Sunday, January 27, 2013

Defeat Depression

Photo Credit: Neadeau

I spent most of my childhood and young adulthood depressed. Some of that time, seriously depressed. I didn't know it; depression runs in my family. I thought it was normal to have a few weeks or months every year that I just toiled through, barely functioning. I didn't realize that apathy, hopelessness, tears, aches, pains, and difficulty making decisions should not be constants in life.  I was not suicidal; I just wished--often and without telling anyone--that I could go to sleep and never wake up. I was so tired of fighting.

I'm not depressed now. I get down, and there are tendencies I may always fight, but I want to live. I have goals, things to do--and people I want to help. I'm not on any medication, and have used a multi-faceted approach to deal with depression at the first sign of trouble.

If you are depressed, do whatever it takes to get out of it. If your road to mental health involves medication, do it.  For some people it will be a temporary choice, for others a permanent one. Do whatever will let you share your gifts with the world.

Here are the things I have done and continue to do to fight depression:

  • Nutrition: It seems like common sense to me that you must have the right raw materials for your body to function properly. I specifically have targeted blood sugar as my problem area, with a special focus on my sensitivities--artificial ingredients and starches, especially corn. Other people have found that a lack of minerals can contribute to anxiety, or that nutrition related to brain or hormone function can be crucial. Everyone is different, so I'm not giving out a specific list of supplements--I suggest investing the time in reading on your own and finding a trusted healthcare provider who shares your view of nutrition to guide you.
  • Emotion / Mental balance:  I once heard a TV pop-psych guy tell a guest that she had a choice in how she responded to the things life threw at her. That idea--that I control my response to life--has been life-changing. Sometimes I don't know how I can change my response, but knowing I can gives me the will to search for the tools I need. I use prayer to ask God for the insight to know how to respond as a mature adult, meditation to calm my mind so I take time to think things through, and work on my self-talk so I don't tear myself apart for no reason. I also keep a "garbage in/garbage out" mentality. I monitor what I read, watch, and listen to, and try to only expose myself to things that are uplifting in some way.
  • Exercise: I am still perfecting this one, but I try to get outside and walk around as much as I can.  I also lift light weights, because the feeling of being able to pick up progressively heavier objects gives me a sense of power way out of proportion to the size of the things I lift. Feeling powerful and in control of life is a great antidote to depression.
  • Immediate triage: On the rare occasion when I fall into a depressive state, I act quickly. The beginning of February is always a hard time for me. My parents died on February 4th and 5th, six years apart. Every year, I get melancholy and go inward for a few weeks. Each year, I try harder to manage the emotions better. I allow myself a certain amount of wallowing--losing your family hurts, and it is natural to revisit that grief each year. I listen to sad music, reminisce, and take an afternoon or two to cry. But I also make sure I eat healthfully, get plenty of rest, and do nice things for myself. Because of my history, a short, natural cycle of feeling down can become a major depression, and I choose not to allow that to happen.
These steps have become part of my life. I don't think of them as My Depression Prescription, at least not until I'm short a blog post for the week. Whether you struggle with depression, or have never had to deal with it, these are good activities to add into your life. Do you have any tips to keep an upbeat, emotionally mature attitude in your life?

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