Battling Depression, One Day At A Time
Twenty years ago, my younger sibling committed suicide. He was twenty years old and no one could have predicted that once a happy-go-lucky young man would gradually deteriorate over a short period of time.
My brother didn’t reach out for help and he suffered in silence while the entire family kept hoping he'd revert back to his old self.
It was only after my brother’s death, that I learned I was genetically predisposed to manic or bipolar depression. When my father mentioned that other family members had suffered from this disease, I wondered why it took another death in the family to mention cousins who'd died or were heavily medicated.
My brother’s passing prompted me to seek answers. I went to the public library and retrieved books on suicide and mental illness. Instead of finding answers, I only felt overwhelmed by all of the terminology.
Coincidently I had an appointment with a doctor who helped clarify my confusion and because I was devastated by my brothers death, I remained stuck in stage four in the grieving process—depression.
My pain was so unbearable I even contemplated my own death. When the doctor offered antidepressants, I declined, not because of any stigma, but I envisioned myself in a vegetated state for the rest of my life. I was not going to be labeled with this disease and was determined to get to the root of my problems.
After a year of talk therapy, I abandoned my own treatment. However, nine years later I found myself back in the doctor’s office. I was going through a divorce and severely depressed.
The doctor diagnosed me with bipolar tendencies and still, I stubbornly refused the antidepressants. Sadly, I had a difficult time coping with my life changes. I self-medicated by stuffing my emotions with binge eating, alcohol, and co-dependent relationships.
I was a walking contradiction and really thought I'd resolved my past. So I was unhappy and isolated myself to the point I contemplated suicide. I couldn’t deny that I needed HELP and I finally succumbed to the antidepressants.
But three days into my treatment, I began experiencing side effects: nausea, dizziness, insomnia, and dullness.
The doctor recommended that I increase my dosage and even verbalized my worst fear: I might be someone who will always be dependent on the antidepressants. I threw away $80 in medication and went on a mission to find an alternative treatment for my bipolar depression.
Once again, I returned to the public library and pored over books on holistic medicine. I adopted the Chinese philosophy that the mind-body-spirit is connected. I also met with a naturopath who helped me devise a plan to become whole. Here is some of what I've done to heal:
- Saying positive affirmations such as I am at peace in my life, or I deserve to be happy in the morning, mid-day and at night is an effective way to alleviate the negative chatter.
- Reaching out to friends and/or a professional offers support.
- Practicing yoga or any form of exercise increases your energy.
- Eliminating refined sugars, processed foods and caffeine is not only healthier for your body, but also nourishes the mind. In the book The Ultra Mind Solution by Mark Hyman, he correlates how junk food can affect our moods and diseases such as depression.
- Sleeping is important, ideally eight hours. You’ll feel refreshed and a lot less prone to making poor choices.
- Acknowledging your emotions instead of burying them with alcohol, sex, food, etc is much more responsible, because you’re 100% in charge of your own happiness.
- Finding at least five things to be grateful for takes away the focus from what is perceived as missing in your life.
- Forgiving others and most of all yourself is necessary in order to let go and move on.
- Waking up early and meditating. You’ll feel calm and ready to cope with your day.
- Journaling is extremely therapeutic.
- Listening to your intuition can save you from needless suffering.
The key is consistency and repetition in order to create healthier habits. I know that life can get in the way and some days it can be challenging to cope.
By no means am I advocating against the use of antidepressants! After a 19-year battle with depression, I can attest that treating the mind-body-spirit is not a quick-fix solution, but it is possible to feel whole again. But you have to choose to put effort into healing.
Ready to learn more about what anxiety, brain health, and your diet all have in common? Register now for our FREE Functional Nutrition Webinar with Dr. Mark Hyman.