This is hard to write about and even harder to post.
2015 was a challenging year; poor business decisions, pain and depression left me exhausted, defeated and honestly, feeling completely useless. I know, I know, (at least in my head on clear days I know) I am not useless but the truth is not always comfortable to speak or to hear.
Depression sucks! I really fucking hate it and I’ve had enough; I am seriously fed up. Perhaps you can relate?
I think I am luckier than many. I have spent so many years in introspection and self-exploration that I hear depression’s heavy breath behind me as it chases me into a corner and overwhelms me. I can’t stop it but I am aware of it and that has helped. Recently, I have been better able to ask for support and made changes that will hopefully provide lasting relief.
I am sharing this here on my blog for two reasons. The first and biggest is because I have felt called to do so; after a year of mostly not posting, I am now drawn to sit and write something. Second, this blog is about abundant living and in order to live authentically, I must address the elephant in my own closet.
Here is an analogy; I hope it helps someone better understand their own, or a loved one’s, depression. Imagine life as a journey spent on a paddleboard, the water below is cold and dark and uninviting. Most people are able to go through life on top of their board getting splashed once in a while, perhaps an occasional fall off the board into the darkness and then they quickly climb back onto the board, dry off and get themselves moving forward once again.
Living with depression is like living in the water and hanging onto the board for dear life; I’m cold, lonely, afraid and sometimes wish I had the courage to let go and sink to the bottom. There are times when I feel like I have my elbows on the board, there are even moments when it is only my legs that remain in the water and those are what keep me going through the times when my nose and mouth are the only thing poking above the surface. I am lucky to be eternally optimistic; I remember enough of the good times to help me through the lousy ones and I am surrounded by kind, loving people.
After decades of living like this I have found tools that help, some more than others, one in particular that really seems to be having a profound effect on me and I wanted to share these in the hopes that they can be of benefit to even one other person. I think one of the things that is most valuable is to make these tools part of everyday life, to make it easier to do them than to avoid them, to find ways to force myself to do them; at least, that is what works for me.
Living with depression; some tools that have helped me:
Yoga. Bottom line, my yoga practice has changed every facet of my life for the better. I can tell the difference when I am spending time on my mat and when I am not. There are days when all I can do is lie there and cry but even that simple act of being on my mat helps me. I recently wrote a book for people interested in Yoga for Depression. I will figure out how to post it here.
Exercise. I walk 2-6 miles a day and when I don’t, I feel the dip in energy and wellbeing. I go to the shops daily for our food and use this excuse as a way to force a walk even when every piece of me wishes to stay in bed or on the couch; setting my life up like this has made a difference. My husband rides his bike for his mental health, my friend kayaks. It doesn’t matter what it is as long as it involves fresh air 30+ minutes of huffing and puffing and preferably being alone with yourself (no music!!).
Lists. I have a daily checklist – Yoga, Walk, Meditate, Read, Write – and my goal is to do 3 of them. This is a long way from my list of a decade ago – Brush teeth, Shower, Get dressed, Eat, etc… Whatever it is that I need a prod to do, when I have it on a list in a prominent place, it seems to help. I post mine on my bathroom mirror and on my computer.
Gratitude Journal. I write five things down I am grateful for every evening as I am getting into bed. Some days it is hard to think of anything and I use my backups (house, food, clean water) and if I am having trouble sleeping I run through more things in my head and go into detail; having this in my head as I try to sleep makes for a more pleasant transition and better rest.
Conversation. This is new for me. I have started telling people I have depression. For years I hid behind euphemisms or lies, ashamed of what I perceived as a personal failing. At some point, I began to understand that depression is no more a reflection of who I am than my epilepsy or arthritis. (Still working on this idea!!) I have an illness and it impacts my life and that is just how it is. Talking about it has allowed me to forgive myself and lower the bar of expectation (or at least work on these!!) and that is helping.
Supplements. This is having the most profound effect on my health and I want to yell about it from the mountains. I have been taking nutritional supplements for more than five years that have had a noticeable effect on my depression and arthritis but they could not withstand the severity of the past year. Recently, I learned about Nutrient Power and the author Dr William Walsh (Link here) and then I was diagnosed with a methylation imbalance and began an intense vitamin/supplement protocol to try to restore balance to my system. Studies suggest that people who have long-term nutritional deficiencies in certain elements tend to have more mental health issues, including depression, bipolar etc… It has been three months since I began the protocol and to date I am right in line with my doctor’s expected timeline – 4-8 weeks small changes, 2-3 months more noticeable improvement and I am very much looking forward to the expected 3-6 months results – dramatic improvement, achieve full health.
If you have tools that have worked for you and would like to share them please tell me so I can pass them along.
I am, as I mentioned, eternally optimistic and as such, every time I have a good day I think maybe I have clambered onto my board and will never again find myself in the dark water shivering and crying. I hope that is the case this time but I cannot know for sure.
Today, I am writing, I feel good and that is all that matters.