Mental Notes with Hilary Valdez: Coping with depression

Mental Notes with Hilary Valdez: Coping with depression

by Hilary Valdez
Stripes Okinawa

Are we frustrated with the COVID-19 consequences? The restrictions of movement, isolation, and separation from our family and friends can be very frustrating. Add the trauma of losing a loved one, a job or facing financial hardship— they all lead to stress, anxiety, sadness, loneliness or depression. These are common feelings and reactions to traumatic challenges. A new normal is occurring and it’s not a warm, fuzzy feeling.

With a death, painful grief feelings come in waves, intermixed with positive memories of the deceased. The grieving process is natural and unique to each individual and shares some of the same features of depression. During traumatic events, people experience sadness and feel emotionally depleted. Though many describe sadness as depression, being sad is not the same as having depression.

Both grief and depression involve intense sadness and withdrawal from usual activities. There are different types of depression including Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and dysthymia. SAD is a type of depression that comes and goes with the seasons, typically starting in the late fall and early winter and disappearing in the spring and summer.

According to psychiatrist Robert Spitzer, dysthymia is a Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD), a disturbance in the person's mood, which can last for two years. A person with this form of depression may have episodes of major depression along with periods of less severe symptoms. A mood disorder is the main underlying feature with the same repeated thinking and physical problems as depression, but with longer-lasting symptoms. Depressive episodes include recurring mood swings between highs and lows.

Life ambushes us when we least expect it. The challenge is, how do we endure these swings? How do we turn the corner on our “moodiness” or depressed feelings? FYI: You’re allowed to feel lousy but put a time limit on it. Don’t walk around with the grumpies. That’s like carrying around a 50-pound psychological weight all day. Loosen up, clear your mind and unclench your fist.

While there is no single known cause for depression, this likely results from a combination of genetic, biologic, environmental, and psychological factors. Depression has a multitude of symptoms which include sadness, anxiousness, guilt, decreased energy, fatigue, loss of interest, and more. Breathe deep and remember that you are not alone in these feelings if you’re having them. According to the World Health Organization, depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide with more than 300 million people of all ages suffering from it.

Accomplish one step today to help yourself into a more positive frame of mind. Don’t say negative things. Don’t judge yourself, your situation, or others. Find positive meaning in small things. Rejoice in the small things, e.g., your breakfast. The enjoyment of eating a slice of pizza. This will help manifest positivity in the larger aspects and challenges in your life. Seek out the help from your local mental health professionals. Talk to a friend. Contact Military OneSource’s Military Crisis Line at 800-273-8255, then press 1, or access online chat by texting 838255.


Hilary Valdez is a retiree living in Japan. He is an experienced Mental Health professional and Resiliency Trainer. Valdez is a former Marine and has worked with the military most of his career and most recently worked at Camp Zama as a Master Resiliency Trainer. Valdez now has a private practice and publishes books on social and psychological issues. His books are available on Amazon and for Kindle. Learn more about Valdez and contact him at or at

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