Depression is a difficult situation to find yourself in. If you are feeling depressed, please reach out to someone. Allow them to help you help yourself. I'm always here as a listening ear too! It is important to realize that sometimes you can't just make yourself be happy...and that is okay. Depression is an illness and no matter how much you try to focus on the good, sometimes you still just feel sad. When you can't beat the blues by doing the recommended things like relieving stress, getting more sleep, praying, or taking personal time, you may be suffering from depression. Realize that you're not alone in this and please, please reach out for help. Here is part of my personal struggle with the illness.
I have struggled with depression my entire life. There have been bouts of happiness but it is something that has always been there. I lived free from depression from the time I got married until after I had my second baby. Her birth was wonderful - I was on the most amazing natural high for four months straight. I felt so, so good. Then I crashed. There were a lot of different things going on - sleep deprivation, changing to a gluten free diet, another seizure, usual marital stress. I plummeted. And I did not come out of it fully until just now. I have been living on a roller coaster ride of severe depression for the last two years straight and it has not been easy. I got to a place where I could maintain some balance and normalcy but even still, the simplest of tasks seemed daunting to me. Keeping the house clean, staying on top of laundry, feeding my family. I felt overwhelmed easily and there was a black cloud constantly over my head. So many negative thoughts running me into the ground.
After my last baby five months ago (today!) I felt okay. But at about three weeks postpartum, I could feel myself slipping. I did something really good this time, however. I knew I could not go back to the place I had previously been so I knew I needed to reach out. I told my husband and we began finding ways to help me. Despite reaching out, I still sunk. Down, down, down. Further and further I went. Into a place that I don't want to return. Getting out of bed was a chore. All I wanted to do was hide out and make it all go away but I had three little children to tend to. There were a lot of times went I felt completely desperate, so alone, so dark, and so hopeless. A friend once said something to the effect of "When you're happy, it's like you'll never be sad again. And when you're sad, it's like you'll never be happy again." That's how it felt. I felt like I would never feel joy again. Everything seemed so absolute. It has taken me months to get to a point where I feel somewhat stable again but it has been a long, hard road. I still expect some bumps...so it goes with this thing they call depression. But I wanted to offer you some tips on how to deal with it naturally, if you desire.
First, reach out. Don't hold it in. I know from experience that holding it in and hiding it only makes it worse. I feel that if I would have reached out sooner, it would not have taken me so long to get to a place where I can function fairly normally.
Next, I recommend reading the book The Mood Cure. It is by far the thing that has helped me the most. It covers nutrition so well and helps you understand why you feel the way you feel. Then, it gives you clear cut solutions to help you figure out how to change how you feel. The author's "comprehensive, safe, and natural program is based on the use of four mood-building amino acids and other surprisingly effective nutritional supplements, plus a diet rich in good-mood foods such as protein, healthy fat, and key vegetables." I fully agree with all of the nutritional information and feel that this book is an amazing resource. You can get it on Amazon for about $10. This book was extremely eye opening for me!
While there are a lot of things you can do with changing your diet, I recognized that I needed to do more simply because I was already doing the dietary things recommended in the book and yet, I was still at rock bottom. One thing I realized from reading this book and from speaking with a therapist was that I am feeling this way mostly because I am severely depleted. I have been pregnant and/or nursing since August 2007 straight, without breaks. My body has been under a tremendous amount of stress from that and it has caused my mental health to suffer quite severely. It has really helped me to see my depression from this perspective because it helped me realize that I am not dumb, I am not crazy, I am not broken...I am depleted. And, I can say that since I have began doing the things recommended in The Mood Cure, I feel so much better. Night and day difference.
The book has a great mood questionnaire which helps you target the areas you need help in. Side note: I was severely deficient in all four areas! If you feel you are under a dark cloud, you are low in the antidepressant Seratonin. If you are suffering from the Blahs, you are low in Catecholemines or Thyroid or you may be low in natural stimulants like Noradrenalin or Thyroid. If you feel overwhelmed by stress, you are most likely low in tranquilizing GABA. If you are too sensitive to life's pain, you are low in pain-killing endorphins.
I was amazed that I was able to feel so much better once I started taking the recommended supplements. It has taken a few months to get everything figured out, and I am still working on figuring out my energy and sensitivity but I can happily say that I do not feel under a dark cloud anymore! I highly recommend reading this book - I really feel like it has changed my life, so I wanted to share it with you.
The neat thing about supplementation with these amino acids is that they are not meant to be a forever thing. Meaning, once your body's levels have been restored, you can stop taking them and you should be able to function normally so long as you eat a diet rich in "good-mood" foods (avoiding the mood killing foods such as any processed foods). Some people are able to take the supplements for only a month or so, for others it takes longer. I have been taking the supplements for 3 months now and plan to take them awhile longer. It is recommended that once you finish a particular bottle, you wait a few days to see if your old symptoms return. If they do, start another bottle - if they don't, hooray...your resources are replenished!
I kind of chuckle every day as I fill my hand with my various supplements...I am taking quite a few things. But I feel so much better and I remember that it is not a forever thing! Here is a list of the various supplements I am taking (underlined):
1. New Beginnings Nutritionals Basic Nutrients Plus Multivitamin (Garden of Life Raw brand is also a good one)
2. Green Pastures Fermented Cod Liver Oil - provides Vitamin A & D, beneficial omega's
3. VSL #3 Probiotic - for gut health and immune system strengthening
4. Garden of Life Vitamin Code Raw B-Complex - for mental and physical energy and a healthy response to stress
5. Natrol 5-HTP - to boost seratonin levels promoting a positive mood
6. Country Life L-Tyrosine - to help beat the blahs
7. NOW True Calm (with GABA) - easing the stress and feelings of being overwhelmed
8. Country Life DLPA - desensitizing from life's pain
I get my supplements from a variety of places, depending on the price. Some places I get them from are Amazon, Vitacost.com, and Costco.
I continue to struggle with my energy levels but I think a lot of that has to do with how little sleep I am getting with a new baby. I have started using some essential oils (Myrhh, Peppermint, and Lemongrass) to help boost my thyroid production and feel like those are making a difference in how I feel.
I wish I had more time to devote to spiritual things like meditation, prayer, and scripture reading but I will just be frank (and this is just how I feel, it may be different for others) - having been down sooo low has made me feel quite literally out of strength. Any moment I have to do anything other than take care of my children's needs, I have needed to crash. I haven't had enough mental energy to devote to those things. I know that connecting with God (or a higher power) will help in overcoming these feelings, but sometimes you are so low that you simply need to boost your nutrients before you are able to even focus on doing anything else. That is how it has been for me, at least. Now that I am feeling better and I have more mental clarity, I am able to pray more and feel closer to God. For that, I am deeply grateful.
Depression is a struggle. But having tools to fight it is so helpful. It has been comforting to me to know of others that struggle with these same kinds of feelings and that is why I have felt determined to write about my own struggles. This post has been sitting in my head for months and months. I am finally able to get it out. I hope it can help someone out there who is as badly in need as I was.
Update - July 2012: I began seeing a therapist and have to say that out of ALL of the things I've tried for my depression (including anti-depressants during college), psychotherapy has been the BEST thing for me. It is shifting the way I think, I'm learning to process things that have happened in my life and come to peace with experiences I've had that contribute to my depression. I'm coming away with a stronger sense of who I am. I highly recommend seeing a therapist if at all possible...it has been invaluable!