I have major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder. (I tried to think of a nice introduction to transition into this declaration, but I couldn’t think of how to get there so I decided to just go for it.) I’ve been fairly open about my struggle with depression on this blog before, and this past year has been a pretty dark place for me. I’ve been pretty quiet about what’s been going on with me lately, but I want to share more about this aspect of my life because I’ve been realize just how much my mental health is connected to my physical health.
I’ve struggled with depression for several years, but this past year has been the hardest yet. The transition from working mom to stay-at-home mom is never an easy one, my husband has a new position in his work with some new responsibilities, and there have been lots of other transitions in other areas of my life, too. I think that for a long time it was really easy for me to blame teaching for my depression, but once I left and the depression stayed, I was forced to really examine what was going on.
So, for the first time in my entire life, I started going to a therapist and taking an antidepressant. This was honestly a really hard decision for me to make because even though I’ve recommended therapy to a lot of people close to me, I was embarrassed to admit that I needed that kind of help. I’ve always had some kind of twisted pride in the fact that I was “managing” my depression without the help of therapy or medicine. But honestly, I wasn’t managing anything. I was barely holding on by a thread and constantly felt like everything was falling apart. Every single part of my day was a struggle, from waking up to getting out of bed to taking care of my child. I was miserable, so my pride in taking care of myself was pretty misguided.
Before I started therapy and learning different ways of coping with my depression and anxiety, I had pretty much one coping mechanism–food. I’ve always known that I was an emotional eater, but I didn’t quite realize how deep my relationship with food really went. I started to figure it out after I read “Made to Crave” and did Whole30, but once I finished Whole30 I basically fell into a giant pile of sugar. I had certainly learned better food habits, but I hadn’t worked on the deeper issue: I was using food as a coping mechanism instead of actually dealing with my depression and anxiety.
As a result from this emotional eating+not working on my mental health combination, I gained some weight and started to feel bad about myself. I lost energy, I lost motivation, I lost confidence. I was embarrassed that I was losing control of my health–again–and I felt like a total failure. Of course, that just made my depression even worse. And then I continued to eat poorly to cope with all the negative feelings…which made me feel worse. See the cycle there? It took me months to figure out that connection. Actually, it took me months to figure out that I was deeply depressed. It was a rough year.
But, that is in my rearview mirror. Once I figured out what was really happening, decided to get to a professional, and became open to medicine, things started to change. Now, I have a mindfulness routine to start out my days. I’m focused on my personal development to help keep my mindset positive. I’m focused on being consistent with my fitness because a good workout does WONDERS for my depression and anxiety. I’m learning different ways to cope with my issues instead of running to the drive thru for a sweet tea and cookie every day. (True story).
I’m going to be posting a little more about some of the specifics of my routine and different coping strategies, but I set an alarm to get up early so I can have some quiet time to do a 10 minute meditation, read my Bible and have some prayer time, read personal development, write out affirmations, and say some affirmations out loud. I feel like a total hippie when I’m doing it, but it’s seriously amazing to feel the difference in my mindset every single day. Those are my new coping mechanisms instead of food, and even though it’s still a struggle and I’m still working on it, I finally feel like I’m out of the pit and I’m able to get back to myself again.
So, why am I sharing all of this? Part of it is to help myself get out of feeling embarrassed that I have struggles. I deal with depression and anxiety–that’s part of my story and I don’t want to be secretive about it anymore. It’s not anything to be ashamed of; it’s just part of who I am. But more importantly, I want YOU to know that you’re not alone. It has been amazing to me to hear some of my friends and family say “me too!”. Whether it’s a struggle with depression or anxiety, or going through junk that distracts you from your health, or just dealing with gaining some weight after working so hard to lose it, you are not alone. And you need to focus on your mental health! It’s not just about your physical health–you have to take care of your mind and your spirit to be truly healthy.
Since this is now a part of my health journey, it’s going to be a part of the blog more and more. Stay tuned for more posts about this aspect of my story, and feel free to share any wisdom from your own journey, too!