Hello again! It’s lovely to see you. How are you? Again, not asking facetiously, comment! It’s there for a reason.
But, this blog is mostly about me, and yesterday I had an experience that showed me just how powerfully sharing struggles can connect people. I work at the public library, and most days are good. Some days are bad – like Wednesday, when we had an experience that left me shaking and begging God to get me out of my job at the library as I was crying on my way home. Yesterday was a different story. A patron came up and asked us to proofread a letter, so I did. It was a good letter, and in it, the patron shared how they struggled with anxiety and depression. I read it, told her it was good, and wished her good luck, as she was requesting assistance from an organization in the letter. Then I went to shelve books. As I was shelving God nudged me. “Go say something to her.” He said. “What should I say God?” I asked. I tossed around ideas and nothing seemed to fit, plus, how weird is it when someone just comes up to you randomly and says something about anxiety and depression to you? Finally God said “Say what you wish people had told you when you were at your worst.” So I mustered my courage and went over to her. I tapped her on the shoulder and said “Hey, I just wanted to tell you that I think you’re brave. I got on medication for depression this summer, and I know how hard it is. I think you’re very brave for doing what you’re doing.” She teared up (and so did I). She said “Thank you so much, I really needed that.” Then I went back to shelving, sniffling and wiping tears out of my eyes so I could see the call numbers.
That’s why I do this. If my struggles and challenges can encourage and support someone else, then I welcome my trials. I want to be used by God to bring Him glory, first of all, and to share His love with other people. So, with that in mind, I realize that some of you might also be struggling with depression. You probably realized it long before I was diagnosed and you might have all this stuff figured out. But, I firmly believe there is always something new to learn, so without further ado, here’s exactly what I do to manage/treat my depression.
Exercise I used to be one of those people who loved the joke “whenever I hear the dirty word exercise I wash my mouth out with chocolate.” I hated exercising. Mostly because I’d be incredibly sore for days after one workout. Friends, knowledge is power. I did not know that I’ve had mild anemia most of my life. Now I know. Now I know I have to eat more the more I work out. I know, it’s such a “duh!” thing, but for me this was huge. And finding something I actually liked to do made all the difference. I’ve always loved biking. My sister and I rode the Mickelson Trail in the Black Hills a few years ago and it was so much fun! Last summer Trent wanted to lose weight, so, like a good girlfriend, I worked out “with” him (we’d go on bike rides and take pictures of ourselves in various places and send them to each other. No, not lame. It was totes fun!). But I’m pretty sure I pushed myself too hard. My mental state was great – better than in years! But my body did not like me most of the time. When my therapist first diagnosed me with depression she was like “you have to work out. And then you have to eat a lot.” I’m trying really hard to eat more. And I love my bike rides. I can definitely tell a difference when I do and don’t get my half hour of exercise in from day to day. This is management: I will probably always need to work out 20-30 minutes at least 3 times a week (right now I average about 25 minutes/day, 6 days a week).
I love therapy. It’s so great – I get to talk about myself for an hour to someone who sits there and listens attentively! That lovely aspect aside, when you know you’re messed up in some way, it’s almost a relief to have someone know exactly what to say to you and work with someone who knows how to fix what’s wrong with you. Both of my two experiences with counselors have been fantastic, although I’ve heard reports that there are not so great counselors out there. The one I’m seeing now is wonderful (and I gave her my blog url at my last session, so she might read this. Hi my therapist!) and I believe God had a hand in connecting us. After I had talked to the national suicide hotline I was going to go to a clinic in town where a lady I know used to work. But something gave me pause, and I thought “I wonder if this other organization with Christian ties might have a counselor who would better understand my worldview and connect with me better.” So without any more research or thought about it (unlike me) I called them and got an appointment scheduled. Pretty sure it was God. So, if you’re looking for a counselor, pray about it. And there’s resources out there about picking the right counselor for you. This is treatment: I will probably be seeing my therapist fairly regularly for 6-9 months, then again if I relapse.
I wrote a whole post about the importance of being thankful. I wish I had listened to myself. I wish I had kept it up this whole year, instead of stopping when I thought Trent would keep my depression away (silly thought – no person can increase and stabilize the serotonin levels in your brain). Sure, some days I really don’t feel grateful, but I do it anyway, because now I know how vital being thankful is to my life, literally. This is management: I need to always always always be thankful, every day.
My mom has been into essential oils for a while now, and so when I realized I had such a big problem with depression I started using some of what the Young Living guidebook suggested for depression right away (what we had on hand). I diffuse them every night right beside my bed. I’m out of several of the ones pictured right now, and I’m surprised at how my quality of sleep has decreased with every oil I subtract from the mix – I’m down to just lavender and lemon now! I have more on order but shipping is incredibly slow. I’m going to change the mix up a bit with the next batch of oils – I really dislike the smell of lavender, so I’m going to see if another oil will do the trick without offending my olfactory senses quite so much. And I did sign up to be a Young Living member, so if you’re interested in oils, let me know and I’ll figure out how to connect you with some. This is more management: I’ll probably always use oils to improve my sleep and overall mood.
I cried when my mentor suggested medication. Then I cried when my therapist recommended medication. To me, medication was failing. Proof that I was too messed up. Proof that I couldn’t do it on my own. You know what? I was messed up. I couldn’t do it on my own. I am so thankful they suggested and recommended it and I’m glad I realized those truths, swallowed my pride, and got on medication. My therapist initially recommended Prozac. Cue all the happy pill jokes. I researched Prozac. I rebelled against Prozac and all the side effects. I have an inherited bias against traditional medicine, so I researched alternatives. My regular non-traditional doctor (an acupuncturist) was out of town, so I went to my chiropractor (I also went to him because I can’t afford a new patient fee at a traditional doctor). He gave me an exhaustive 374 question questionnaire asking about every. little. detail. of my health. Here are the results:The gray lines are things we don’t need to worry about really, the yellow stuff is a moderate concern, and the red lines are things that are incredibly out of whack and need to be addressed posthaste. Yes, my depression was three times the level where it would just be a “moderate priority.” So here’s what he gave me:
I didn’t care much about brand; I trusted him. I’m taking St. John’s Wort for my depression. It’s nature’s alternative to Prozac, and they use it a lot in Europe to treat depression. Yes, it has some side effects too; I had a throbbing headache for two days when I first started it, like my brain would rather be anywhere else but in my skull. I told my chiropractor about it, he had me come back in and he ran some more tests and he said “your body actually wants more St. John’s Wort, but given how you’re reacting to it now, we’re not going to let it have more.” He said I was detoxing and to drink lots of water. I did, and my headache subsided that evening and hasn’t been back. I’m taking an adrenal booster. I’ve always had lazy adrenal glands, and I can tell that this is helping, but I’m not up to par quite yet. I’m taking a serotonin stabilizer to help stay more level. My digestive system was jacked up, shocker, so I’m also on probiotics, which has been a right regular good thing.
Here’s my other supplements not prescribed by my chiropractor (but seen and approved by him):
I take a prenatal vitamin, yes, slightly ironic. For the iron, actually. My therapist was like “you need to be on fish oil, stat.” (Fine, she didn’t use the word stat, we weren’t on a tv show after all). So I went to the local health food store and picked a brand that seemed decent and wasn’t too expensive. My sister was like “oh yeah, that’s a really good brand. I had to take that for something or other” (I don’t remember what she said). So yay! Good for me for picking a good brand! My mom actually found this bottle of vitamin D when she was cleaning out the cupboard and I don’t think it’s expired yet. My chiropractor upped my dosage to two a day. The women’s treasure herbs are from my acupuncturist, who deals almost exclusively in Chinese medicine (it’s where she was trained). My hormone levels are also wildly out of balance. I’ve been taking these for years and it helps so much with PMS. This is both treatment and management: the doctor said I will probably be on the pills he gave me for a year to 18 months, and then I won’t need them any more (unless I relapse). The supplements I’ll probably always need to take.
I’ve talked a lot about how music helps lift my spirits, especially K-Love. I’ve curated a whole bunch of my favorite worship songs onto a Spotify playlist, titled “Christian Favorites” (I was depressed when I named it, so yeah, its lacking a bit in the creativity department). Here it is. I’m always adding more songs. Check back often to see what’s new! Music is management; I will always choose to listen to positive Christian music over almost anything else.
Honestly, I don’t remember much of July, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t laugh a whole lot. That was ok. My family tried, and I think they elicited a few chuckles from time to time, but it wasn’t until August when I truly felt better enough to laugh. My sister discovered this British TV show on Netflix called Round Planet, a very humorous and mostly clean parody of nature documentaries. Watching it made me laugh so hard I cried, which I hadn’t done since long before the break up. It was this clip, actually:
“Fart the word scarper!” Bwahahahaha. I know, my sense of humor is so sophisticated and refined… *no apologies as I wipe tears of laughter from my eyes*
Other tv shows I love to laugh with are Miranda on Hulu (Trent introduced us, so I actually haven’t been able to watch this one since the break up, too many memories, but I cried laughing at it too), and we just started watching Making It, the Great British Bake Off spin-off with Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman. It’s always good for a few guffaws – they’re so punny! I stay away from shows that would bring me down, anything tenseish, violent, or with too much language in it.
Besides tv shows, we enjoy telling jokes around the table at mealtimes. My dad has always been fond of bar jokes: “The past, present, and future walk into a bar. It was tense.” “A mushroom walks into a bar and orders a drink, but the bartender says “Sorry, we don’t serve your kind here.” The mushroom says, “Why not? I’m a fun guy.” “A sandwich walks into a bar. The bartender says, “Sorry, we don’t serve food here.” “Two men walk into a bar. It was a shame, since the second one should have seen it coming.” Then there’s my sister, who has an incredibly dry sense of humor and can zing off one liners that leave me literally loling. And the kids, who don’t quite understand humor yet, but love to tell jokes, which is hilarious all on it’s own. Laughter is necessary to my mental health and it is management. I never want to stop laughing regularly again.
People have honestly been the greatest tangible help in managing my depression. From my mom, who held me when I was sobbing and calling the national suicide hotline, to my mentor, who patiently listens when I vent and speaks truth that sometimes really hurts, to Trent’s family and friends, who still talk to me and seem to still like me! Actually, (and this is another blog post topic) Trent and I had a very good conversation yesterday and he mentioned how people have talked to him about my blog. I was like “Who? What do they say?” because I’m curious like that. He said his family, and it was mostly nice stuff. Jk, it was all nice stuff, because they’re very nice people (Hi Trent’s family! I think you’re great!). But seriously, EVERYONE who reads this and shares with me about their struggles helps a lot too. I do have the best readers. And the best church family. And the best friends. And definitely the best family. People are my management forever.
He is the first and the last. My source of everything good, and the challenges He allows to come into my life to make me better. My morning prayer times have become the sweetest times of my day and the time I spend in His Word daily refreshes and renews my soul. There have been so many times when He nudges me to do something and when I listen and obey I am so blessed. He is my provider and protector. When I listen, He guards me against ruining precious relationships, and He is my unfailing encourager, the source of my hope. Without Him, I firmly believe that I would be dead by now. Trusting Him is a journey, and sometimes I don’t do so well at it, but He is ever faithful and never gives up on me. Looking back over this summer, tumultuous as it’s been, I can see how He set up my support system long before I even knew I would need it, how He’s refining both Trent and I, mostly in ways that are not comfortable at all. I don’t know what His plan is for my life, but I know He has one, and since He is who He is, it will be good. Above all, it will glorify Himself, since He is worthy of all glory and honor, and glorifying Him needs to be first priority in my life. He is gentle and tender with me, treating me with far more grace and mercy than I deserve. I can truly be myself with Him because honestly He knows me better than I know myself, even the not-so-nice bits. In Him I can find out who I really am. I feel like I have been like a toddler, clutching tightly to my battered, dirty, pieced together dreams, and He is saying “just give them to Me. I have better for you,” and me, being a snotty-nosed bratty toddler keeps saying “No! Mine!” Letting go has not been easy. But even if His plans for me are nothing like what mine were, I know that His will be better. He is more than management, He is life.
There you have it. My life lately, in a nutshell. Fine, in a fairly long blog post. I’d give you a prize for making it this far, but my sister-in-law was the first to claim the Hershey’s Kisses from the fabric finding contest and my niece found and ate the last piece of gum I had, so you get imaginary points. Do you struggle with depression? What do you do to treat and manage it?