I remember very clearly the moment I knew I needed to admit out loud that I was suffering from depression and required help. It was last year on my birthday, and I had a complete meltdown. My husband and children were downstairs, oblivious to what was happening up in the master bathroom. I had just gotten dressed and, as I looked in the mirror while brushing my hair, I realized I didn’t recognize the woman looking back at me. Who was this woman who’d become so lost, angry and irritable? I crumpled onto the floor into a blubbering mess. It was a while before my husband came upstairs to find me weeping on our bathroom floor.

I was supposed to go to work the next day, but just the thought of leaving the house and putting on a brave face for all my coworkers was too much to handle. Instead, I made a call to my family doctor and requested to see her that day. I had been feeling depressed for months and it was time to do something about it. I knew I’d already let it go on for too long. The charade of acting like I was fine, going about my life like everything was okay was physically, mentally and emotionally exhausting. And the thoughts I was having scared me; it had actually crossed my mind to just walk out the door and leave my family. I didn’t want to burden them anymore with this bitter woman I was turning into. I had been taking out my darkness on them and it wasn’t fair.

If you are experiencing symptoms of depression, I hope this will help. Here are some important things I’ve learned along my journey so far…

Admitting out loud that I needed help, although incredibly difficult, was therapeutic in itself

This was the first important lesson I learned. Suffering alone is toxic and nobody should ever have to. I am grateful to have a supportive family doctor and was lucky to find a therapist I felt comfortable with to open up to, and who helped put some things in perspective for me. She also gave me some guidance for steps I could take to help cope with my depression.

Being open-minded is key to coping

This doesn’t come easy and takes practice, but I’ve learned that by being willing to try different coping methods I have a better chance of making positive changes in my life. When my doctor spoke to me about taking antidepressants I was reluctant at first and worried about the effect the pills would have on me. But by being properly informed, given the right dosage, and using other ways to cope along with my prescription, I now see taking antidepressants in a more positive light.

What works for one person may not work for you (and vice versa)

Don’t feel discouraged if you try something to help manage your depression and it doesn’t work. This isn’t a one-size-fits-all scenario. Keep going and try something else. It may require trying a combination of things to find the right fit. For me, it’s my meds, yoga, mindfulness, writing and having someone to talk to (having family and friends that I trust to confide in, without judgment, is really helpful). Be kind, gentle and patient with yourself. Things won’t change overnight and you will have to endure a bit of trial and error before you find the right combination to help you through your struggle. Keep going until you do, because you are worth it.

Support is vital

I cannot stress enough the importance of having a good support system around you. Having people in my life who lift me up, encourage me to believe in myself and love me unconditionally has played a large part in my journey with depression. On bad days when I just don’t want to face the world and hide in bed, my family gives me the motivation to try. I am grateful to the friends who check on me, and to the strangers who’ve read my blogs or social media posts where I’ve opened up about battling depression and have sent me kind messages of love and support. All of it helps remind me that I can get through this.

You are not alone!

Don’t feel ashamed or scared to share with others about your mental health. Speak up! We need to end the stigma surrounding anxiety, depression and other mental health issues. I was terrified the first time I decided to write a blog post about it and publish it for the world to see, but there were two amazing things that came out of the experience. The first is that sharing my story felt therapeutic and freeing. Putting my words out there, so honest and raw, took a weight off of me. I truly feel speaking (and writing) openly about battling depression has helped me. I understand that going quite so public with this part of you might not be very comfortable, so if you can find a more private way to do so, perhaps in a support group, I encourage it. The second thing that happened is that by speaking up and being honest about my depression I became connected to others who are struggling. Receiving messages from people who thanked me for my honesty and said that my words helped them has really touched my heart.

On my journey to getting help for myself, the desire to help others has emerged. Connecting with people who know what I’m going through has brought me a sense of peace. I am comforted by the knowledge that someone else knows what it feels like to experience the depth of sadness, despair, anger, and frustration I’ve encountered. This is why I’ve become so open on my blog and social media about struggling with depression. My hope is that my story reaches someone who needs to read it; to help others feel less alone and maybe, just maybe, help end the stigma behind mental illness.

I want to end on this final note: if you are struggling and could use someone to chat with, I am happy to connect. Find me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or message me through my webpage, www.mamaatheart.com.

Jennifer Traynor is a mother of two kids living in the suburbs east of Toronto, Ontario, and recently certified to teach kids yoga. When she’s not working or spending time with her kids you can find her sitting in lotus pose on her yoga mat, sitting snuggled on the couch with her husband catching up on favourite TV shows, or sitting with her laptop writing and editing her blog Mama@Heart. You can also like and follow her on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.