out about his own personal experience she took the plunge.
She took the big, brave step (despite the naysayers around her) and booked herself into the same clinic. Now, most of us have the conventional image of rehab – a place where looneys go, are strapped into a straitjacket, and then left to walk around mumbling crazy thoughts while jittering from electric shock treatments (I am being a bit extreme here but be honest – who doesn’t initially think this when someone says they are going into rehab?)
And, guess what? When I visited this young woman one evening I even asked her what she and the other “inmates” do for entertainment in the evenings! Cringe moment. At least she saw the funny side of it!
From the start, she was only met with love and a genuine desire from every staff member in the clinic to get her back on track. This is the part where I really get so excited. As she told me about the tools they were being taught, so many of them resonated with the tools I use in life coaching – exploring your values, understanding how your beliefs serve or don’t serve you, discovering your purpose, and mindfulness.
Wow! Those who know me know how strongly I feel about everyone being equipped with such valuable life skills. If only every young adult was exposed to these tools and skills early on in life. I even say every new parent should do a life coaching program so they are equipped with better parenting skills.
It is apparent from the approach of the mental health professionals in this clinic, that their intention isn't only focused on what went wrong in the past but to empower their patients with practical solutions to living with depression in the “real” world.
They go as far as equipping those close to the patients with valuable tools while explaining that depression is a disease and that no one chooses to have it.
The Outcome of This Particular Story...
As this young woman prepared to leave the clinic after three weeks of being "inside" (another joke we shared!), she felt she was adequately equipped with tools and understanding to help her cope with living with depression.
Naturally, she was frightened about returning to the "real world". It was, by no means, an easy journey for her and I am sure there were days when she despaired. In fact, she spiraled downwards very quickly after leaving rehab, and fortunately, her mental health practitioner stepped in with further support and help.
She was constantly reminded of all the practical knowledge she had been made aware of and how to apply it. She was continuously told to focus on all the resources she had available to her - within and without. She also knows now that she isn't alone on this journey and there is help out there if she ever needs it.
This young woman is now 26 years old. For the past four years, she's been teaching in Beijing - no easy feat considering most of her time spent there was done under lockdown. She's come a long way from the day she booked herself into rehab. She's still exploring all there is to life and reminds herself, over and over again, she's "got this".
I am sure there are days when she returns to those moments of despair but she's equipped with the right tools and skills to keep her moving forward.
Depression is Not an Easy Journey
Having experienced this person's personal journey with depression has opened my eyes to what it must feel like to be in the dark and wondering if there's ever a bright light out there. Over the years, I've met many people living with depression, and I have huge respect for what they're experiencing.
Living with depression isn't an easy journey. But, it's possible to live with it constructively and even overcome it when you decide to take responsibility for your own actions and consequences. It's about finding the right and best help for you and taking advantage of all the tools available while learning new coping skills.
I wish more people could be made aware of the valuable tools and resources that are out there to assist them on this precarious journey called Life. I wish the tools of the trade such as those used in life coaching were made available to all our youngsters.
I would love to see life coaching being incorporated into high schools as a compulsory subject. How empowering would that be? In the meantime, I continue to offer them to those who seek them out. And, I urge anyone living with depression to get the help they need. You're not alone.
This post was updated on May 24th, 2023.