Whomp whomp. As I make efforts to be more authentic and open, this topic is one that is tough to share since I like to be in control and give off the impression that I’ve got my shizz together. But a few months ago, I came to the conclusion that I was dealing with mild to moderate depression. I was constantly tired, bummed out, couldn’t get excited about anything and had zero motivation to do anything. I looked forward to sleep way too much and dreaded getting out of bed. I honestly didn’t feel much emotion at all, kind of just blank and empty. If I did feel something, it was annoyance, frustration, longing or sadness. Sometimes, painful memories from the past seemed to bubble up out of nowhere and nag me. Despite my long list of blessings and short list of actual problems, I struggled to find and keep joy – it was so brief and far between. I prayed for God to pull me out of the muck.
I did not go to the doctor about it; I just self-diagnosed, which is, of course, not at all recommended. But I’m smart, self-aware, proud and stubborn, and think I know more about myself than someone I see for 15 minutes once a year. I didn’t feel so bad that I couldn’t function or that I was a danger to myself or loved ones, and I didn’t want something as concrete as a diagnosis on my medical records or a prescription to take. But I knew I was in a place that I couldn’t stay or things might get bad eventually. My distrust of the conventional medical establishment and knowledge that health is not just a random physiological brain imbalance, but rather the compound effect of environment, stress, nutrition, activity, spirituality, and emotions, lead me on my own little research project/experiment and these are the things I discovered and took action with. I want to share the progress/success I’m having in hopes that it helps or inspires someone who may be struggling with similar issues.
- A few years ago after my nutrition studies, I geeked out with a fantastic book called The Hormone Cure by Dr. Sara Gottfried. It has a symptom-based questionnaire that helps women identify which hormones they might be having issues with, and then discusses the how/why and some specific nutrition and lifestyle adjustments to make, as well as how to talk to a doctor if more advanced testing and medication might be needed. Since the last two years were pretty hormone-driven for me to grow a baby and breastfeed a baby, I figured this might be a good place to start. The quiz results showed I had all the indicators of low estrogen and low cortisol. Guess what – these hormones are major regulators of mood and energy! Of the nutrition/supplements she recommended, I chose the following to start including in my daily diet and routine:
- High dose Vitamin C – 1,000 – 2,000 mg/day
- Vitamin B Complex
- Vitamin E – 200 IU/day
- Panax Ginseng – 200 mg/day
- Herbal blend of St. John’s Wort, Black Cohosh, and Hops – I quit this after a couple weeks as I felt increased anxiety like I’d drank way too much coffee. Those feeling subsided immediately after I quit taking this. Herbs are no joke!
- 1 serving of flax seed and maca powder in daily smoothies
- Organic whole soy (I chose edamame since it’s an easy snack) once weekly
- With a push from a friend, I scheduled a therapy session, which was huge in understanding and accepting where I was at and how I was feeling, and taking some solid steps from a mental/spiritual perspective to righting my ship.
- Essential oils for aromatherapy – I’ve got a blend from Vibrant Blue Oils called Uplift that smells amazing. I try to wear it daily as perfume. I also read that clary sage is helpful for estrogen regulation and frankincense for mood, so I’m rubbing a blend of those with jojoba oil on the tops of my feet daily, if I remember. Supposedly that’s a thing (the tops of feet). I’m skeptical of rubbing oil on the top of my feet, but there are stranger things I could be doing, and it’s not hurting anything! Also, a little frankincense in my hair after washing – that’s a good way to smell real nice!
- I watched a bunch of TEDTalks. I went to Youtube to listen to Brene Brown’s talk on vulnerability, which I had heard a couple years ago. I found myself meandering through the suggested videos in the sidebar and came across a talk from a KU professor on how depression is a disease of civilization. If you think you might be depressed, or know that you are depressed, I highly recommend giving a yourself a few minutes to watch this and possibly gain some new perspective. It made so much sense, totally jived with my holistic approach to things, and reminded me I really needed to get moving. I have not been committed to regular and consistent exercise in a long time, and it was even harder for me to make myself do when I was feeling all Woe-Is-Me. But when the professor said that just 30 minutes of brisk walking three times per week was more effective at improving brain chemistry than any prescription anti-depressant on the market, it was a wake-up call. I didn’t have to go kill myself at CrossFit every day to feel better – the kind of movement I needed was so attainable. Dare I say easy? So I committed to movement. Daily if possible – of whatever variety floats my boat and works with my schedule that day. Walk, hike, workout video, CrossFit, run, yoga, stretch…fun!
- I got a planner. Like a bound paper calendar/to-do list thing, and motivated myself with some colorful gel pens to use in it. With all the apps and online organization products available today, I couldn’t get into any of them. It was overwhelming and I just couldn’t make myself stick with any of it. And as I try to be more conscious of setting my phone down and being more present in life, using an app seemed to go against that. What I love about this planner and several others I looked at is that it’s more than just a schedule/task organizer. It focuses on goal setting in four areas: personal, work, relationship, and family/friends. It has a journal component for gratitude and regular self reflection. It forces me to think bigger and deeper than just my to-do list and to be more intentional with my daily life. Because I also know that I need daily spiritual/devotional time, I’ve decided to start my daily planning time with prayer/scripture-reading first to set the tone.I’m just a few days in, but I’m already thinking where has this been all my life? I hope this is a new practice I can keep.
- I’m reading You Are a Badass, which was a total accident – like I wasn’t planning to read anything but it was a gift with great timing. Or maybe, it wasn’t an accident. This very book quoted Einstein saying “Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.” One action item I’ve taken from this book so far is to do more of the things that make me happy. I realized while reading that I love learning and thinking, and I need regular input like a good non-fiction book to keep the wheels turning and providing inspiration, so I’ve also got a half dozen more inspirational/self-help/health-related books on my reading list this year. Another thing is my enjoyment of writing/blogging, so I’ve set some goals to get back on this thing regularly and share my journey through words again.
So how’s it going, you ask? Is it working? While I’m only a couple months into these steps and some are just barely in the works yet, I can say that the last month or so I’ve felt like a different person. A better person, a dare-I-say happy person? And I’ve got some new dreams stirring in my brain, keeping me up at night in a good way. I’m scared that writing/sharing this is going to jinx me because maybe it’s too soon and it’s all just placebo effect or honeymoon period or things I won’t be able to maintain for the long run. But for now, I’m celebrating. And I’m appreciating myself again and all that goes with this crazy life.