When depression comes knocking at your door

I have had an old companion knocking at my door the past few weeks. He knows me very well, and is trying with all his might to get me to let him in.

If you have been reading Living the Balanced Life from the beginning, or if you have read my About Me page and my backstory, you know that I suffered a mental breakdown in July 2010. It was mainly caused by stress from my 80+ hour a week corporate job, plus some family situations that could not be resolved with an adult sibling.

While recuperating from my breakdown, with doctor visits and weekly therapy appointments, as well as medications, it became obvious that while the breakdown was caused by some outside circumstances, and my response to them, I was actually struggling with clinical depression. And I have probably struggled with depression for as long as I can remember.

My mother has now passed, and while I always thought she was just odd, I now know she was probably clinically depressed my entire life. It makes me sad to know how she might have been struggling and no one reached out to help her, no one understood, least of all my father.

Thankfully, the stigma attached to depression has lifted, even if just a little bit. The fact that I am writing about it here shows that. And there are many other blogs written about dealing daily with depression and mental health issues.

Treating depression is a very personal

What I mean by this is that each person is different, and what worked great for one may not work at all for another. I myself was on medication for about 8 or 9 months to bring me back to a level where I could cope. I have not been real happy with the prescription medications because of their side effects. But sometimes you have to weigh out the benefits with the side effects. And I chose to go off the prescription meds when I was at a point I thought I could handle it.

While I have not been taking prescription antidepressants for the past few months, I did try some natural supplements. 5-HTP is one that I have been taking as well as fish oil. Both have been shown to help with mild to moderate depression (not in official studies). *

I made a mistake a few weeks ago. I stopped taking these supplements. There was a timing conflict with the meds my doctor gave me for thyroid and so I just kept forgetting to take my supplements. Just a few weeks before that, I went on an all natural diet and cut out all processed foods. This helped me feel better in many ways. However, the past 2 weeks have been rough, with major cravings of sweets and carbs.

My therapist explained to me before that when your serotonin is low, a depressed person will attempt to self-medicate by eating lots of carbs (they raise serotonin). Unfortunately this is only a temporary solution and is hazardous to your waistline and even your health if it becomes a regular coping habit.

I believe that the combination of quitting the supplements and cutting all carbs is what has made depression come calling again.

Slamming the door on depression

The difficult thing is that when you are in the middle of a major depressive episode, it is difficult to understand and rationalize what you need to do to get better.  It is difficult to see where you may have made changes in lifestyle that are contributing to your depression. You may not have the strength to stand up and say, “I need to go to the doctor, I need to be back on meds”.

This is why you need a support system. Something my mother didn’t have. Something I am so grateful I DO have. My husband is awesome, as well as my doctor. I also feel it is important to journal during the darkest points to help you and your team understand where you are. While I have not been suicidal, I have felt like just giving up on life. It is important that those who love you KNOW THESE THINGS. Only then can they begin to help you.

As for me, I am back on my supplements. I also have a few junky carbs in my house. Not going to make it a habit again, but going to see how they may help. Actually thinking of reading the book Potatoes Not Prozac. After a week or two of regularly taking the supplements, if it seems they are NOT doing the job, I will discuss going back on prescription meds with my doctor.

The important thing is realizing that this is a MEDICAL issue, and not a personal weakness. It is not YOUR fault you are depressed. And you can’t just snap out of it. However, there are things in your life that you can do, and habits you can work on that will help you be able to better stand up to depression when it comes knocking on your door.

*If you want to try using these or other supplements, please do your own research before deciding. This post is not meant to be medical advice. If you believe you are suffering from depression, PLEASE contact your healthcare provider.

This post is linked up with Shell’s Things I Can’t Say!

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26 comments to When depression comes knocking at your door

  • Judi

    Thank you,thank you,thank you for this article today. I am just trying to pull myself out of an episode and it is so hard. Your words were of great comfort for me.

  • This: “The important thing is realizing that this is a MEDICAL issue, and not a personal weakness. It is not YOUR fault you are depressed. And you can’t just snap out of it.”
    is something I wish everyone could understand.

    I’m glad you could recognize what was happening with you and be able to get help. xo
    Shell recently posted..Pour Your Heart Out: A Letter of ThanksMy Profile

  • Carolynn

    You are a brave, considerate woman for sharing this. Depression is more wide spread than most want to acknowledge. One thing that struck my attention was the carb syndrome….pasta, bread….gives a quick fix…I fall into that pattern.
    Thanks for your thoughts and helpful hints and links.

  • Thank you for sharing those pieces of your life. I found some of that information useful and interesting. I am realizing more and more the genetic or familial link for depression and how it is a life long struggle that one always needs to be aware of.

  • Thank you! I appreciate your loving and practical insights into depression. I’ve been skipping my supplements and didn’t realize until now that of course that isn’t helping me. Thanks for reminding & encouraging me today.

  • Thank you for this post and thank you for acknowledging how individualistic treatment for depression has to be. It is always such a relief to know we are not alone.

  • Shirls

    Bernice please do read Potatoes Not Prozac. An excellent book which explains exactly what happens with those unbalanced brain chemicals and what to do about it. You might also like to take a look at Kathleen’s website – you’ll be able to google it. I need to read it again because I know for sure I’m sugar sensitive but tend to slip back into the cookie munching mode!

  • Yeah, depression doesn’t knock on my door, it forces it’s way in. I also have PTSD due to my previous abusive marriage and struggle with the aftereffects of that. I’m going to take a look at your suggestions and see if there’s something that will go along with the treatment I’m already receiving! :)

  • Essential oil of rose works miracles with depression. I speak from personal experience.
    Emily recently posted..Are You Free To Live Your Dreams?My Profile

  • I really didn’t understand clinical depression until one of my family members was diagnosed with it. He is a laid-back, happy guy who has gone through several major depressions that change him into a completely different person, to the point of attempting suicide. The way I think of it now is he needs his treatments like a person with any major physical ailment needs theirs.

    I hope you find something a combination that works for you, and quickly! God bless.

  • Depression is awful Just awful NO it is not a weakness. Bravo for discussing this important topic,
    Hugs and have a pretty day!

  • I struggle with depression. And I’ve read Potatoes Not Prozac, and I recommend it. I take several herbs: St J Wort, Lemon Balm, and Schisandra (alternately with Ashwagandha, and planning to add Eleuthro to that too). And sometimes Passionflower. Taking these, getting enough carbs and sunlight, and changing my thinking is healing me. I’m not all the way there yet (hello, PMS), but the light at the end of the tunnel is getting bigger.

  • I’ve had my own experience with depression. I echo Emily. Citrus essential oils have been scientifically shown to help mild to moderate depression. A great companion to have with your medications! And I love them anytime you need a little pick me up. :) It’s wonderful to have people sharing their experiences and reaching out to help others who are going through the same thing.

  • Hi, Bernice!
    Sorry to hear you had clinical depression, but I am glad you made it through. Your post is a great support to all those struggling with depression issues, not realizing that being depressed is not their fault, but, as you say, rather a medical issue. It is perfectly normal for everyone to go through depression from time to time, but when it gets into a serious condition, we should realize what to do and understand how to overcome the problem.
    Kristina L. recently posted..Guthy Renker Coupon CodeMy Profile

  • Margaret

    Thank you for your candid words about coping with depression. Your struggle with prescription anti-depression medicine is similar to my own. I didn’t like the side effects either. Depression came back for me in a matter of months after everything was going so well that I stopped using my prescription. Remember that these meds influence your body on a systemic chemical level. When they are working, you feel good and want to quit them. Your body takes time to adjust to drastic chemical changes such as starting/stopping treatment abruptly. A gradual tapering or weaning approach can be used to allow your mind and body to acclimate to changing levels of the medicine in your system. When you think of “giving it time to see if it’s working’, think in terms of months or years and not weeks. Also, the more variables that you change at the same time (diet, supplements, medicine, exercise, etc.) the harder it is to tell which is working for you or not. I don’t mean to advise. Everyone should make this decision with a doctor they trust. This was my experience, for what it’s worth. Reading stories like yours have been so helpful for me. Thank you for your insights.

  • Hi there.
    Thanks a lot for sharing this. You know, literally, sometimes I did slam the door on my frustration. And it’s not a good habit, I know. I have to stop that.
    Andrew Walker recently posted..Family Christian Stores CouponsMy Profile

  • Hi Bernice
    thanks for the great post
    you said something extreemly important, what works for a person might not work for another, yes each case is a special case when it comes to depression
    keep it up :)

  • Hi! Glad to hear you try to sort things out in a natural way. Supplements can definitely help and 5-HTP is amazing, also fish oil for some people. You can experiment via adding one other supplement at a time and check for improvements. For example you can try Rhodiola, GABA, Inositol, Folic Acid, St. John’s Wort. All the best, Tomek
    Tomek recently posted..Protein SupplementsMy Profile

  • Although I haven’t experienced clinical depression, when I feel low I always manage to feel better if I do sports. For example a 30 minutes moderate cardio workout can do wonders. Just an idea, Erica
    Erica recently posted..Outdoor Baby SwingsMy Profile

  • Joanne

    A beautiful post. Thank you. ox

  • Coping with depression can be a lifetime issue for many people (including me). I think that the decision to use meds depends on how much your every day life is affected by the depression.

    Many times talk therapy (especially Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) can be successful in lieu of medication. However, if after experiencing several months of depression, you find that the therapy isn’t working and the depression isn’t lifting, it would probably be a good time to have another conversation with your doctor.

    As others have suggested, there are many things that you can do to try to help yourself feel better during an episode. These can be herbal supplements, relaxing teas (one of my favorites is Tension Tamer), yoga, deep breathing, among others. These should also be a regular part of your anti-depression tool kit.
    RevDella recently posted..Conquer your afternoon stress related eatingMy Profile

  • I totally understand. I’ve been working with my doctors and therapists to find what it right for me. Every month, something gets tweaked. It is definitely an ongoing process. I stopped my meds once; and everything just came crashing down, so now I try to obey the doctor’s orders! Thank you for sharing your story, and I wish you the best of success with your treatment!
    Rachel recently posted..I’m Still Clawing my way Out of the DarknessMy Profile

  • Thank you for sharing your story. You brought up so many great points including my favorite “each person is different, and what worked great for one may not work at all for another.” That is SO true! I’m so frustrated with people who think there is a one-size-fits all solution to depression or the people who say they were depressed and were able to ‘will’ themselves well so everyone else should be able to also. My feeling is always “great, glad it worked for you, but that doesn’t work for me.” Again, thanks for the great article.
    Ellen Dyson recently posted..Major DepressionMy Profile

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