"Promise me you'll always remember: You're braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think." A.A. Milne

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Managing Depression

This is my story. This is as authentic and vulnerable as I can probably get online. I am not writing this to tell anyone how they should do it. Nope, this is how I did it and continue to do it. If there is nothing here for you then please walk away from it and know I send you all love and peace. If something here helps you, that is wonderful.

My entire life has been an exercise in dealing with mind numbing, soul destroying clinical depression.  From the time I was very young I felt different from everyone else. I felt things deeper. I couldn't let things go. I often saw life as a bleak, dark, despairing place. I managed to hide it from most everyone but beneath my facade a pit of turmoil and heartache lurked. For years I suffered from depression.

Everything came to a head in my mid 20's. I honestly couldn't take it anymore. I was having waking dreams of killing myself. My life was spun out of control. I made horrible decisions. I am somewhat surprised I made it out of the consequences of some of those decisions alive. It was bad. I knew if I kept on the path I was going to die and soon. I wanted to live. I checked myself into a mental ward. It was the hardest decision I ever made.

That was a turning point. It was in that secured facility I discovered a glimmer of hope. I realized in a rather hazy, nebulous manner I could have control over my life. I could take action in this war with depression. It was very vague at that point but it was there.

The next two years was the beginning of the climb out of that cliched pit of despair. I took anti-depressants. I was beyond lucky I found a psychiatrist who was rather different from the norm. He believed not everyone who used anti-depressants had to be on them forever. Instead he told me I could use  them as a stop gap measure, a calming agent that would allow me to learn coping skills and behavior. It would also help me have the strength to face my stuff.

Oh my friends, there was stuff to face and it sucked. It was so hard. It was uncomfortable. I took me to places of terror and fear, shame and embarrassment. Many times I said, "This is too hard!! I can't do this." But each time, sometimes after many months even over a year, I came back and got back to work. I did not want to be at the mercy of this condition. Cognitive Behavior Therapy turned out to be the best thing ever. Imagine, I who had been at the mercy of my horrific thoughts could learn and train my mind to actually choose the thoughts I want to have. I didn't have to obsessively  worry and be upset. I could learn to choose to let it go. Amazing.

The years following were hard work. I was no longer suffering from depression. I was now struggling with depression. I had a modicum of control. Don't get me wrong, in those early years control was easily wrested from my hands but it was there. I was learning and growing.

Through years of practice, falling down, and starting over I have finally come to the place that I am now managing my depression. I know my triggers. I know when I have to batten down the hatches and get back to basics. My husband has been taught the signs that mean he needs to intervene. But for right now, for many years now, I have managed. I have maintained during job losses, the tragic loss of my brother and the upheaval it caused in my family, child birth, a husband travelling all the time with two babies, in short, life.

These are the keys I have found enable me to manage. I follow these with devotion and diligence. If I don't, I know the chance is extremely high I will spiral and I do not want to live like that ever again.

1. Food- I cannot stress how much what we eat affects us. I eat a wholefood vegan diet. I think the most important part is whole food but the vegan is really important to me as well. I eat very little sugar. What do I do for holidays, parties, etc? Well, I pretty much abstain because a "treat" isn't worth starting the habit that can lead down that road.

2. Exercise- Endorphins are your friend. I run 3x a week and do strength training 3x a week. These practices keep the daily stresses swept away.

3. Yoga- I have a daily yoga practice. It has been life changing. It has taken me to a whole new level of peace.

4. Meditation- This practice both clears my mind and helps me access whatever "stuff" I need to deal with. Stuff happens. It is life. Learn to deal with it quickly and efficiently and don't let it fester.

5. Sleep- I get 8-9 hours of sleep at night. I don't watch much tv and yes, I miss out on things but it is not worth sacrificing this integral component.

6. Toxicity- I refuse to deal with toxic people. I flat out refuse. This doesn't mean I turn away the dear friend who is having problems, not at all. But if you are a gossip, a chronic complainer, or any other kind of energy vampire, I have no room for you in my life.

7. I say no a lot. I put me and my immediate family first. I am not responsible for other people's feelings or emotions. I strive to live my life in a loving and compassionate manner but if you are angry because I won't do or act how you want, then that is your problem. This one actually gives me the energy to do more for others in the end.

I think that is about it. The holidays are here and that can lead to extra problems with depression.  This is my story. I reclaimed my life. It was hard and messy and I do not regret a single step. May harmony and peace find you my friends.

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