Living with major depressive disorder (MDD) can feel very isolating at times. You may think you have nobody to turn to because nobody understands. Or, you may feel lost and unsure of how to find the road to healing.

MDD is unpredictable, but it’s manageable. Below are six inspiring people living with MDD. Reading their stories can help you to feel less alone and guide you on your journey.

René Brooks, 33 - Diagnosed in 2010

My depressive episodes can come without warning. They make me unhappy, despondent, and unable to get out of bed. I feel like a shell of my usual self. Some people think I’m lazy, some think I live in a world of self-pity, and others think I’m making it up. But I’m not.

You have to be patient and not allow the pressure to be “normal” get to you. Your version of normal may be different from someone else’s, and that’s OK. It’s frustrating, but don’t blame yourself if the depression comes back unexpectedly.

Little by little, I’m learning to be OK with who I am. Part of the reason I started Black Girl, Lost Keys was to give a voice to the frustration I felt and help others feel less isolated.

Jaime M. Sanders, 39 - Diagnosed in 2004

Even though I manage it with medication, living with MDD is challenging. I experience flare-ups that seem to come out of nowhere. The negative voice in my head can be extremely loud. If I give into negative thoughts, I’ll fall into darkness.

I surround myself with as much positivity as I can. When I need a mental health day, I’ll meditate or go out and get some sun. On challenging days, I’ll immerse myself in my favorite trilogy, “The Lord of the Rings,” to distract myself from the nonsense going on in my head.

You are not your mental illness. When I was first diagnosed, I didn’t think I was worthy of love or had any value. Now I know that I am, and that’s a beautiful thing.

D. Doug Mains, 30 - Diagnosed in 2016

There is no quick remedy for MDD. Treating MDD effectively requires medication, therapy, and making smart lifestyle choices. For me, it means keeping my closet clean, playing crossword puzzles, and being open to new hobbies and practices. I try to be proactive by having a healthy routine.

Still, there are days I’m unable to fight. When I’m feeling weak and worthless, I lean on those closest to me. Their love and support is my secret weapon when I can’t fight for myself.

Jp Leet, 45 - Diagnosed in 2009

Living with depression feels like I’m in solitary confinement, with loudspeakers telling me I’m worthless all day long. The only time the speakers turn off is when I’m sleeping. The only way I can sleep is with medication.

On the toughest days, I try to remind myself that a path to wellness is out there, I just haven’t found it yet. Putting what I'm feeling into words helps me feel grounded. Personally, I enjoy blogging or podcasting.

When I was first diagnosed with MDD, I thought I would have to carry the burden alone. How could anyone ever love me? Now, I’m amazed by the size of the mental health community. There are so many people who want to help you. I wish I had found them earlier.

Fiona Thomas, 31 - Diagnosed in 2012

Sometimes I'll go a few months feeling absolutely fine. I'll start to question if my illness is even real. And when I least expect it, my depression comes creeping back. Stress is a major trigger for me. When I’m very busy at work, I’ll fall into a sad mood. Since I run my own business, it can be very difficult to manage.

I’ve spent the last few years practicing self-love. When your living with depression, self-love takes a lot of commitment. For me, getting through the hard days means forcing myself to slow down, rest up, eat well, and go for a walk outside.

Managing MDD is an ongoing process. You have to accept your condition so that you can learn how to adapt to it and feel well. Talking about your depression also helps. Sharing my feelings on social media and in blog posts has been such a helpful outlet for me.

Tamiko Arbuckle, 51 - Diagnosed in 1993

It’s like I’ve had this dark cloud over my head for nearly half my life. Some days, it’s a white, puffy cloud in a bright blue sky. Other days, the cloud is a very dark gray. When I was first diagnosed with MDD, I had no idea what I was facing. I think that if I had tracked my mood and kept a gratitude journal in the beginning, it would have made a big difference. I keep a bullet journal now, and when I read it over, I see how awesome my life is.

Living with depression is not easy. I work hard to take care of myself and surround myself with love, creativity, and laughter. My depression can show up without a warning. How I respond to it makes a world of difference. When I start to spiral down, it’s up to me to turn things around.

I am very blessed. I have the most loving family and friends a girl could ask for. Depression is not going to stop me from living and enjoying my life!