Depression can be terminal, but you can conquer it and experience life in all its wonder again!
Why do we avoid talking about mental illnesses, especially depression, as if it's something to be ashamed of? Yet we will quite freely discuss conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer and so forth!
Tending one's mental health may be the most important thing we can do for ourselves, and for those around us.
Once we neglect this part of our being, everything else starts falling apart - blood pressure rises, stomach ailments appear, our immunity is compromised, to name but a few; and of course when depression strikes, the road to recovery is long and hard.
Many will scoff at that and say we all have our bad days, but what I’m talking about here is not merely a mood thing.
You feel life has lost all meaning, day in and day out; you’re tired all the time, cannot cope with even the smallest tasks; you feel physically ill, your mind is racing, you cannot concentrate, you start thinking about death, anxiety levels are high and panic attacks hit you from nowhere, insomnia becomes your daily foe. It feels as if you’re all alone, even though you’re surrounded by supportive friends and family.
Image by Andrew Neel
Friends are perplexed at this new you, and tell you it's time you snapped out of it…as if you enjoy feeling like that!
SUICIDE IS NOT PAINLESS
I wrote about this some two years ago and it was not easy, but I think it’s necessary to share my story of hope now during these difficult times as I’ve heard of too many suicides lately; one a wonderfully talented daughter of a lovely family we know, another young life lost way too soon.
Suicide leaves scars that are difficult to mend - pain, confusion and anguish, the most difficult road to walk!
A while after I wrote my first blog about how I managed to get out of that deep dark hole, my son lost his closest friend; a sweet and gentle soul who was too fragile to take the knocks of life. He stood by this troubled girl, but life took its toll and her depression spiraled out of control; no cure could be found for this darling girl! He still has not come to terms with her suicide.
Does one ever get over a loss like this?
You never do, but the intense pain does fade and eventually the good memories come back!
I will attempt to condense various blogs I wrote on conquering depression in this one.
A quote from Dale Carnegie
MY STORY OF HOPE
All my friends and family know that I am the one who always looks at the world with rose-tinted spectacles, the eternal optimist who sees the glass as half full and not half empty; so when I started feeling all the symptoms described above, I was really confused, this simply was not the me I knew!
Something else I did not like talking about, was that two years prior to my depression setting in, my talented 26 year old brother committed suicide.
Was this perhaps the catalyst for my illness?
I think it played a part; we did not talk about what happened, and that very act of trying to sweep it under the carpet had the opposite effect.
My personal feelings were confusion and even guilt as I thought that perhaps I could have done something to stop this horrific and desperate act.
What I learned from that is that one should never ignore little signs that all is not well with your loved ones and get help before it's too late!
However, and importantly, you cannot blame yourself for a decision made by a loved one when they, in a moment of utter despair and darkness, simply see no way out.
The medical specialist I saw thought a drastic thyroidectomy caused my depression and that it merely was a chemical imbalance, but I do believe my brother’s suicide was the catalyst.
Please remember that I am no medical expert, and the advice I'm giving here is merely taken from personal experience.
Initially, I took…
THE MEDICAL ROUTE:
It is vital to see a psychiatrist as they specialize in finding the correct medication.
I do believe the antidepressants corrected my chemical imbalance and I possibly would not be here today if it wasn't for that, but that was when my condition was really acute. Important to see a good counselor as well as make use of various coping skills, as simply popping a pill is not going to make you better.
I will tell you about my final road to healing a little later.
I learned various coping skills during that period on which I will expand at the end of my post.
Walking does wonders to lift one’s mood, as does any form of exercise.
Yoga and breathing exercises are super for calming one’s state of mind.
Music therapy is excellent – I started listening to music again after not doing so for years!
Supplements - I spent copious amounts on supplements, and took great care with my physical health as I believe you cannot cope if that also deteriorates.
I learned how to hide my illness from well-meaning people who told me to snap out of it as that is the worst advice anyone could give a person with a mental illness like depression!
MY MEDICATION IS DISCONTINUED
I eventually went down to a low maintenance dose anti-depressant, but when the particular one I had been taking for years was discontinued, and the doctor wanted to put me onto something else, I decided to stop as I felt strong enough to go it alone.
TRAGEDY STRIKES AGAIN
Shortly after this, another tragedy struck.
My dearest uncle who was more like an older brother and confidante and called me daily, was found murdered in his flat. He was the eighth victim in a series of homophobic murders in Gauteng, but that’s a story I will not tell here.
I was absolutely shattered but knew that tablets would not take away that pain!
THE HOLISTIC ROUTE
I went for a couple of counseling sessions with a wonderful homeopath who gave me homeopathic medication to help me stop the anti-depressants gradually AND diagnosed me with ADHD, the best thing ever as my confused mind now thinks straight.
I never knew I suffered from this condition but looking back it’s as clear as daylight, so I now buy this medication over the counter.
She further advised that I take up…
- Meditation, Yoga classes and make time for myself again, something I had not done for years!
PATHWAY TO MEDITATION & TOTAL HEALING
My best friend from school-days who I had not seen for years, contacted me out of the blue asking if I would consider joining her in transcendental meditation classes.
Was it a coincidence that Melanie called out of the blue? I think not, and that was the beginning of my healing.
Meditation has many positive benefits:
- Brain waves become calmer, and as your brain is the control centre of your body, healing starts to take place.
- Blood pressure normalises, in fact it starts improving after the first meditation session.
- Helps restoring you back to health if suffering from PTSD and Depression.
- There's evidence that it can prevent the dreaded Alzheimer's disease, plus tons of other medical conditions.
- Good things WILL come your way as your new state of mind affects your immediate environment.
- This is the most natural form of relaxation, costs nothing except 15 minutes minimum out of your day, you can do it in any quiet space; this certainly is the biggest gift you can give yourself!
I urge anyone who is going through any difficulty or illness, to consider taking up meditation.
I met the wonderfully kind poet and author @ericvancewalton early in my blogging days here, and when I responded to one of his challenges he sent me a copy of his book on meditation – The Perfect Pause
I live in South Africa and was super excited when my parcel arrived all the way from Minnesota.
Inside was this treasure of a book with an inscription from the author, a very special friend with great insight! There is a wonderful section guiding you through meditation and is a wonderful help for someone new to meditating, or even an old hand.
I had been neglecting my meditation as I’d been feeling ok, but really, why be satisfied with feeling ok when I could feel awesome again - no shoulder and neck stiffness, no insomnia, feeling at peace with the world, perfect blood pressure and the bonus, little miracles start to take place every day!
You can join a meditation class near you, check what other methods are available online; but please give yourself this gift of meditation and become the ultimate you!
I will quote one profound paragraph from @ericvancewalton’s book.
Meditation sparks substantial shifts in your perception that opens you up to subtler aspects of life. This process can greatly improve and deepen the quality of your time on this Earth. Once you notice synchronicity and understand how it works, it will show you that our reality isn’t some series of random events but rather meaningful coincidences. After a while, you will come to understand that there’s either a lesson to learn or a lesson to teach others in nearly every moment.
This, to me personally, sums up how meditation has brought about harmony in my life.
TEN STEPS TO REGAINING & MAINTAINING GOOD MENTAL HEALTH
1 - Balance - it is of paramount importance to keep the balance between work and leisure to keep stress levels down; try to find your own quiet spot and take short breaks when you feel overwhelmed.
Stop, breathe slowly and deeply throughout the day - remember the saying - stop and smell the roses!
2 - Sanctuary - Make your own little sanctuary at home, whether it's a room in your house, the garden or balcony; wherever that may be. This should be your little haven where you can go when you need a break. The best place would be your bedroom as a good night's rest is beneficial for healing - insomnia being the enemy.
3 - Verbalise your feelings - talk to someone close to you about how you're feeling and make use of all your support systems - be it family, a friend, a work colleague or a spiritual leader ; someone you can trust.
In fact, we all need to talk openly about mental illness to put an end to the stigmas around it. I find it ludicrous that people are not afraid to talk about their blood pressure or diabetes, yet are almost ashamed of admitting they have depression!
4 - Find a good holistic healer and counselor - do not think simply popping a pill will get you back on the road to recovery - it takes hard work but it is so worth it!
Always remember to take baby steps and also take things day by day. It is impossible for anyone to think they can solve their whole life's problems in one day!
However, should your condition be more acute, I believe it is vital to see a conventional specialist psychiatrist as you may need to go the chemical route but always bearing in mind that just popping a pill is not the cure-all!
5 - Diet - A healthy well-balanced diet with plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit is vital as we need to take care of our physical well-being to enable us to fight any mental illness.
6 - Supplements - there are many natural supplements on the market that assist in balancing brain chemistry. I took Evening Primrose Oil, Omega 3, Vitamin B and 5-HTP. Ensure you get enough Vitamin D by getting enough sunshine, or take the supplement.
The herbal anti-depressant St John's Wort also works well.
But as always, check with your health practitioner before taking anything.
7 - Yoga, Exercise and Breathing Exercises very important - walking or any other form of exercise is great for getting the endorphins going! I know it's hard to motivate yourself, but this is a vital part of your road to recovery.
8 - Hobbies - I know you feel like doing nothing but think of the things you used to enjoy - I love cooking & baking as well as gardening; when I get stuck into these things, I become more focused and forget just how bad I was feeling.
9 - Leisure times - feed your soul!
Music is my best therapy! Theatre or even going to the movies helps me forget about all my troubles even if it is just for that one evening; short breakaways even if it's just a day at the beach or in the park, really is like recharging one's batteries!
10 - Meditation - Last but not least, in fact the most important tool I discovered and that I spoke about earlier.
To say a last word - even if it feels like you are drowning in that deep dark pit, just remember that you can get out of it by using some of the above tools, but meditation is the most valuable tool of them all and you can become the very best version of yourself once again!
Original Content by @lizelle
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