Break The Cycle

Nate Butler
4 min readFeb 29, 2016


Chapter Two —

Nothing is more discouraging than not knowing why you feel so bad. You feel great for weeks at a time and then out of the blue life suddenly feels meaningless.

Disclaimer: I am not a mental health professional. I am an individual with experience dealing with depression, and these are some of my thoughts and a few of the things I did that help me in my situation. I recommend for anyone struggling with serious mental health issues to talk with a counselor about their situation before following any advice given by others.

Fixing things on my own is something I have always done. So inevitably when I ran into troubles with my mental health I thought I would be able to deal with them on my own. I didn’t realize at first what I was dealing with. I thought I was just a sleep-deprived design student. I thought that everyone felt so tired they could hardly get out of bed every morning, or turned in assignments late and missed classes because they couldn’t bring themselves to leave the house that day. I thought that some days feeling like life wasn’t worth it was just part of being a human being. I was wrong.

My first major experience with depression the first time I truly saw myself as a failure. I didn’t take the things I was feeling seriously until it started to affect my professional work. I was struggling keep on task, and it felt like my creativity had been drained. I scheduled a time to talk with my boss about cutting back on my responsibilities, but instead of worrying about the work she took the time to talk with me about the issues I was struggling with. She strongly recommended I find someone to talk with, a professional that could help me. I didn’t see my situation as that serious, but her personal interest in my situation stuck with me.

I followed her advice and met with someone to discuss my struggles with depression and anxiety. It felt great to talk with someone that understood the things I was struggling with; someone that wouldn’t judge for feeling bad dispite having opportunities, a good job and a great school. But what I didn’t understand was that depression isn’t something you fix overnight. I walked out of that door feeling amazing–feeling like I was ‘fixed’.

What I didn’t realize is that dealing with depression is a process, not an illness you get a few pills for and move on.

I ended up spiraling into the lowest state of my life only a few months after those first few meetings. It took time and effort, with support and encouragement from others for me to get to where I am today.

Depression is a black hole, a terrifying snowball of emotion that makes the world seem monochromatic and lifeless. And while it is terrible to live with, the most awful part is that it can strike without any notice. Anything can be a trigger, and suddenly you are back at the bottom of the well in darkness, looking up at a small spot of light somewhere far above you.

Every person’s depression is different. It’s a terrifying uniqueness that makes these feelings difficult to even talk about with others suffering with similar symptoms. This isolation itself leads to even worse symptoms as thoughts ruminate. Depression is hard to discuss as an all encompassing illness or state of mind, depending on how you want to define it.

To learn how to break the cycle we must consider what makes us feel good. A sense of accomplishment, eating good food, exercise, and varying amounts of interaction with people (depending on in one is an introvert or extrovert.) All of these are things that often make us feel good. Putting on nice clothes or going out for a walk may help when feeling down. But those are only temporary solutions. How to do we break out of this difficult and seemingly endless loop?

Here are a few things to get started:

  • Identify thought patterns. What thoughts repeat before a particularly tough spiral of depression? Thoughts about finding a job or completing work on time? Feelings of being overwhelmed by all the tasks to do? Identify if these patterns repeat over and over. This process is called rumination, and is one of the large contributing factors to relapses into depression. By identifying the thought patterns that act as triggers it is possible to stop those processes before they cause damage. Break the cycle by considering what can be controlled in a situation. Discard what cannot be controlled and focus on impacting that which can. More on rumination.
  • Accept failures. The worst thing about failure is not the failure itself, but the notion that it brings that failure is inevitable. Don’t let failures become a captor. Accept the failure and think about what caused it. Failure is the first of many steps towards success.
  • Share with others. Talk with people that are comfortable. Talk about feelings and fears, and about their experiences. Learn from those that have struggled with similar situations. Don’t be closed to those who are looking to help. Opening up can help the feeling of being alone or buried. With these feelings no longer feeling like a secret it will feel like a weight will be lifted off.
  • Set Goals, reward yourself. Find a simple goal for the day. Focus on achieving it. It doesn’t need to be grand or complex. Find something simple that can be achieved in a single day. Do that every day and the reward will be the empowering feeling of accomplishment and dedication.

The key to surviving and breaking the cycle is to move forward one step at a time. A step backwards from time to time does not invalidate progress made. Find what works and stick to it, taking things a day at a time.

Don’t worry about tomorrow, just get through today.

You are on your way to who you want to be.



Nate Butler

Designer & maker working out of the Toronto area 🇨🇦 relearning the joy of creating + radical self care · he/him 🪴