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!