This has been a post i’ve wanted to do for quite some time, but always managed to find a reason not to write it.
“No one wants to hear it.”
“This is a secret.”
Fittingly, i’ve been reading Daring Greatly by Brene Brown. It’s an incredible book all about vulnerability and shame. Brown has a PhD and has done extensive research in the field and shares all the details of who is affected by vulnerability/shame, why, how, and what we can do about it. The book really got me thinking about how vulnerable I am in my life.
I do consider myself someone who is an ‘open book.’ Almost no topic is too personal for me, and I like it that way. Sure – Brown talks in her book about choosing wisely who is trustworthy of your secrets and how sharing ‘too much too soon’ can be a bad thing. For me, though, it’s never really bothered me. However, there’s one thing I never really talk about (except now, when I open it up for discussion for a bunch of aquaintances, strangers, and people across the world to read.) But hey, that’s how I roll.
Of course before I sat down to write, I wanted to stop writing again. “Too personal.” “TMI.” “No one cares.”
I let myself think it over a bit, meditate on it, pray on it, and the answer was clear: Write about it and release the shame and ‘stigma’ around it.
The ‘it’ i’m talking about is depression.
My story with depression isn’t a life-long battle; instead it was pretty sudden and severe when it came on. I had just dropped out of my freshman year of college after becoming bed-ridden from what was then a ‘mystery illness’ that refused to go away. It felt like I had the worst flu of my life, every day, without signs of improvement. When doctors told me I was ‘imagining the symptoms,’ or that ‘I should be feeling better,’ I lost hope of ever feeling normal again. From there on, I lost all the passion to get up, do anything, or communicate with anyone. The worst of it was two weeks where I didn’t leave bed and basically stared at the ceiling. After that, I realized something was seriously wrong.
One of the symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Symptom is depression, which I learned later on. Prior to becoming sick, I hadn’t really experienced ‘depression.’ Sure, I had felt sad, and I had experienced months of agitation, unpleasantness, and bad feelings (as does everyone who is alive!).. but I hadn’t felt that deep pain mixed with emptiness that depression can bring. To explain (mild/moderate) depression in a nutshell, it feels like hopelessness, emptiness, sadness, lack of energy, lack of enthusiasm, isolation, disconnect, and physical pain. Of course for everyone it is slightly different.
The reason i’m sharing this all with you is not because I like talking about it, but because I think we need to stop circulating shame and stigmas around mental illness. Depression doesn’t occur because you’re lazy, choosing to be unhappy, or because you’re a negative person. Depression is much deeper than that, and I really believe that by being open and talking about our experiences, we can help so many people who may be too closed off to get help.
Today, I still deal with depression, although I have figured out a pretty fantastic formula for easing symptoms, if not completely eliminating them 70-80% of the time. With depression, there will always be times when you feel incredibly down, but they will lessen and lessen as you learn to make lifestyle changes to improve your physical, mental, and spiritual wellbeing. At first, ease into these and make one tiny change per week or every few days… whatever feels comfortable for you. No need to move too fast.. slow and steady wins the race 😀
1. Find Inspiration Elsewhere.
One of the worst things about depression is that it sucks the enthusiasm, passion, and inspiration out of the naturally creative, inquisitive beings that we naturally are. For those days when you don’t want to get out of bed, all you have to do is click the videos and let these wonderful ladies motivate the heck out of you 🙂
5 Ways To Have an Awesome Day & Life
How To Deal With Negative Thoughts
Happiness Takes Effort
Motivation & Tips: Finding Happiness
As Kandee Johnson says, “You are lovely, loving, and amazing. Go and share and spread that love around you! Be this sparkly little burst of love everywhere you go.” 🙂
So now that you’re out of bed…
2. Pay Attention to Your Plate.
Any stimulant (excess caffeine/sugar) or depressant (alcohol/marijuana/drugs of any kind) are going to create mood swings and hangovers that are going to increase depression symptoms. If you’re really in the worst of your depression, make TONS of smoothies, fresh juices, and nourish your body by cooking for yourself. Healthy, living, raw foods are going to give you amazing energy and clear-headedness. Also, grounding foods such as whole grains (quinoa, buckwheat, millet, amaranth) are going to fill you up, stabalize your mood, and give you that peaceful, cozy feeling inside. Start to think about the energy, nutrition, and effects of everything that goes into your body!
3. Take A Walk.
Trust me, I know that going to the gym is usually out of the question when you are incredibly down in the dumps. Stepping outside of your house for a 15 minute walk? That’s do-able. And – it gets you out of the sedentary, ordinary day you’re used to. If you have a pet, bring them with you! Animals are scientifically proven to improve mood, lower blood pressure, and ease nerves.
4. Talk To Someone.
This is the most important step, I believe. This is the step that should be done before any other lifestyle changes, because it is so important to have support on your journey. I REALLY recommend talking to a therapist you ‘click’ with, who can just hear you out and be a non-bias, professional outlet to vent to. With friends and family, it can be really hard to disclose those deep-rooted emotions that go along with depression. For this reason, I think a therapist is the best option.
5. Evaluate medical and herbal options.
Talk to your doctor about whether an antidepressant could be beneficial for your case. The severity, duration, and other conflicting health problems will influence whether an SSRI is a good choice or not. Usually i’m all about the natural therapies, but in this case, I think medicine can work wonders. In all seriousness, an antidepressant can give you your life back (coupled with other lifestyle therapies, too!)
If you want to go the herbal/supplement route, begin taking a cod liver oil supplement which contains the omega-3 fatty acids that are lacking in many people with depression. St. Johns Wort is also proven to be more effective than placebo in helping mild to moderate depression. Do be cautious and discuss herbal remedies with a doctor before beginning – herbs can cause complications with other illnesses or medications if you’re not careful!
SAM-e, Folic Acid, and 5-HTP are also popular choices for those wishing to treat their depression naturally.
6. Create A Schedule.
Going places and being on time is the last thing you want to do when you have no energy or ‘zest for life.’ However, it’s incredibly important for depression management. When life is unstructured, things can seem out of control, complicated, or stressful.
Creating a gentle schedule for yourself, such as waking up at the same time and going to bed the same time, going to the gym before class 3x a week, attending classes, etc., can be hugely beneficial for getting your happiness back on track.
7. Force Yourself To Be Social.
I’m a huge fan of not going out when I don’t feel like it, but when I start to notice the sadness coming in, and my desire to go out lessening and lessening… I start forcing myself to go out and have fun! Whether it be going out to eat with friends, shopping with your mom, or going to a party, force yourself to get out and go! It might seem like a huge chore, but almost all the time I end up feeling SO much better afterward 😀
8. EXPRESS YOURSELF!
Have you ever noticed that a lot of incredible music, artwork, and writing is created from periods of sadness/loneliness/depression? I think if you tap into that, you can create some pretty amazing things out of the pain. Why not use it to create something beautiful?
9. Change Your Mind
A HUGE turning point in my struggle with depression was after I read Spirit Junkie by Gabrielle Bernstein. In fact, that book is the reason why I write this blog today. It truly is a book I can call life-changing. Sometimes, you need something to open your eyes to a better way of living. My favorite books for that are:
1. Spirit Junkie + Add More ~Ing by Gabrielle Bernstein
2. A Return To Love by Marianne Williamson
3. The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer
10. Meditate, Breathe, and Let Go.
Take 5 minutes a day to center yourself in your breath and watch miracles in your life begin to unfold. Let go of what you cannot control, accept what is, and surrender your expectations and control over to the universe/God/whoever/whatever.
Life isn’t always ‘blissful’ as my blog title may imply, however, i’ve learned to see the beauty and the bliss in the sad times as well. It’s remarkable when you can feel that aching in your heart, the sadness and tears, and still realize how beautiful life is. Life is a gift, and each day we can try our best to learn something new, improve on ourselves, and practice accepting, releasing, and surrendering. I heard this quote the other week and it really has stuck with me.. I hope you’ll remember it too 🙂
With that, feel free to share your story in the comments or to email me. Let’s open up the topic and allow everyone to feel safe to talk about it:)
Remember you are more loved than you can imagine. If you think you have depression, talk to a doctor/parent/counselor immediately to figure out the best plan of action and to establish a support team. It takes a lot of courage to get help, but you’re totally worth it. ❤
Lots of love + happiness!