Depression. Let’s talk about it.
I think it’s time I share my experience this past year with what is currently known as the lowest point in my life. A point where for months I considered the idea of not living anymore.
I also talk about my depression more in depth in the following Podcasts:
- Just Stay Curious with Gillian Rose: Episode 081 – Make Change Happen
- Uncustomary Podcast by Mary England: Episode 02 – Non-perfectionism
- Courage Makers with Meg Kissack: Episode 039 – Creativity, Self-Care, and Mental Health
I want to share what shifted in me, why, and what I did to get to a place where I feel a LOT better. Still a ways to go mind you, but these days, I don’t feel like I’m in the darkness anymore.
What I’m about to say is MY experience and explores MY choices and decisions. I am not advocating that you or anyone you know do the same thing. I also must point out that depression comes in endless forms, intensities, and variations. One persons depression may be a dull low feeling while another’s may have them actually experimenting with suicide. This is my monologue.
Once I finally came to terms that I was seriously depressed, I knew something, anything needed to change.
I didn’t want to take any medication because I’d seen what it had done to some family members. Temporary relief from the depression but also numbness, loss of connection to self and the present moment, and crazy side effects and withdrawals when they wanted to taper it off or quit with some medications. (Let’s all keep in mind not all depression medication is the same and can effect individuals differently).
I think medication can be a great alternative depending on every individual’s situation, however, I personally believe that as a society we medicate too quickly without exploring all the options. I wanted to explore those options. Again, depends on the case. Depression is a real medical condition and anyone who chooses clinical medication as their form of healing is valid in doing so.
Here’s what I did that helped me step out of my lowest point and back to a place where I’m still feeling low on occasion but now better equipped to move forward and prevent it in the future:
I started taking SAM-E, a naturally occurring substance found in the body that can greatly impact mood
I bought the Natures Choice brand off Amazon. I took anywhere from 400-800mg (1-2 pills) a day and within about 4 days the darkness lifted. I no longer take it now but may consider it again. Who’s to say if a placebo effect didn’t also take place but I definitely noticed a major difference in my mood and ability to start functioning again.
I started eating more Whole Foods that release serotonin and help the body process and absorb it.
Potatoes. I ate a lot more potatoes. Potatoes create an insulin response that help transport the amino acid tryptophan into the brain. The body then uses tryptophan to create serotonin which can help elevate mood. I would have baked potatoes or even microwave red or blue potatoes and top them with hummus. Delicious but also greatly helped.
I took a hard look at what I was eating and how often I was moving.
In the 6 months leading up to my lowest point I was pounding junk food, potato chips, and refined sugar. As a way to cope with my low mood but also something that encouraged it. I also wasn’t running anymore or exercising much at all. Contributing factors? Probably.
I realized how negative I’d become and decided to stop trying to push it away and “be more positive” like everyone was telling me and instead, acknowledge my pain, my negative thoughts, all thoughts, and then release them.
This was a HUGE turning point in the process for me. I learned the valuable lesson that you can’t simply rid your mind of things and thoughts you don’t like by tying to ignore or run from them. I picked up the mental footballs so I could actually chuck them in a focused direction. Things became WORLDS better.
I noticed where my energy was going and how many fucks I was handing out.
Turns out I was exhausting myself trying to please others, do things the “right” way, and quite frankly was caring way too much about what others might think about me. Finding ways to clear this and let it go made my mind a lot more cushy. And oooo now there was room for more things (and people) I loved instead of feeling resentful toward myself for tying to make room for things that served me. Now I always have room for me, my preferences, and what brings me joy. Ain’t no reason to ever apologize for that, and I don’t 😉
I started meditating.
10 minutes at first. Then 15. Now I can sit for an hour. It allowed me to sit with my thoughts, work on my stress, and get real with some self-awareness. Through this process I discovered a few things about meditation:
- You create your own meditation. I don’t like sitting on the floor cross-legged with my arms on my sides. I prefer to lay down on the couch, on the bed, outside on my deck, or on a yoga mat. Find what’s comfortable for you and start there, sitting still can be hard enough at first.
- Meditation doesn’t equate to nothingness. Especially when you start, there’s going to be a LOT of mental chatter that goes down. Don’t let this discourage you. It took me some time and practice to get to a point where I now can sit with a quiet mind and tune out the world and some days I can’t quiet the noise. Start from where you are and honor your efforts.
- Meditation also doesn’t have to mean complete quiet and stillness. There are still many benefits from mindfulness meditation or the act of being focused on the task at hand. Knitting, drawing, writing, even washing the dishes can greatly impact your mental health and decrease your stress.
I did what felt right to me.
I didn’t see a counselor at first because I hadn’t found one that helped (I am now seeing one to dive deeper into the loss of my father and discuss my depression – but it took me a while to find someone who I liked and trusted fully). The pressure from others to get one immediately was annoying as all fuck. Instead, I journaled. I wrote a letter to my depression. I wrote down my thoughts, I debated through them, I used the pages to vent, to organize my mind, and it was so cleansing. Talk therapy is amazing but can actually hinder progress if you don’t find someone who provides the compassion, support, and guidance you truly need.
I took a LOT of naps and gave myself permission to feel shitty.
Depression is exhausting and it only gets worse when you continually judge yourself and feel guilty. Some days I couldn’t help it but when I could, I allowed myself to have days in bed, lengthy crying sessions, Netflix marathons, and even more sleep.
I acknowledged and proclaimed my state, my sickness, and my boundaries.
Some people didn’t get it. Other people still don’t. Everyone wanted to give me advice. I stopped letting them infiltrate my mind because most people who hand out advice without permission tend to say things that come from a place of ego and have little to do with what you actually need. I stopped seeking external validation that my depression was a real condition because I knew and understood that it was. That was enough. I decided and knew that what I was going through wasn’t my fault. That I needed to heal on my own time in my own ways.
I pulled myself away from people and situations that weren’t helping my growth.
2016 could be called my year of NO. I said no to almost everything and instead said YES to me for the first time maybe ever. It was fucking fantastic.
Depression can happen in endless forms for endless reasons. Looking back, for me, I truly believe it was unprocessed and unacknowledged pain from losing my Dad to also holding on to what “once was” before I moved cross country. It all built up over time. Sometimes I believe that depression can build up when we hold resistance in our lives to something. I’m not saying this is always the case but I think it can play a factor in our serotonin levels and how our neurotransmitters fire and react to one another. This theory is referred to as “diseases of unfulfillment” or when individuals continually pursue what they are good at or what might feel easy but that doesn’t feel aligned with their purpose or light them up. Not always career related, btw.
THE BIG TAKEAWAY
Do whatever it is you need to do to discover what your options are and what feels GOOD to you ❤ After all, you get to decide your treatment plan. Why not make it something that feels good.